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Year 2013 Saw a Record High in Deportations

October 10, 2014

The "infographic of the day" from the CRF Blog shows how the numbers of deportations from the U.S. have generally increased since 2001, peaking (so far) in 2013.

Infographic: Deportations from the United States Reached a Record High in 2013 | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista.

(Source: Statista.) — DH

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Family Law Courts and the Unaccompanied Minors Crisis

September 11, 2014

Natasha Vargas-Cooper writes at The Intercept about how one minor from Honduras, known as "Daniel," reunited with his mother in Texas and successfully petitioned for a Special Immigration Juvenile (SIJ) visa. The SIJ visa will allow Daniel to eventually gain legal resident status. His SIJ visa came through the state-level family-court system and not the federal immigration-court system.

Vargas-Cooper describes one of the main differences between the two court systems. That main difference is the availability of legal counsel (an attorney) for children in family court:

A new study out of Syracuse found that, over the last ten years, only 48 percent of children had legal representation in immigration court. In federal immigration court, children are not entitled to an attorney. That bears repeating: in the labyrinthine system of immigration law that extends through five government agencies – Department of Homeland Security, Department of Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement – children are not appointed counsel.

“Their best chance is in family court,” says Daniel’s attorney, Tania K. Rosamond. “There they have due process about the child’s best interest. If they speed up immigration trials so that we don’t have time to make the case in family court, then they can get stuck in a long two-year appeal process and ultimately get turned down. Or they just get deported. If we don’t have the time to go to family court,” Rosamond says, “it will be really bad for these kids.”

(Source: The Intercept.) — DH

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Surge of Central American Children Roils Immigration Debate

July 22, 2014

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has released a new report, Surge of Central American Children Roils Immigration Debate, on public opinion surrounding the border crisis.

As the president and Congress struggle over how to deal with the influx of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America across the U.S.-Mexican border, a new survey finds that the public favors a shift in U.S. policy to expedite the legal processing of the children.US border influx response

President Obama gets very low ratings for his handling of the issue. [more]

 

(Source: Pew Research.) — BH

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Texas Governor Perry Plans to Deploy National Guard at Texas-Mexico Border

July 21, 2014

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced his plan Monday to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops at the Texas-Mexico border. "I will not stand idly by," Gov. Perry said while criticizing President Obama's handling of the unaccompanied-minor  immigration crisis:

The recent border crisis has been receiving national attention by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children illegally entering the U.S. Perry said criminals are exploiting this situation as border patrol is pulled away from law enforcement to humanitarian aid. Unaccompanied minors take up about 20% of the apprehended on the border, according to Perry.

The National Guard will provide additional support to a state-funded border surge that is costing an additional $1.3 million a week. CNN reported that Customs and Border Patrol budget jumped to $12.4 billion this year compared to $5 billion in 2002. [more]

(Sources: PBS Newshour.) — DH

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Crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border Shifts Immigration Reform Debate

July 18, 2014

Earlier this week, the Senate Homeland Security Committee heard testimony about the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border involving the presence of at least 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America. Many of these children were sent to the United States by their parents to remove them from violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, countries with some of the highest murder and poverty rates in the world.

"Today, more Salvadorans are being killed," testified Michael Schifter, president of Inter-American Dialogue, "than during the worst moments of that country's bloody civil war in the 1980s."

The children have so far been detained by U.S. authorities as the Obama Administration decides what the next steps are in managing the crisis. President Obama has called for $3.7 billion to fund increased border security. This has caused political shifts in the debate over immigration reform.

According to Politico:

The deepening humanitarian crisis at the southern border is forcing lawmakers to weigh a response to the thousands of unaccompanied children flooding into Texas. The contours of the debate are different — instead of haggling over a pathway to citizenship, lawmakers are considering Obama’s request to direct nearly $4 billion to the border — but the overall issue remains the fallout from the troubled state of U.S. immigration laws.

