February 2016

Jeff Sessions endorses Trump on Immigration Plans

Copyright:andykatz
Copyright:andykatz

Donald Trump surprised both his supporters and his political opponents Sunday night when he revealed Senator Jeff Sessions as his first Senate endorsement in his presidential campaign.

Sessions, the main detractor of the 2013 immigration bill, sided with Trump, stating that this was not “a campaign, [but] a movement,” referring to Trump’s stance on the immigration question.

The 2013 bill promised a 13-year citizenship track for undocumented immigrants in the country, and also promised $40 billion over the next decade invested into border protection, hiring 20,000 Border Patrol agents, and adding 700 miles of fencing along the border.

Sessions’ represented state, Alabama, was one of the states heading the polls Tuesday, and his support along with that of Gov. Chris Christie and two House Republicans will no doubt surprise voters when the results come out.

The one most surprised would no doubt be Senator Ted Cruz, Texas, who collaborated with Sessions to stifle the immigration bill during its ratification and had long expected Sessions’ endorsement in his campaign.

Cruz told reporters in Oklahoma City: “I’ll wait to comment on endorsements until they actually happen rather than to comment on speculation of endorsements.”

Sessions’ endorsement also harms Marco Rubio, the third Republican candidate of choice, due to Rubio’s co-authorship of the controversial immigration bill and the Republican candidate’s tour of the more conservative, Southern states.

Not only does Sessions’ endorsement hobble the other Republican nominees’ expectations, but also comes as a much needed relief to Trump’s campaign after he declined to denounce support from a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan and disavow a Mussolini quote he posted on his Twitter.

Federal Agents Transferring Illegal Immigrant Convicts to Local Authorities

Whether or not to release illegal immigrant convicts in federal custody back to local authorities has been a pressing concern since last year’s murder of a 32-year old woman by Juan Sanchez, an illegal Mexican immigrant.  After Sanchez’s arrest and conviction for the murder, he was released from San Francisco jail due to the city’s sanctuary laws, despite a request from federal immigration authorities to keep Sanchez in custody to await deportation.

A more recent event, the shooting of Stacey Aguilar by her boyfriend and confirmed illegal immigrant Esmid Pedraza, has further pushed for change in the policy allowing local police forces to prosecute or release illegal immigrants without conferring with ICE authorities.

To avoid these incidents from reoccurring, ICE officials have been informally granted a right of first refusal when a federal prisoner who completes a federal sentence is wanted by local authorities for other crimes.

About 400 to 500 federal prisoners are released to local authorities each year upon request, while a vast majority of others are still held in federal custody. To avoid a repeat of the Pedraza incident, ICE officials hope to refuse local authorities’ requests for custody if they are particularly uncooperative police forces, such as San Francisco’s.

This recent shift in policy has come as a relief to both Republicans and the Obama administration. Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, wholeheartedly accepts the change, while Rep. Harold Rodgers, R-Kentucky, is more reserved, stating that he “believes in the old saying of trusting and verifying.”

Doris Meissner, the top immigration official under the Clinton administration, suggested that the policy may be an attempt to stall more drastic proposals in Congress aimed at punishing cities with sanctuary laws like San Francisco from openly impeding the federal government’s role in immigration control and deportation.

Delays in Immigration Cases Grows during Obama’s Administration

 

While debate rages on between the states and the federal government on the direction of American immigration policies, immigration cases stall as immigration courts delay processing the thousands of detentions and possible deportations of illegal immigrants in the United States.

Texas immigration courts alone have approximately 77,000 cases awaiting decisions, a 58 percent increase from 2014’s pending docket, according to a Syracuse University study.

Recently, Nevada Senator Harry Reid has introduced the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act which would ensure that immigrants at detention and border facilities have access to counsel and legal orientation programs to help detainees understand their legal rights.

Although the Act grants due process and well-deserved legal representation to unaccompanied minor migrants in the United States, its passage would necessarily slow down processing rates and further back up the docket.

It is unlikely Reid’s Act would pass in the Republican-controlled House and Senate, but opponents of the bill fear the possibility of executive actions which would essentially enforce the bill without it passing as binding law.

Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform has commented that “Essentially, it’s a plan to tie up the courts for decades, instead of years, while forcing American taxpayers to foot the bill for endless litigation.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Baytown, also said “With Harry Reid seeking to make things worse by expanding taxpayer-funded legal aid to nearly all illegals, our courts and localities are now at a breaking point. Instead of compounding the problem, it’s time the Obama administration restored the rule of law and started respecting the rights of its own citizens rather than illegal immigrants.”

