June 2018

Seattle ICE Lawyer Found Guilty of ID Theft of Immigrants Awaiting Deportation

(ESPAÑOL) A former ICE lawyer in Seattle was sentenced to four years in prison for ID theft of people facing deportation and using them to run up bills totaling $190,000.

Raphael Sanchez, 44, resigned when he was charged in the four-year scheme in February. He had overseen deportation proceedings in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington since 2011 as the agency’s top lawyer in the region.

“Sanchez was entrusted with significant authority to represent the United States in crucial immigration proceedings that deeply shaped the lives of many,” attorneys Luke Cass and Jessica Harvey, of the Justice Department’s public integrity section, wrote in a sentencing memo to the court. “Sanchez abandoned the principles he swore to uphold and used his authority merely as a vehicle for personal profit.”

As part of a deal in which Sanchez pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, prosecutors and Sanchez’s attorney, Cassandra Stamm, agreed to recommend a four-year prison term.

Tracy Short, ICE’s principal legal adviser, said in a written statement that the agency’s employees are held to the highest standards of professional conduct.

“Individuals who violate the public’s trust will face consequences for their actions, as Mr. Sanchez did in this case,” Short said. “Corruption will not be tolerated.”

Sanchez’s scheme ran from late 2013 to late last year. He took personal information about at least seven people who had been or could be deported from immigration files and then forged identification documents, such as Social Security cards and driver’s licenses, in their names. Sometimes, he used a picture of a murder victim that had appeared in a newspaper as an identification photo.

He used the forged IDs to obtain lines of credit and credit-monitoring services to determine which of his victims had the best credit. He also listed three victims as dependents on his income tax returns.

The victims’ status as deportable — or in some cases having already left the country — made it less likely they’d discover and report the fraud, prosecutors said.

Immigrant Parents Promised to be Reunited with their Children Faster if they Sign Departure Orders

(ESPAÑOL) Immigrant parents are being offered the option to sign voluntary departure orders to speed up their cases, being told they’ll be reunited with their kids before they are deported if they do.

The option is not unique to parents and is not the only option parents are given, but the offer is raising eyebrows among those who represent undocumented immigrants, who question as to whether it’s understood properly by the parents being offered it.

An administration official confirmed the arrangement to CNN, saying that as is customary, immigrants in detention are being offered the chance to sign the orders to be removed from the country more quickly than if they waited for a judge. In that context, they are told their children will be reunited with them — if they choose for them to be — before they are deported.

The policy raises questions about how immigrants are being helped to approach their own legal situations and reunification. Efrén Olivares, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a call with reporters Sunday that the matter seemed to conflate “two separate points,” deportation and reunification.

“We have no reason to believe that (voluntary deportation) is the fastest way for parents to be reunited with their children,” Olivares said. “Putting them in that position is not a voluntary (deportation); it’s being obtained under duress.”

Henry Lucero, an enforcement and removal operations official of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said at a roundtable in Weslaco, Texas, on Friday that “a majority” of parents in immigration detention were opting to be deported without their children so the children can go through the immigration system. An ICE spokeswoman responded saying Lucero was speaking about his own current experiences and couldn’t provide numbers of how many parents had volunteered to be deported.

A fact sheet from the Department of Homeland Security released Saturday evening said, “It should be noted that in the past many parents have elected to be removed without their children.”

Under the law, immigrants are allowed to have legal representation, although the government does not provide any as they navigate the US immigration system and seek to reunify with their children after the government separated them.

The families will either be reunited before deportation, or, if the parent is released from detention, after the parent applies to serve as the child’s sponsor under HHS rules.

Trump Asks For Illegal Immigrants to Immediately be Deported Without a Hearing

(ESPAÑOL) President Donald Trump said on Twitter Sunday that illegal immigrants entering the country should be removed from the country “immediately” without being granted a court hearing.

“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” Trump said in a series of two tweets Sunday morning. “Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents….Our Immigration policy, laughed at all over the world, is very unfair to all of those people who have gone through the system legally and are waiting on line for years!”

“Immigration must be based on merit – we need people who will help to Make America Great Again,” he concluded.

“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents…”

Under current Trump administration policy, all undocumented immigrants caught entering the country are referred for criminal prosecution as part of a tightened “zero-tolerance” policy announced in May by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

That “zero-tolerance” policy spiked an onslaught of family separations, since parents who were caught crossing the border illegally were detained under the Department of Homeland Security while their children were placed under the auspices of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. More than 2,300 children were separated from the adults they crossed the border with, provoking outrage around the world and producing a public relations nightmare for the administration.

As anger over the policy reached its peak, Trump signed an Executive Order on June 20 to enable these families to stay together. In a fact sheet released Saturday evening, the Department of Homeland Security said 522 children who had been separated from their families were since reunited, but provided no timeline for when the rest of the reunions would happen.

California State Budget Makes Space for Undocumented Immigrant Legal Aid

(ESPAÑOL) The proposed California state budget puts tens of millions of dollars into programs that could help undocumented immigrants fight federal efforts to deport them, including opening up $10 million to hire lawyers for unaccompanied minors trying to stay in the U.S.

The budget pushed through by majority Democrats expands funding for immigration legal services offered through the Department of Social Services and public colleges.

It also includes $1.6 million to build a team of eight attorneys and investigators in the Labor Commissioner’s office at the Department of Industrial Relations. They would enforce a state law that requires businesses to tell their employees when they’re contacted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

That team would carry out last year’s Assembly Bill 450, which California lawmakers advocated as a rebuttal to the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Employers face penalties of $2,000 to $10,000 if they fail to notify their workers of a pending immigration action.

“Donald Trump’s out-of-control deportation force is constant threat to our immigrant communities,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who wrote the law. “This expenditure shows that the Labor Commissioner and the State of California are serious about protecting our immigrant workers.

The $200 billion budget package did not deliver the big-ticket items immigration activists wanted, such as proposals that Assembly leaders sponsored to provide health care coverage and tax breaks to undocumented Californians.

The items allocating money for immigration lawyers build on existing programs. Last year’s budget, for instance, put $45 million into providing legal services to immigrants. The Department of Social Services can tap that money to hire nonprofit organizations that will work on immigration cases.

Two years ago, almost 46,000 people used those services, according to the department.

The upcoming budget also more than triples legal funding for undocumented minors. Last year, the Department of Social Services received $3 million for those cases. In the next budget, the department gets $10 million to help young undocumented immigrants.