The sudden shift is creating some unusual alliances. Republicans insist that if Obama wants billions in emergency funding, he must first agree to legal changes that would accelerate the pace of deportations for unaccompanied minors. The White House has expressed openness to a tougher approach along those lines, frustrating Democrats who were aligned with the administration on the reform effort but now worry a crackdown could sacrifice due process for the children.

“It just seems to me that we spent the last year and a half sitting down with Republicans and saying, ‘let’s change the law’ and they said, ‘it’s too hard, it’s too divisive,’” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said. “But when it comes to the taking away of acquired rights under the law that immigrant children have, we have time for that kind of legislation.”

A new Pew Research Center report shows that 53 percent of Americans want the government to speed up the process in which children who entered the U.S. illegally are removed (returned to their native country). That same poll shows only 28 percent of Americans approve of President Obama's handling of the crisis.

(Sources: Politico, TIME, Voice of America.) — DH

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Immigration Activists Press Both Parties on Capitol Hill

June 27, 2014

Seeking to put pressure on both political parties to stop deportations that split families apart, and to voice support for President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, immigration activists took to the halls of Capitol Hill today. As reported at The Hill:

...[T]he advocates – many sporting bright blue t-shirts emblazoned with the message "OBAMA DEPORTS PARENTS" – singled out three lawmakers on Friday: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); House Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa (R-Calif.); and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who heads the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Their decision to target both parties highlights that advocates are increasingly resigned to the notion that reform legislation is dead this year, and are shifting their focus instead to DACA – both the GOP's efforts to dismantle it and Obama's decision to delay any expansion of it until August.

Issa this week churned headlines with a letter calling for the end of DACA, which he blames for growing the wave of child migrants at the border; Boehner announced a coming lawsuit against Obama for alleged executive overreach – which advocates see as a direct threat to DACA; and Democratic leaders, including Wasserman Schultz, continue to back Obama's delay in unilateral action in hopes that Republicans will act on an immigration bill in July.

That delay – and the Democrats' defense of it – isn't sitting well with the reform advocates, who don't think the Republicans will consider the issue before November's elections and want Obama to step in immediately for the sake of keeping families together.


(Source: The Hill.) — DH

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Supreme Court Lets Nebraska Immigration Ordinance Stand

May 5, 2014

In June 2010, voters in Fremont, Nebraska, approved an ordinance that would prohibit businesses and landlords from hiring or renting to undocumented immigrants. The measure requires renters to apply for a license from the city. The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund sued, arguing that federal immigration law preempts, or trumps, the Fremont ordinance.

In June 2013, the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that Fremont's ordinance did not conflict with federal law and so was not preempted.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of the 8th Circuit's ruling. This leaves in place the ruling and the Fremont ordinance.

(Source: Chicago Tribune.) — DH

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National Council of La Raza Leader Dubs President Obama 'Deporter-in-Chief'

March 5, 2014

Preceding a Tuesday awards dinner of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), NCLR President Janet Murguia voiced strong criticism of President Obama's immigration policies. In an interview, Murguia said, "We consider him the deportation president, or the deporter-in-chief."

Up until a few weeks ago, most of NCLR's criticism of federal deportation policy was directed at the Republican leaders in Congress. Murguia's words show a shift in NCLR's focus from Congress to the White House. "We respectfully disagree with the president on his ability to stop unnecessary deportations," said Murguia at the NCLR's Capital Awards dinner.

NCLR is one of the largest Latino advocacy organizations in the United States. The organization has had close ties to the president during his two terms. The director of the White House Domestic Policy Council is Cecilia Muñoz, who was previously NCLR’s director of research and advocacy.

(Source: Politico.) — DH

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Pro-Immigration Republicans Encourage Comprehensive Reform

January 24, 2014

At a National Press Club event today, Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Independent who had been in the GOP until 2007, encouraged Republican lawmakers to renew their efforts to seek comprehensive immigration reform. The House GOP leadership is expected to release a plan for immigration reform in the coming days.

"If you are against the fastest-growing voting bloc in the country, you and your party don’t have a future," said Bloomberg.

The principles contained in the House GOP plan will likely not include a path to full citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, an idea favored by congressional Democrats. The plan is expected, however, to include a path to legal residency status for unauthorized immigrants, along with a guest-worker program and increased border security.

