February 2017

Immigrants take Measures In New Political Climate

(ESPAÑOL) Immigrants everywhere take measures to deal with the new political climate. Although the new immigration policies have not come into full force and the ICE raids are still little more than routine, everyone fears the worst for the future.

As stated last week, Trump’s new immigration orders expand the focus of undocumented immigrants prioritized for deportation from the narrow of “violent criminals” to practically any undocumented immigrant with a criminal conviction or who has concealed their status.

The climate is one of general fear, but also some proactive moves have been made to prepare. A formerly undocumented developer named Celso Mireles is building an app to crowdsource information about immigration raids and provide alerts to help undocumented immigrants avoid them. The app is currently being refined to avoid false reports and once a raid is verified, the system would send alerts via text message to users in a 10 to 20 mile radius.

On the other hand, undocumented immigrants have been avoiding many necessary services due to the fear of raids. Although the recent ICE raids have not been much different from those under Obama’s administration, the timing has unnerved many people who would have otherwise lived cautiously rather than paranoidly.

Although medical centers have traditionally been considered “sensitive locations,” where federal agents usually would not enter. Alex Armstrong, the CEO of Alliance Medical Center in Santa Rosa, California, expresses fear that ICE would raid his facility. He also said that twice as many patients as normal have cancelled their appointment last week, with some expressing fears towards immigration officials.

Meanwhile, the farmers hurry up their harvests in the fields in expectation that their work might be cut short soon. Farmworkers have also been considering staying put instead of moving state lines to new picking fields, crippling both their own work and that expected by the farm owners.

New Immigration Order Redux

(ESPAÑOL) With the Mexican wall on the drawing board and the first immigration order fiasco, America prepares itself for its promised immigration overhaul. Now that the administration has delivered a more comprehensive immigration plan, we have an opportunity to analyze it and provide a prognosis of the future.

“Deportation” has been the cornerstone of Trump’s plan, but the true question at hand is the scope of such deportations. Trump’s executive order not only targets criminals convicted of violent crimes or serious misdemeanors, but also people who have been “charged with any crime” or “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” Another category is “fraud” and “willful misrepresentation”, which could easily apply to any undocumented immigrant who has attempted to hide their status. Finally, immigration agents are given a general discretion to target anyone who they believe would “pose a risk to public safety or national security.”

This means that a great deal of undocumented immigrants will be targeted by the new standards, ramping up arrests and detentions greatly. But there is still an unresolved problem that throws a hitch to this great number of arrests: there are only 300 immigration judges in the country, and the backlog of cases is overwhelming.

Not to mention that detention centers, and even some local jails, are overcrowded by immigrant detainees awaiting process at these overburdened courts. To increase arrests without first solving the court issue will have disastrous consequences to the entire system.

The solutions are limited; one of the choices is to expedite the legal processing of undocumented immigrants, which by itself could imply possibly abridging the detainee’s legal rights in the system. This means that the best possible follow-up to the new immigration orders would be an expansion of the immigration legal system, with either a restructuring of the court dockets or the hiring of more judges.

Considering how unexpected the recent shifts in immigration policy have been, we could only hope this would lead to a more efficient system rather than its collapse.

That Police Officer Could be an ICE Agent

(ESPAÑOL) Would you open your door to a police officer if he was actually an ICE agent? Although you do not have to open your door to either of them, unless you called them or they have a warrant, this is a ruse that has often been under fire by immigration advocates due to its lack of ethicality or even legality.

Although the obvious argument in favor of such practice is that ICE officials must be able to reach illegal immigrants to be able to process them for deportation, the drawback to such practice is evident: illegal immigrants will be unwilling to reach out to police officers or help them with their investigations if they fear they are actually ICE agents in disguise.

This is an ever-prevalent practice and concern in cities with large immigrant/illegal immigrant populations such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, where such reticence in reaching out to law enforcement could become a serious public safety issue.

Frances Miriam Kreimer, senior attorney in a San Francisco law firm, finds this policy fundamentally unfair and detrimental, and is currently challenging its legality.

