April 2016

Clinton-era Immigration Laws “Ripped Apart” Families, Human Rights Watch Says


According to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Clinton-era immigration laws “have subjected hundreds of thousands of people to arbitrary detention, fast-track deportations and family separation.”

Human Rights Watch is calling on the U.S. Congress to repeal provisions in two laws passed in 1996 which have created a system in which refugees and migrants face detention and fast-track deportation without adequate consideration from U.S. authorities.

The bill is known as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), and was passed in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in which domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh attacked the Alfred P. Murrah federal government building killing 168 people and injuring another 680.

Although this bill was meant to stop future attacks like this, it instead enabled fast-track deportation procedures, and also greatly limited the powers of federal courts to consider petitions filed by prisoners who say they were wrongly convicted, including people on death row.

The other bill signed in by Bill Clinton was the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). According to HRW, the legislation “eliminated key defenses against deportation and subjected many more immigrants, including legal permanent residents, to detention and deportation.”

The bill allowed the government to detain and deport immigrants, including legal permanent U.S. residents, for a range of relatively minor offenses, along with making it very difficult for refugees to apply for asylum.

HRW has also documented over the last 20 years how these laws have even viewed a wide variety of criminal convictions as triggers for automatic deportation or detention, including cited cases of longtime U.S. residents being deported for drug convictions even after serving their time.

One of the modern impacts of these policies is the American government’s present ability to fast-track deportations of Central American refugees, even though some of them have been refugees fleeing from violence. From January 2014 to October 2015, up to 83 refugees and migrants the U.S. deported back to Central America were killed.

HRW also reports more than 2.5 million people have been deported under Obama, around one-forth more than former president George W. Bush, and more than any other president in U.S. history.

Fingerprinting Parents of Child Immigrants Debated by US Agencies

With a new, incoming wave of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into the country, immigration enforcement officers in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have suggested taking fingerprints of all people claiming custody of said children.

The proposal, drafted as a memo responding to a February Senate hearing, would expand fingerprinting to include parents as well as non-parents. ICE would then check the fingerprints against an FBI database of criminals to ensure the people claiming the children are their parents as well as prevent the children from being placed with individuals with criminal histories.

This proposal was met by still opposition, particularly from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who assured people they have no intention of changing the fingerprinting policy, stating the change would delay family reunions and infringe upon the parent-child relationship.

Bobbie Gregg, deputy director for children’s services at HHS’s office of refugee resettlement, said “One of our goals is to place children with an appropriate sponsor as promptly as we can safely do so. And so any delay for placing the child with their parent is time that we’re keeping a parent and child separated.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Justice Department oversee and advise ICE and HHS. The proposal is preliminary and subject to change, but for now the White House has declined to comment on it.

From January 2014 to April 2015, more than 31,000 parents claimed children who entered the US from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 60 percent of claimed children were parents, while the rest were other relatives, and only 161 non-relative sponsors claimed children.

Parents who want to claim children would have to appear at the housing complexes were illegal immigrant children are kept, and would have to prove parentage through birth certificates or DNA tests.

Immigration advocates fear fingerprinting the parents could enable ICE to prosecute them and possibly arrest them for deportation proceedings.

Illegal Immigration to be top Issue in November Elections


With the rise in both the overall immigrant population in the United States, then increased inflow of illegal immigration coming into the country, and according to polls by Florida Latino voters, immigration is set to be the one of the top issues prioritized in the upcoming election.

The immigrant population living in the U.S. has nearly tripled in the last fifty years, from 9.7 million to over 42 million. Roughly a third of Hispanic immigrants are 18 years old or younger. Since the immigration of actual children is very low, most of these numbers were born in the United States, meaning that they either are or will be legal voters in the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, more than 32,000 illegal immigrant families have been caught trying to sneak into the U.S. This is nearly 40% higher than 2014’s record, with the implication that the government’s relaxation in immigration enforcement has induced the swell in illegal crossers. Fortunately, the rate of children travelling alone to the U.S. has lowered slightly, although a recent uptick in March could suggest a new wave incoming.