Joining Snyder and Bloomberg was Carlos Gutierrez, a lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and former Commerce Secretary under President George W. Bush. Bloomberg, Gutierrez, and Snyder all urged the GOP to enact immigration reform soon.

(Source: The Hill.) — DH

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California Supreme Court Rules Undocumented Immigrant Allowed to Practice Law

January 6, 2014

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of California issued a unanimous decision that Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant, may practice law in the state. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote the court's opinion.

The court based its decision, in part, on a California statute passed in 2013 that explicitly gives the State Bar of California authority to admit anyone who fulfills the requirements to become a member of the bar, including passing the bar exam, but who is not yet an authorized immigrant. That law went into effect on January 1.

Garcia was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents when he was a minor. His father became a lawful permanent resident and filed a petition for an immigration visa on Sergio Garcia's behalf in 1994. Even though the U.S. government accepted the petition in 1995, the visa itself has not been granted.

Many see the case as precedent for easing restrictions on unauthorized immigrants both in California and nationally. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit organization opposed to unauthorized immigration, called the court's decision a step to "normalize illegal immigration."

The California Supreme Court, however, ties the issue specifically to whether an immigrant has shown good moral character. Moral turpitude, or immorality, while present in the United States would, for example, preclude an immigrant from gaining legal residency. The court states:

We conclude the fact that an undocumented immigrant is present in the United States without lawful authorization does not itself involve moral turpitude or demonstrate moral unfitness so as to justify exclusion from the State Bar, or prevent the individual from taking an oath promising faithfully to discharge the duty to support the Constitution and laws of the United states and California.

Also, the court concludes that "granting of a law license to undocumented immigrants would not override or otherwise affect the federal limitations upon the employment of undocumented immigrants."

(Sources: CNN, The Judicial Branch of California, Opposing Views.) — DH

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President Obama's Speech on Immigration Interrupted by Heckler

November 26, 2013

In a speech in California yesterday on the need for immigration reform, a member of the audience standing behind President Obama interrupted with a call for the president to end deportations. "You have a power," called out the heckler, now identified as a man named Ju Hong, "to stop deportation for all undocumented immigrants in this country."

Turning to Mr. Hong, the presdent said, "Actually, I don't."

Click here to watch an AP video of the exchange.

(Source: The Hill, Washington Times.) — DH

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McCain and Obama Discuss Immigration Reform

November 7, 2013

Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is meeting with President Obama to discuss a strategy for comprehensive immigration reform.

McCain said Obama requested the meeting, which comes at a time political momentum for immigration reform is flagging.

“I’m going over to the White House this afternoon to meet with him [on] immigration reform and others,” he said. “I actually have a respectful and cordial relationship with him.”

McCain and Obama need to shore up the support of wavering allies such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has backed off the push to overhaul the nation's immigration laws in a 1,200-page comprehensive bill.

The issue of immigration appears to be on hold until 2014, a congressional election year.

(Source: The Hill.) — DH

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Senate Passes Comprehensive Immigration Bill

June 27, 2013

With broad bipartisan support, the Senate passed a bill today to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. The bill passed with a 68-32  majority. It is the first comprehensive immigration bill passed since 1986.

The provisions of the bill had been largely drafted by the "Gang of Eight," a group of four Republican and four Democratic senators, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). The Gang of Eight had unveiled the proposed bill at a press conference in April of this year.

The New York Times reports on the major provisions of the bill in the version that was passed today, as well as the political realities of the bill's potential passage in the House of Representatives:

The Senate bill provides a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country, as well as tough border security provisions that must be in place before the immigrants can gain legal status.

Though overhauling the nation’s immigration system became a priority for many Republicans after the 2012 presidential election, in which the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, was rejected by Hispanic voters, immigration opponents have mounted last-ditch efforts to derail the bill, which they say would offer amnesty without any real enforcement measures.