These practices are internally allowed and encouraged by ICE officials, described as an effective tool at their disposal. Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for ICE, declined to comment on the practice, citing the safety and effectiveness of their agents as grounds for confidentiality.

Police themselves have the right to mislead and misinform suspects to carry out their investigations, although the officer still needs permission from a consenting adult to enter a residence unless in possession of a warrant.

Most legal challenges against ICE officials using these ruses have risen when the official so thoroughly misleads the person as to render their consent meaningless or otherwise forced their way into the home unbidden, which the courts have ruled unconstitutional.

Regardless of the legality of such actions, the advice to illegal immigrants, and citizens in general, is this: you do not have to allow a warrantless police officer into your home, and there is always a possibility the person is an ICE agent.

Arpaio Successor Rescinds Immigration Practices

(ESPAÑOL) For years, immigrants being released from jails in Phoenix, Arizona, would routinely be kept locked up an extra couple days to give federal authorities time to check their immigration status and launch deportation proceedings.

It was a policy put in place by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and widely denounced by critics who cited it as a pattern of unfair treatment toward immigrants. Jail systems in other cities have also faced legal challenges contending it’s unconstitutional to keep a person in jail after they’re released on bail or complete their sentence.

The man who defeated Arpaio in the November election announced Friday night that he was doing away with the policy amid questions about its constitutionality. That means the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will no longer keep immigrants past their release dates, putting more of the onus on Immigration, Customs and Enforcement officers.

“I have an obligation that this office act constitutionally and within the laws,” Penzone said at a news conference.

Penzone said the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office informed him of the legal issues surrounding policy, and he responded by doing away with the practice.

The County Attorney’s Office said Saturday that it had reviewed U.S. court cases on ICE civil immigration detainers, including a Texas one in which a court concluded that county officials without federal authorization to enforce immigration law can’t hold people beyond the time necessary to enforce state law.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, a Republican who has co-sponsored Arizona legislation targeting illegal immigration, earlier said Penzone’s move “really infuriates” him and that he’d try to get it rescinded.

Kavanagh said he’ll consult legislative lawyers and the County Attorney’s Office about Penzone’s move.

It may violate a state law requiring law enforcement agencies to cooperate with ICE on immigration matters to the fullest extent of the law, opening the door for sanctions against the county if the move isn’t rescinded, Kavanagh said.

NJ Democrats Propose Reimbursing Sanctuary Cities

(ESPAÑOL) Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey introduced bills this week calling on the state to reimburse sanctuary cities that lose federal funding. And on Wednesday, Assemblyman John Wisniewski introduced legislation designating New Jersey a “sanctuary state,” generally preventing law enforcement officers from initiating contact with immigration officials, and from using state resources for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws.

In addition, several towns that have significant immigrant populations have declared themselves sanctuaries, saying they will not reach out to immigration officials about illegal immigrants they arrest or provide a service to unless they are serious criminals or a national security threat.

“We are putting President Trump and his administration on notice,” said Wisniewski in written public announcement about his legislation. “New Jersey will not be a ‘willing partner’ to the unjustified and inhumane deportations of our neighbors and friends.”

New York and California also have moved toward declaring their states sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.

Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign, has issued executive orders and directives aimed at border security and tracking down and deporting undocumented people.

He directed the Department of Homeland Security to identify and publish a list of sanctuary communities. Although no strict definition of the term exists, it is generally used to describe communities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The New Jersey measures have little chance of passing, given GOP resistance and Gov. Chris Christie’s veto threat, said Ross Baker, a Rutgers University professor of political science.

In Maplewood, Mayor Victor DeLuca consulted with police administrators before crafting a sanctuary ordinance that became final at the end of January.

DeLuca said police officials said they did not want the responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws.

“The police said ‘We don’t do it now,’” DeLuca told Fox News, “and there was a feeling on our part that wanted to make clear that there are distinctions between the role of the police department and the role of immigration officials.”

New Jersey has more than 500,000 illegal immigrants, according to estimates.

Republicans in the state legislature say they will not support sanctuary towns in any way. Christie, a Republican, says he will veto any legislation that would favor sanctuary cities.