It is no surprise that when Florida Latino voters were polled, 34 percent stated immigration was a top issue in the upcoming elections. Florida, a swing vote state, has one of the highest percentages of Latinos in the country, composing over 23 percent of the population. 20 percent of respondents know someone who has applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Approximately 39 percent of respondents said they know someone who is undocumented while a quarter know someone who has faced deportation or detention for immigration issues.

Floridian Latinos themselves have a personal stake in the election’s decision concerning immigration, since approximately 229,000 of Florida immigrants would be eligible for deportation deferral, work permits, and state driver’s licenses under the immigration programs, which could all be lost depending on the electoral results.

Immigrants Mobilizing on Immigration Issue


As the elections approach, data shows a growing movement of around 8.8 million immigrants becoming eligible for naturalization in time for the 2016 presidential election. This election stands out amongst the rest with the widening gulf between Democrats and Republicans presenting the possibility of deportation of as many as 11 million immigrants with the election of Republican candidates Trump or Cruz.

Breandan Magee, senior director of programs for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and Irish immigrant who naturalized earlier this year, told Latin Post “There are concerted efforts to mobilize people to naturalize and register to vote with the intention of fighting back against the hate expressed by candidates at the natural level as well as to defend President Obama’s actions on DAPA.”

Magee further added, “The general mood among immigrant populous is they feel the need to stand up for themselves and their families against what they see as blatant racism. They waited a long time to become citizens, but they felt a great need to do so now.”

Exemplified are Elena and Esteban Salgado, who have been in the US with the green cards for more than 20 years, and have not truly considered voting until this election. ICIRR organizers have identified around 350,000 immigrants living in Illinois who feel the same ways as the Salgados.

Potential citizens and voters have taken notice of Trump’s fiery rhetoric, deriding Mexicans as criminals and drug dealers and his promise to erect a massive wall to keep out all immigrants. Cruz, although not as outspoken on his views, still promises to deport millions of illegal immigrants.

The ICIRR has managed to mobilize nearly 1,000 permanent residents to gain citizenship specifically to vote in the November general elections.

Along with the incoming Supreme Court decision upholding Obama’s executive actions preventing the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, the upcoming year promises to show a radical shift in American immigration policy.

Ted Cruz Exaggerated Benefit of Arizona Immigration Law

Applying for an Immigration visa.

On March 30 of this year, Republican runner Ted Cruz gave a speech at a GOP town hall meeting where he cited a Wall Street Journal article which claimed the state of Arizona, due to the passing of tough immigration laws, was spending hundreds of millions of dollars less on prisons, education, and hospitals for illegal residents of the state.

Cruz refers to the 2010 Arizona law which required the police to determine the immigration status of someone who is detained or arrested, if the officer had reasonable suspicion as to their legal status. After the law passed, thousands of illegal immigrants were reported leaving the state, which Cruz quotes the article as claiming a fiscal victory.

However, there is evidence that illegal immigrants began leaving the state even before the law passed as the recession began, reducing the amount in the state from 350, 000 in 2009 to 300,000 in 2012, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. What the article does say for sure is that it is impossible to separate the effects of the 2010 law from the recession as far as illegal immigrants leaving the state is concerned.

As for education costs, the article cites a marked reduction of students in English intensive course from 150,000 to 70,000, and the amount such schooling saves. However, said reduction cannot be attributed to illegal immigrants leaving the state, since enrollment in English intensive courses is not indicative of one’s legal status.

The prison statistics report a reduction in the amount of criminal aliens held in Arizona prisons, although criminal aliens include both legal and illegal immigrants, and the 11 percent decrease itself is small when considering the increase in per capita daily cost over the years.

Similarly, the reduction in health care costs for emergency care dedicated to illegal immigrants is impossible to directly correlate with changes in the law, since the recession also could have affected the availability of health care for all.