As the bill heads to the House, Republican elites and their well-financed pro-immigration groups are running up against opposition from the chamber’s most conservative members. Speaker John A. Boehner threw cold water on any hope that the House would vote on the Senate plan, and he insisted that whatever immigration measure his chamber took up would have to be supported by a majority of his Republican conference.

(Sources: CNN, The New York Times.) — DH

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ICE Director to Resign

June 17, 2013

John Morton, the director of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, announced his resignation today. Morton had been head of the agency for four years before announcing that he would leave his post at the end of July. He will move to the private sector, becoming head of compliance for Capital One, a financial services company.

Morton is notable for a memo he authored in 2011 that altered ICE policy on deportations. Because of limited resources, he directed ICE agents to use "prosecutorial discretion" and to focus deportation proceedings on immigrants who pose a national security risk, have extensive criminal backgrounds, or are recent border-crossers. (Source: USA Today.) — DH

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House GOP Skeptical of Senate Immigration Overhaul Bill

June 6, 2013

While a comprehensive immigration bill is pending in the Senate, House Republicans have expressed concerns and intentions to oppose the bill if the Senate passes it as is. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and three other Republican senators attended a closed-door meeting of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative faction of House Republicans, in order to discuss the bill.

"The bottom line," said Sen. Rubio after the meeting, "is we have a vibrant debate going on in the Republican Party. I can tell you that the bill as currently structured can't pass the House, and I think it's going to struggle to pass in the Senate."

The chief objection to the bill is that its border-enforcement provisions are not strong enough. (Source: USA Today.) — DH

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Asian American Lawmakers Wary of Changes to Visa Program

April 26, 2013

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), and other members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) have expressed concern about recent senatorial proposals for comprehensive immigration reform. Specifically, the members of CAPAC are wary that changes to the current visa program will keep Asian immigrant families apart.

The Senate bill of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" would create a new merit-based visa program that would change the current system of family-sponsored visas. The bill eliminates one category of family visas for siblings of U.S. citizens and reduces the number of visas available to married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.

Rep. Honda and members of CAPAC met this week with aides to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and other members of the "Gang of Eight" to discuss reforming the bill. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), CAPAC's chairperson, stated that CAPAC members had also lobbied each member of the "Gang of Eight" during the bill-drafting process. (Source: The Hill.) — DH

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'Gang of Eight' Details Immigration Bill at Press Conference

April 18, 2013

At a press conference held today, the so-called "Gang of Eight" U.S. senators reported on details of their plan for comprehensive immigration reform. The four Democrats and four Republicans have produced a bill called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. With tougher border security and a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, the bill also includes mandatory use of the E-Verify employment verification system, a new agricultural guest-worker visa program, and other provisions.

In his opening remarks, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said, "Our approach is balanced. The border security triggers are strong, but achievable. The path to citizenship is tough, but it is accessible. Yes, our bill does secure the border first, but it treats the situation of those living in the shadows as an equally urgent priority."

At the podium, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, "We're offering a comprehensive and workable solution to our broken immigration system that piecemeal responses have not and cannot repair." He also added, "Yes, we offer a path to citizenship to people who didn't come here legally. They are here and realistically there is nothing we can do to induce them all to return to their countries of origin."

The bill would provide funding for a variety of border security measures. These measures include provisions for identifying high-risk sectors of the nation's southern border in need of increased surveillance technology and the construction of fencing.

The path to citizenship in the bill would allow eligible persons in unlawful status (who have resided in the United States prior to December 31, 2011) to apply for Registered Provisional Immigration status (RPI). Eligibility includes payment of a $500 penalty fee, except for students eligible for the DREAM Act, and other application fees. After 10 years, immigrants in RPI status may apply for Lawful Permanent Resident Status.

Onstage with the "Gang of Eight" stood Grover Norquist, the conservative president of Americans for Tax Reform, and Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest federation of trade unions. (Sources: Politico, The Washington Post, U.S. Senator John McCain, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.) — DH

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Senatorial 'Gang of Eight' Reach Immigration Deal

April 11, 2013

The bipartisan group of eight senators working on reform of the nation’s immigration laws (known as the “Gang of Eight”) have reached an agreement. The group, which includes Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), has agreed on a plan that would tighten border security as a precursor to allowing unauthorized immigrants to apply for legal residency.