Rise in Refugees Entering Canada Through American Border

(ESPAÑOL) In Manitoba, Canada, groups that specialize in helping refugees say the pace of arrivals has quickened since Donald Trump became president and banned travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. Refugees who spoke with The Associated Press cited Trump’s order and anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric as the main reasons for going north.

Rita Chahal, executive director of Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, said her group normally sees 50 to 60 refugees from the U.S. each year. But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said that more than 40 have been picked up at the border near Emerson, Manitoba, in just the last two weekends.

Chahal said most are natives of Somalia, which was in Trump’s travel ban, but also from Ghana, Djibouti, Nigeria and Burundi. They are making the trip at a dangerous time.

While the number of Illegal crossings to Canada is dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands from Mexico on the southern border, the numbers are increasing.

In Quebec, the number has tripled in one year to 1,280 in the current fiscal year, which runs through March. Illegal crossings to British Columbia doubled to 652 last year. In Manitoba, the RCMP intercepted 68 people three years ago but 430 this fiscal year.

Those fleeing the U.S. avoid border posts because of an agreement — called Safe Third Country — that requires migrants to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in. That means migrants arriving at a Canadian border post are rejected and told to apply in the U.S.

An opposition party lawmaker grilled Canada’s immigration minister in Parliament on Thursday, saying the agreement discourages refugees from crossing at an official border checkpoint. New Democrat lawmaker Jenny Kwan also asked the minister whether he still believes the U.S. is offering a high degree of protection for asylum seekers.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, himself once a refugee from Somalia, stressed that Canada is welcoming to refugees. Canada has taken in almost 40,000 Syrian refugees, triple the U.S. intake of Syrians in 2016.

But Hussen said the agreement with the U.S. will remain because it “provides an orderly system of managing asylum claims.”

ICE Launches Immigration Raids Across Country

(ESPAÑOL) Federal immigration authorities launched a new wave of raids and other actions in several states over the past five days aimed at sweeping up people who are in this country illegally.

It’s not known how many people were rounded up across the country, but immigration advocates say they’ve received reports of raids in California, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, New York and Kansas. The ICE operations are the first to take place since President Trump issued his Jan. 26 executive order expanding the priorities for enforcement.

President Trump has promised to deport 2 to 3 million immigrants with criminal records, but immigration experts say that while the Department of Homeland Security estimates there are 1.9 million “removable criminal aliens” in the United States, only about 690,000 are in this country illegally and have been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor.

Preliminary reports from southern California give an indication of the scope of the ICE operations. An official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in southern California, David Marin, called the actions routine “surge operations” that target “priority cases,” in other words, people in this country illegally who have criminal convictions.

“We made 161 arrests, and of those 161, 151 of those had prior criminal convictions. … The majority of them were felons and those felons which had prior convictions included sex offenses, domestic violence, assault, robbery and weapons violations, just to name a few,” said Marin in a press teleconference held late Friday.

Marin said that of the ten others, five had impending deportation orders or had been deported and had illegally returned to the United States. The remaining five had no criminal records, but were in this country without documents.

Immigrant advocates dispute officials’ claims that the operations were routine.

“What they’re trying to do is a really concerted effort to instill fear and terrorize our communities,” said David Abud, an organizer with the National Day Labor Organizing Network based in Los Angeles told NPR.

“It’s a way in which Trump and ICE are retaliating against sanctuary jurisdictions,” he added.

NC House Bill Targets Sanctuary Cities

(ESPAÑOL) Republican legislators in North Carolina are allegedly trying to cut off state funding for sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration policies.

Four GOP House lawmakers filed a bill Wednesday that would withhold tax revenues from beer and wine sales, telecommunications and natural gas from local governments that violate the state’s 2015 ban on sanctuary-city policies. The new bill, called the “Citizens Protection Act of 2017,” also includes other provisions that crack down on immigrants in the country illegally.