All in all, Cruz’s summary of the article is incomplete and not immediately or definitively indicative of the benefits of Arizona’s immigration reforms.

Immigration at the Supreme Court: Redux


With United States v. Texas currently being tried before the Supreme Court, it serves well to fully understand the issues before the court and its impact on the future of American immigration policy. In November 2014, President Obama enacted executive actions meant to bypass congressional inaction and allowed millions of illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

A federal court halted the program in February of 2015 and the case arose to the Supreme Court. The eight remaining Supreme Court justices on Monday will hear from 26 states and an amici brief from the House of Representatives challenging the executive actions and affect the futures of about 4.3 million undocumented immigrants.

Obama’s executive actions instated the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) aimed particularly for parents along with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to protect their children. The programs would allow qualifying individuals to pass a background check, pay a fee, and apply for programs.

Obama’s intent was to bring forth the immigrants “living in the shadows” so they could play by the rules and pay their full taxes. Obama enacted his actions also due to the inactions of Congress, whose Gang of Eight bill failed in 2013 and Republican take-over heralded the end of immigration discussion.

Texas lead the 26 states and a federal judge sided with them, freezing the programs nationwide. The challengers to the program said the unilateral actions were unconstitutional and violated federal laws allowing agencies to establish regulations.

The first issue before the Supreme Court is whether the states are constitutionally allowed to sue since the federal government is given reign on immigration policy. Then they will decide if Obama is within his constitutional abilities to enforce the programs.

Since there are only 8 members on the Supreme Court, a 4-4 ruling would leave the lower court’s decision standing and returning to the lower court to continue litigation, leave any major decision in immigration reform for the future president to decide.

Clinton Promises New Immigration Office


Hillary Clinton announced on Wednesday she would create a new office called the “Office of Immigrant Affairs” if elected president. Clinton stated the office would create a dedicated place in the White House to coordinate integration policies across the federal government and with state and local government as well.

Clinton briefly outlined her plan at a Manhattan event where she was endorsed by the New York State Immigration Action Fund, an advocacy group. Steve Choi a representative of the group, said that the group supported the creation of the office as a push for helping immigrants in the U.S.

The office would make sure immigrants would have access to adult education and to English classes, reducing barriers to naturalization, and providing support for immigration services.

Clinton did not give further detail on the office, and she refused to share with reporters the possible costs of the office.

Critics immediately questioned Clinton’s proposal, accusing her of angling for votes. Bob Dane, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said “it illustrates how out of touch Clinton is with what the public wants; secure borders and the laws enforced.

Likewise, Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said adding more bureaucracy was not going to do anything, would only make the problem worse, and that integration by immigrants is by and large going well. He cited three different reports on assimilation by the National Academy of Science, the OECD, and a University of Washington economist who all testify to the same.

Several non-governmental groups already act as advocates for immigrants and refugees, including CASA de Maryland, Refugee Council USA, and the Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, among others.

The Clinton campaign said the proposal was in response to the recommendations of a 2014 task force set up by the Obama administration to study integration services across the federal government.

Indiana Senate Panel on Immigration Invites Trump Adviser


An Indiana Senate committee will examine immigration issues in the state according to the advice of two lawyers behind some of the strictest proposals against undocumented immigrants.

One is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the person who recently suggested to Republican candidate Donald Trump to build a wall on Mexico’s border and make the country pay for it. Kobach also helped form Arizona’s and Alabama’s immigration laws, considered some of the toughest in the country.

The other lawyer will be Dale Wilcox, executive director of Immigration Reform Law Institute, a nonprofit organization which supports immigration restrictions and has strongly opposed President Obama’s own immigration policies.

The two will provide background on state and federal immigration law at the inaugural meeting of Indiana’s immigration committee. The committee plans to hold six meetings and form recommendations for state immigration policy, both for legal and illegal immigration.