As the Gang of Eight finalized its negotiations on comprehensive immigration reform, tens of thousands of activists held a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol. Immigrants, labor union members, LGBT rights activists, and others called for the creation of a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants. Similar yet smaller rallies have been held in cities across the United States. (Sources: ABCNews, The New York Times, The Plum Line (blog).) — DH

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Sequestration Budget Cuts Prompt Release of Detainees

February 26, 2013

With across-the-board federal budget cuts (i.e., "sequestration") scheduled to take effect automatically on March 1, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released hundreds of detainees from immigration detention centers nationally. ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen issued a statement Tuesday in order to explain that the agency conducted a review of detention-center funding and found it limited due to the "current fiscal climate."

"As a result of this review," stated Christensen, "a number of detained aliens have been released around the country and placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release." Christensen added, "Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety."

Opponents of the releases, however, argued that it is really a political rather than a fiscal decision. "It’s abhorrent," said Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-VA), "that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration."

Supporters of the releases argued that the decision, albeit a good one, is overdue. "It shouldn’t take a manufactured crisis in Washington," said Carolina Canizales of United We Dream, an advocacy organization for young unauthorized immigrants, "to prompt our immigration agencies to actually take steps towards using government resources wisely...." (Sources: The New York Times, The Washington Post.) — DH

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Supreme Court Will Not Extend Ruling from 2010's Padilla v. Kentucky

February 21, 2013

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Padilla v. Kentucky that involved the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a criminal case. The court ruled in that case that criminal defense attorneys had a duty to advise their immigrant clients of the risk of deportation following a guilty plea for certain crimes.

On Wednesday of this week, the court issued a 7-2 decision in the case of Chaidez v. United States, in which the court ruled it would not extend the lawyer's duty to advise immigrant clients of the risk of deportation to apply to guilty pleas entered before the Padilla decision was handed down. Roselva Chaidez had pleaded guilty to an "aggravated felony" in 2003, but had not been informed by her attorney that such a plea would make her deportable (eligible for deportation).

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion in Chaidez. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. (Sources: Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute, Reuters.) — DH

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President Obama Welcomes Senate Immigration Proposals, Outlines Own

January 29, 2013

Speaking today in Las Vegas, Nevada, President Obama said he finds the bipartisan immigration proposals by eight U.S. senators "encouraging." Yesterday, a group of four Republican and four Democratic senators unveiled a general plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Citing similarities between the senators' proposals and his own, Obama said, "the good news is that — for the first time in many years — Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together."

He stressed, however, the need for urgency. "If Congress is unable to act in a timely fashion," he said, "I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."

The president outlined his own policy-proposals for immigration reform, some of which differ from those of the senators. For example, the president did not link toughening border security with creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently residing in the United States. According to a White House fact sheet, the president is also emphasizing that same-sex partnerships be treated equally to heterosexual marriages in any new immigration law. (Source: The Hill, The White House Office of the Press Secretary.) — DH

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Bipartisan Senate Group Introduces Immigration Reform Plan

January 28, 2013

A group of eight Democratic and Republican senators released a general plan today for reform of the nation's immigration laws. The plan of the so-called "Gang of Eight" includes several provisions that have been championed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and comes a day before President Barack Obama is expected to give a major address on immigration reform.

The Gang of Eight plan would create a "tough but fair" path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently residing in the United States, provided that tighter border security measures be put in place. The path to citizenship would begin with a probation period, background check, and payment of a fine to establish legal residency for each unauthorized immigrant who comes forward.

Other major provisions of the plan are a new employment verification system and increased guest-worker permits. In addition to Marco Rubio, the other senators of the bipartisan group are: Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennett (D-CO), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). (Sources: The Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times.) — DH

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Government Spent $18 Billion on Immigration Enforcement

January 7, 2013

According to a study by the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute, the Obama administration spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement in the last fiscal year. That amount is more than the amount spent on all other federal law-enforcement agencies combined.