The North Carolina bill comes amid President Donald Trump’s proposal to take away federal grant money from sanctuary cities. The sponsors are Reps. Harry Warren of Salisbury, Jeff Collins of Rocky Mount, Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson and Jay Adams of Hickory.

The proposal to penalize sanctuary cities appears to be softer than a measure that passed the Senate last year but never got a vote in the House. The 2016 bill would have cut off a full year of state funding for school construction projects and local street projects to cities or counties that violate the state ban. Any local government in violation after 60 days would have lost a second year of funding.

The new bill limits the penalties to certain utility and alcohol tax revenues, which would likely involve less funding than cuts to school construction and street money.

The 2015 bill banning sanctuary cities prompted protests. At the time, Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman of Archdale said the policies were “a welcome mat to come on in if you’re a criminal and you’re here illegally.”

Immigration “sanctuary” policies differ between towns. Carrboro instructed its police several years ago to ignore deportation orders for immigrants here illegally if they aren’t wanted for other crimes, although the policy is no longer active. Chapel Hill police have had a policy to follow deportation orders but won’t ask about a suspect’s immigration status.

A spokesman for the N.C. League of Municipalities said the organization is “unaware of any North Carolina cities or towns that have violated the provisions of the 2015 law.”

GOP Senators Propose Curbing Legal Immigration

(ESPAÑOL) As the immigration debate continues, two Republican senators proposed a bill concerning legal immigration.

Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia argue the current amount of legal immigration is bloated with low-skilled labor and has contributed to the declining wages of Americans with high school diplomas or less.

“It’s pulling the rug out from underneath them, and unless we reverse this trend, we’re going to create a near permanent underclass for whom the American dream is always just out of reach,” Cotton said at a news conference introducing the bill.

The senators want to roll back legal immigration in a three-pronged approach that aims to cut the number of immigrants by half, to 500,000 annually. They say their plan would not touch visa programs for high-skilled workers.

The bill, “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act” (RAISE Act), would limit the number of family-based visas so that only spouses and unmarried minor children of citizens and permanent residents can get green cards. Currently the law also allows for parents of citizens, as well as siblings, both married and unmarried children over 21, along with their spouses and minor children.

One exception would be allowed. Elderly parents in need of caretaking would be able to get renewable temporary visas, but the parents would not be allowed to work, receive public benefits, and they would have to show guaranteed support of health insurance by the sponsoring children.

The two senators also want to nix the diversity lottery, which grants 50,000 visas each year to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Thirdly, their bill would cap the refugee program at 50,000. According to Pew, the US allowed in 84,995 refugees in the fiscal year which ended in September 2016, the most in any year during the Obama administration.

Trump Asks for Appeal of Seattle Judge’s Injunction of Immigration Ban

(ESPAÑOL) President Trump has formally asked a federal court to overturn a Seattle judge’s injunction halting his immigration ban, after a day in which he criticized the judge’s ruling as “ridiculous” and a “terrible decision.”

In a short notice of appeal filed Saturday evening, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson formally notified the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals of their intention. The filing contains no legal arguments; those are expected to come later.

That judge, U.S. District Senior Judge James Robart, sitting in Seattle, issued the temporary restraining order Friday night that immediately lifted the ban.

Trump first blasted the ruling by the “so-called judge,” tweeting that his opinion “essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Even before the president’s comments, the White House said the federal government would challenge the decision. ACLU officials promised to oppose the president’s newest effort, which is also opposed by 16 state attorneys general.

The executive order signed by Trump on Jan. 27 had suspended the entry of all refugees to the U.S. for 120 days, halted admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely and barred entry for three months to residents from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Following Robart’s ruling, the State Department said it was restoring tens of thousands of canceled visas for foreigners while the Department of Homeland Security “suspended all actions” for enforcing the ban and instead began standard inspection of travelers.

The ACLU and other advocacy groups had been working to extend a temporary stay on the order issued last week after it sparked chaos and protests at airports across the country. On Saturday, such groups were urging travelers caught in limbo to act quickly.

“We encourage all U.S. visa holders who have been affected by the order to travel to the United States as soon as possible, while the stay is in place,” said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project in New York.