Additionally, in 2014, some immigration courts reset thousands of cases on narrow dockets scheduled for 2019, with detractors commenting on the impossibility of hearing that many cases in 2019 and forecasting further delays.

 

DAPA/DACA and Justice Scalia’s Replacement

 

The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia raised many pertinent about the future of the Supreme Court and, more importantly, whether the effects of Scalia’s judicial decisions would be overturned or discarded at the possibility of a liberal majority in the Supreme Court.

There has been speculation in changes everywhere from the Citizens United case to the pivotal Second Amendment court decisions, and of course the topic of immigration and its future realignment has also been visited by experts. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the new Supreme Court will be able to change this area significantly any time soon.

The truth is that the President of the United States, and the executive branch in general, has the liberty of enforcing immigration regulations to the best of his judgment and capacity, a concept which the Supreme Court itself has upheld time and time again.

After all, Scalia dissented in the 2012 case Arizona v. United States, where the eponymous state attempted to pass a bill making it a crime to be unlawfully in the United States and requiring state and local officers to verify the citizenship status of anyone who was lawfully arrested or detained. The Supreme Court found the state law to be unconstitutional, since federal law, and executive order, preempted the state’s own decisions.

Recently, the Supreme Court has decided to hear United States v. Texas, where the state of Texas has challenged the federal government’s enactment of DAPA. Due to Justice Scalia’s passing, the Supreme Court will have to hear the case with only 8 justices on the bench.

Even if somehow a justice who has previously upheld the act changed his stance, an even split in the court would not lead to binding precedent being set on the courts below. It seems very likely that if the Supreme Court were to pass a landmark decision on immigration, it will not happen this year.

 

Kansas Voter Law Requiring Proof of Citizenship under Scrutiny by A.C.L.U

Credit:carterdayne
Credit:carterdayne

The American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) recently filed suit in federal court against a Kansas law requiring residents to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. This law makes Kansas one of only four states requiring this proof. However, since Georgia and Alabama have yet to implement their laws, only Arizona and Kansas currently restrict voter registration in such a way.

The A.C.L.U. argues the Kansas law is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which only requires registrants to swear they are citizens when they get a driver’s license, under threat of perjury.

The Kansas law’s main proponent, Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, asserted that “The state has every right to verify that the person is eligible to vote before completing the person’s registration.” Kobach also contributed to Arizona’s controversial law in 2010, which allowed law enforcement officers to stop and question the immigration status of people they believed to have entered illegally.

Under the 2013 Kansas law, the state could still accept voter registration applications, but they would be held “in suspense” until proof of citizenship was provided. This reasoning was distinguished from the Arizona law which was struck down by the Supreme Court since it would reject the applications forthright if not accompanied by proof of citizenship.

The A.C.L.U also brought a state suit against Kansas for its two-tiered voting system which allows residents to vote in federal elections without proof of citizenship but not in state races. Arizona and Kansas had jointly defended this voting system in federal court, but while the case proceeds, the states are still allowed to implement the law.

Since the 2013 law took effect in Kansas, more than thirty-five thousand registrations have been in suspense, approximately 14 percent of the registrations filed during that period.

Immigration Bill Protested in HKonJ Rally in N.C.

Credit:Lalocracio
Credit:Lalocracio

Protesters gathered Saturday for the 10th annual Moral March on Raleigh, North Carolina. The coalition, known as the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) included groups protesting injustice in virtually every sector of American society, including immigration.

The immigration group’s main criticism was N.C. General Assembly’s perceived anti-immigrant policies, specifically the recently-instituted House Bill 318. The bill, passed in October, prohibits certain documents to be used to “determine a person’s identification or residence for governmental and law enforcement purposes.”

According to protesters, this law does not allow Mexican nationals to use their Matricula Consular (an identification card issued to Mexican nationals residing outside of Mexico) to prove their legal status in the United States. As such, these Mexican nationals could be deported for minor traffic infractions or during hiring processes.

The protests also cover a wide variety of social issues, such as worker’s rights, race, LGBTQ rights, and voting rights. Lia Kaz, a protester present at the march, said:

“The protest is changing the moral consciousness of the state and it’s a leader for the South, as well as the rest of the country. Moral marches have been as far north as Connecticut and it’s really changing the way communities work together instead of against each for social progress.”