Federal money for immigration enforcement primarily goes to programs run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"), and US-VISIT, a system that tracks visitors' entries and exits to and from the United States. By comparison, in the same fiscal year, the U.S. spent $14.4 billion on the combined budgets of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"), Secret Service, and others.

The report concludes that the Obama administration's highest law-enforcement priority is immigration. According to the report, of the $18 billion total, $11.7 billion went to CBP, $5.9 billion went to ICE, and $307 million went to US-VISIT. (Sources: ABC Univision, The Seattle Times.) — DH

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Number of Unauthorized Immigrants in the U.S. Declines

December 6, 2012

U.S. Census data released today indicates that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States in 2011 was 11.1 million. This is a decline from the 2007 peak of 12 million.

Demographers cite a few key factors for the decline. Given that 80 percent of unauthorized immigration originates in Mexico and Latin America, the factors are a weakened U.S. economy, strengthened southern border enforcement, and a "graying" (or increased number of aging people) of the Mexican population.

(Source: Politico.) — DH

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Election News: Maryland Passes Question 4, the State's Own "Dream Act"

November 7, 2012

Maryland voters yesterday passed a state ballot initiative that would allow unauthorized immigrants to receive in-state college tuition rates under specified circumstances. Called Question 4 on the ballot, the initiative says that

undocumented students can attend community college as long as students graduate from high school and meet income tax, permanent residency and selective service registration requirements. Then, with 60 credit hours or a degree from a community college, those students can enroll at a four-year public school with in-state tuition rates.

Question 4 passed 57-43 in the polls. (Source: Los Angeles Times.) — DH

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Election News: Sheriff Arpaio Re-elected

November 7, 2012

Yesterday, Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County was re-elected for a sixth term. Known as an immigration hardliner, Arpaio strongly supported Arizona's controversial SB 1070 law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court this past June. (Source: Los Angeles Times.) — DH

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New Immigration Program Goes Into Effect

August 16, 2012

This week, the Obama administration made available online the forms for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. The program allows immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors (under the age of 16) to apply for legal work permits, provided they are now under 30, have been living here for at least five years, and meet other criteria.

Applicants for the program must provide proof of their eligibility and identity. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) outlined various examples of proof, including a passport, birth certificate, school transcripts, and military service records. Applicants must also pay a $465 fee to apply.

President Obama had announced the program in June. Its provisions parallel those in the contested Dream Act legislation, which has so far failed to pass both houses of Congress. The DHS has reminded applicants that the program provides a path to legal residency, not full legal citizenship. (Source: Washington Post.) — DH

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Reactions to Arizona v. U.S.: Pro and Con

June 26, 2012

For a quick round-up of reactions to the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. U.S. (June 25, 2012), go to CRF Blog. — DH

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Supreme Court Decides Arizona v. United States

June 25, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a much anticipated decision today in the case of Arizona v. United States. The case arose out of constitutional challenges to four provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which was passed in 2010. Among the law’s provisions, Section 2(B) required that police check persons’ immigration status if the police have reasonable suspicion that the persons are unauthorized immigrants.

In a 5-3 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion that struck down three of the four provisions in question. The majority upheld the highly controversial Section 2(B). The court decided that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had enjoined (put on hold) the enforcement of Section 2(B) prematurely: The Ninth Circuit should have waited to see how Arizona’s state courts would have handled the issue and should have first shown how the section conflicts with federal immigration law. If a state law conflicts with federal law, the state law can be preempted (invalidated).

The other sections in question were, according to the court’s decision, preempted by federal law. Section 3 made it a misdemeanor not to comply with federal registration requirements. Section 5(C) made it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized immigrant to seek employment in the state. Finally, Section 6 allowed police officers to arrest without a warrant anyone “the officer has probable cause to believe...has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.” Those three sections are now invalid.

The court reasoned, however, that Section 2(B) could stand because SB 1070 included in its text safeguards against unlawful profiling by police based on race, color, or national origin. One such safeguard is that anyone who holds a valid Arizona driver’s license is presumed, under the law, to be an authorized resident of the United States.