Republican Senate leader Mike Delph will be directing the committee and it will “take a fair and deliberate approach to studying the effects of illegal and legal immigration in Indiana.”

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lenane, however, said the committee has been created as a sounding board for anti-immigration policies, and “rather than kicking off this series of committee meetings by including all stakeholders, leadership has invited two of the most controversial and dangerous voices in immigration policy to date.”

In 2008, Delph unsuccessfully pushed to require employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check workers’ immigration status, and in 2011 helped pass an immigration law that allowed the arrests of people whose immigration status was questionable.

Delph said he is seeking an update on how much the state spends to support undocumented immigrants, with Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration estimated that undocumented immigrants cost $130 million in public dollars on expenses such as public schools, state prisons, and health care.

What effect these two lawyers will have on the state’s future policies and the country at large awaits to be seen.

Supreme Court Accepts GOP Amicus Brief


The House of Representatives, or more specifically, the GOP Amicus Brief filed a number of Republicans therein, have been granted approval by the Supreme Court of the United States to write an amicus brief and present it before them.

When the case is argued before the Supreme Court on April 18, the chamber will be allowed to deliver 15 minutes of oral argument time to make its case against Obama’s immigration policies, according to the Court’s order list. The oral arguments in general will run for around 90 minutes.

Ashley Strong, a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed the Speaker’s approval of this grant, saying “We are pleased the Supreme Court has agreed that the House of Representatives should be able to weigh in on this important question of whether the president failed in his constitutional duty to execute the law as written by Congress.”
The outcome of the case will determine whether Obama’s controversial actions to grant work permits to more than 4 million immigrants in the United States illegally will be allowed to proceed, which have been put on hold by a federal injunction for more than a year.

The programs have been under attack by several states, which spurred the House of Representatives to split among party lines in order to decide whether an amicus brief would be submitted to persuade the court. The Republicans, winning the vote, will argue the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans is an overreach of executive powers in a field of national policy properly relegated to Congress.

Specifically, the brief states: “the Executive may disagree with the laws Congress enacts and may try to persuade Congress to change them. But neither any immigration law now on the books nor the Constitution empowers the Executive to authorize — let alone facilitate — the prospective violation of those laws on a massive class-wide scale.”

Sanctuary City Debate Rages On


The Sanctuary City of San Francisco takes center stage as representative for the greater national struggle between federal immigration officials and the various sanctuary cities opposing them through their detainee policies.

San Francisco’s Sheriff, Vicki Hennessy, said Thursday that city jail officials should be allowed to turn over serious criminal offenders to federal ICE agents. Meanwhile, Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation seeking to bar such cooperation between parties.

Avalos’ measure would further strengthen sanctuary cities, which are known for withholding convicted illegal immigrants in custody and eventually releasing them as opposed to handing them over to federal authorities for deportation procedures.

Hennessy opposed these procedures by stating that “A blanket policy of no notification is not consistent with my responsibility to provide public safety.” Under Hennessy’s proposal, her department would still not work with immigration agents in most cases, but would make an exception for a person with a violent or serious felony conviction in the last seven years or three or more lesser felonies arising from different events in the past five years.

On the other hand, San Francisco’s Sanctuary City and Due Process for All ordinance prohibits inmates from being held hours or days past their release dates when they are flagged by immigration agents, but does not outlaw prerelease notifications, unlike other counties. Avalos’ legislation would prohibit Hennessy from making such notifications.

This issue has been closely followed since last year, when a man wanted for deportation by ICE authorities was released from San Francisco jail and was later suspected of murdering a young woman on Pier 14 on the Embarcadero.

A month earlier, the then-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi issued a department memo banning all communication with immigration agents seeking to deport jailed suspects without a warrant or court order.

Opponents of Hennessy’s proposals argue her change would lead to more unfair deportations, while Avalos’ legislation would strengthen the Sanctuary City of San Francisco which so many immigration proponents cherish.