The local administration is more critical of the march, however, with N.C. GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse stating that:

“The Moral Monday crowd may be back, but their agenda is the same. Their agenda, backed by out of state labor unions and special interests, would raise taxes by billions, and their continued obstructionism is no way to move this state forward.”

Ted Cruz Introduces Bill Providing the “Necessary Resources” to Enforce U.S. Immigration Laws

Credit:dkfielding
Credit:dkfielding

While still campaigning for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz, R-Texas has addressed the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws by introducing legislation concerning the funding of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

S. 2538, known as the “ICE Agent support Act of 2016”, was drafted with the help of Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama. The bill would allow the Enforcement and Removal Operations, a sector within the ICE, to grant fines and penalties for immigrants refusing to leave the U.S. after being ordered to do so.

According to Cruz, this bill would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually which would presumably be reinvested into the ICE, due to ICE Director Sarah Saldaña’s comment on the overwhelming numbers of illegal immigrants and the agency’s lack of adequate resources.

Since the bill has only recently been introduced, there is little information as to its actual content, but Cruz had this to say:

For far too long, the Obama administration has discouraged enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws. President Obama has even personally threatened ‘consequences’ for the dedicated men and women who try to follow the law. This legislation sends a clear signal of support to the ICE agents who risk their lives on a daily basis to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. The next administration must support the people who protect us from illegal immigration and punish those who break our laws.

Arizona Legislation Aims to Allow State the Right to Refuse Refugees

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Credit:dszc

After the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and Gov. Doug Ducey’s call for a pause in the resettlement of refugees in Arizona, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature has proposed a number of House Bills aimed at curbing federal immigration policies within the state of Arizona.

Among the bills is House Bill 2370, with legislative findings condemning the federal government of, among other things, “not fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities to ensure secure international borders,” placing “noncitizen refugees… within [the] state without the knowledge or permission of state and local officials,” and not “fully and completely [vetting] each noncitizen refugee… for criminal and terrorist backgrounds and associations.”

The bill’s main spokesman, Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, conceded the state might not be able to stop the federal action, but wanted to try anyhow. He also said:

“I would much rather be wrong and be told so by a judge as opposed to sitting back and doing nothing. My attitude toward the feds, if they’re overreaching their authority here in Arizona I want to push back.”

Another one of Thorpe’s bills, House Bill 2682, would require refugee center operators to renew their licenses yearly at the cost of a thousand dollars, monthly facility inspections, and obligatory biometric information on each refugee.

Along the same line of thinking, Arizona’s Republican House Speaker, David Gowan, proposed House Bill 2691 requiring an audit to review:

  1. the number of refugees resettled in Arizona in the last thirty-six months,
  2. The amount of state monies spent on the refugee resettlement program, and
  3. The amount of federal monies received for the resettlement program.

This resistance to federal policies is not endemic to Arizona, as South Carolina’s legislature is considering tracking the incoming refugees and Florida’s legislature suggesting the use military force to keep out refugees coming from outside the Western Hemisphere.

Georgia Supreme Court Rejects In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students; Student Stage Teach-Ins in Protest

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Credit:vichinterlang

The Georgia Supreme Court this morning has ruled against Georgia undocumented students, who filed suit against the Georgia Board of Regents for access to in-state tuition. In protest, students have begun teach-ins at 3 local universities.

Justice Melton argued in his majority opinion that the Georgia Board of Regents acted within legitimate state sovereign immunity in blocking undocumented students from in-state tuition. Sovereign immunity holds that state government agencies cannot be sued.

The Court, citing themselves in “Sustainable Coast,” noted also that “citizens aggrieved by the unlawful conduct of public officers are without recourse. It means only that they must seek relief against such officers in their individual capacities.”

Charles Kuck, the attorney representing undocumented students in this case, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he would move this week to file a new lawsuit that names the individual members of the Board of Regents.

Students have responded by staging teach-ins at three of the public universities around the Atlanta area, including Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, and University of Georgia. The teach-ins are being organized and attended by both undocumented students and student allies at 12 universities across Georgia.

In a press release regarding the sit-ins, Freedom University, a freedom school-style college curricular program in Atlanta, wrote,

In the spirit of the Greensboro sit-in, students from across the nation have gathered at the three campuses, all of which are affected by the two policies, to demand that the presidents of each school, Jere Morehead of UGA, Mark P. Becker of GSU, and George Peterson of Georgia Tech, publicly denounce the discriminatory policies affecting their institutions.