Supporters and opponents of SB 1070 are understandably conflicted. Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, who signed the state bill into law in 2010, stated that the “heart” of SB 1070 has remained intact. “Law enforcement will be held accountable,” said Brewer, “should this statute be misused in a fashion that violates an individual's civil rights.”

On the other hand, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said the “tactic” of checking persons’ immigration statuses can only result in racial profiling. “I know [state police] will not be using that kind of tactic,” said Gutierrez, “on people with the last name Roberts, Romney, or Brewer, but if your name is something like Gutierrez or Chung or Obama, watch out.”

(Source: CNN, SCOTUSblog.) — DH

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House of Representatives Apologizes for the Chinese Exclusion Act

June 21, 2012

Last October, the U.S. Senate formally expressed regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Last Monday, June 18, the U.S. House of Representatives followed suit with House Resolution 683, expressing regret for Congress passing such a discriminatory law.

The bill was originally sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA). Twenty House representatives signed on as co-sponsors, including Dan Burton (R-IN), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Lamar Smith (R-TX).

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 targeted Chinese immigrants who had come to the U.S. to work in the late 19th century. It placed a 10-year moratorium on all Chinese labor immigration and prevented Chinese immigrants in the United States from becoming citizens.

The resolution is as follows:

Expressing the regret of the House of Representatives for the passage of laws that adversely affected the Chinese in the United States, including the Chinese Exclusion Act.

(Sources: The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, THOMAS (The Library of Congress).) — DH

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Obama Unveils New Policy to Defer Deportations

June 15, 2012

Speaking to the press at the White House Rose Garden, President Obama announced a newly revised policy that will likely decrease the number of deportations of unauthorized immigrants in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security will carry out the new policy, which may affect as many as 800,000 immigrants currently living in the U.S.

The policy’s specifics closely match key provisions of the DREAM Act, which failed to pass in the U.S. Senate two years ago. Under the new plan, persons who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16, and who are under the age of 30 now, will receive a two-year deferral from deportation, provided that they have resided within the U.S. for at least five continuous years, have no criminal record, and have graduated from a U.S. high school or earned GED equivalency or served in the armed forces. These immigrants will be allowed to apply for work permits.

It is expected that the policy will be a source of political contention as the November presidential elections draw near. “This is a temporary stop-gap measure,” said the president, “that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.” In response, however, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham tweeted, “This is a classic Barack Obama move of choosing politics over leadership.”

(Source: Associated Press, CNN, Haaretz) – DH

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Non-white Minority Births Outnumber White Births

May 17, 2012

The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that for the first time in U.S. history, non-white minorities have accounted for more than half of the births in the United States. In the 12-month period leading up to August 1, 2011, non-white births were 50.4 percent of the total births in the nation. This has led to speculation that general attitudes toward immigration reform will change as the population becomes more diverse. The new demographic change also follows decades of increased immigration. (Sources: Los Angeles Times, Voice of America) — DH

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Supreme Court to Judge Arizona’s SB 1070 Law

April 23, 2012

This Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the challenge to Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law. Lower courts have blocked the most controversial provisions, inclusing the one that allows police to check the immigration status of persons they stop, arrest, or detain.

The principal question the court will address is whether states may make immigration law. Traditionally, immigration law is a federal issue, not a state issue, though states are expected to cooperate with federal authorities in carrying out federal law. Preemption is the legal term that describes when states are not allowed to make laws that are the under the federal government’s exclusive authority.

Opinions differ and tend to be polarized on this issue. Opponents of SB 1070 maintain that this is an easy case of preemption. “This should be an easy case for the federal government,” states UCLA law professor Adam Winkler. “Under longstanding precedent, the federal government has plenary authority over immigration.”

On the other hand, supporters of SB 1070 maintain that under this law police would merely be cooperating with — and not hindering — federal immigration law enforcers. “Arizona is not ‘regulating’ immigration as its critics contend,” states Jon Feere, legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies. “If Arizona were unilaterally admitting or deporting aliens to and from the United States, certainly the state would be overstepping its authority. However, Arizona is simply assisting the federal government in carrying out its responsibilities.”

See CRF’s Arizona’s SB 1070 and State Policing of Immigration.

(Sources: Talking Points Memo, U.S. News & World Report’s Debate Club) — DH

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President Obama’s Uncle Faces Deportation

April 3, 2012

U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement announced that it will pursue deportation of Onyango Obama to Kenya. Obama, half-brother of the president’s Kenyan father, resolved drunk-driving charges a week ago in criminal court  in Massachusetts. Obama now faces removal from the United States due to a prior immigration court’s order.

Onyango Obama intends to fight the deportation and is scheduled to appear at a meeting in ICE offices next week in Burlington, Massachusetts. After his arrest for drunk driving last August, immigration authorities discovered that he had been living in the United States illegally since 1992. (Source: The Boston Globe) — DH

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Alabama and Georgia Immigration Laws Challenged in Court

March 1, 2012

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing challenges today to state immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia. The Alabama law involves a requirement that public school officials check the immigration status of students. The Georgia law allows police to check the immigration status of certain criminal suspects.

The challengers in the Alabama case are immigrant-rights and civil-liberties groups as well as the U.S. Department of Justice. Other activist groups have challenged the Georgia law. Defending the laws are the state attorneys general in Alabama and Georgia, respectively. Nine other states have filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs on behalf of Alabama and Georgia. Several foreign governments, including Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, and Chile have filed amicus briefs for the challengers.

In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear oral arguments in April on a case filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against a controversial law passed in 2010 in Arizona. That law, known as SB1070, would allow police officers to investigate the immigration status of persons stopped or detained, based on the officers’ reasonable suspicion. (Source: CBS News) — DH

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2011 Saw Record Deportations

January 24, 2012

End-of-the year reports showed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made 396,906 deportations in fiscal year 2011. This represents a slight increase from 2010, when about 392,000 people were deported. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano indicated in an October 2011 press release that 55 percent of the 2011 deportees had felony or misdemeanor criminal convictions.

According to ICE, the number of deportations reflects a general increase the past five years:

FY 2010 = 392,862
FY 2009 = 389,834
FY 2008 = 369,221
FY 2007 = 291,060

According to an analysis of ICE’s figures and Secretary Napolitano’s press release by public radio station KPCC in Southern California,


DUI offenders made up a large number (35,927) of those deported in fiscal year 2011, as did people convicted of drug-related offenses (44,653). Violent offenders (homicide, 1,119; sexual offenses, 5,848) were fewer in number, according to ICE.


In a recent review ordered by the Obama administration, prosecutors in Denver, Colorado, identified 1,300 foreigners in immigration court who pose no security risk to the United States. These foreign-born persons will be allowed to remain in the U.S. Immigration rights advocates argue that these people will be in “limbo,” allowed to stay but unable to work legally or to obtain driver’s licenses. Republican critics, however, argue that the policy itself constitutes an “end run” around Congress. (Sources: The New York Times, Multi-American (KPCC), and Frontline (PBS).) — DH

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Americans Sometimes Detained for Immigration Violations

December 14, 2011

See the entry here at CRF Blog to learn about The New York Times' report "Immigration Crackdown Also Snares Americans." — DH

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Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Arizona's SB 1070 Law

December 12, 2011

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the constitutionality of a controversial immigration law, known as SB 1070, passed last year in Arizona. One provision of  SB 1070 directed local police and sheriffs within Arizona to determine the immigration status of persons they lawfully stop or detain. Officers must base their determination on a reasonable suspicion that the persons are present in the United States illegally.

The U.S. Justice Department challenged the reasonable suspicion provision, among others, in federal court. A federal judge in Phoenix and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals both held that the reasonable suspicion provision was unconstitutional.

Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer, appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Obama administration asked that the court postpone hearing the case. The court, however, has decided to hear the case during its current term.

Both Governor Brewer and the White House have expressed satisfaction that the court will hear the case and make its decision next summer. "I’m pleased," wrote Brewer on her Facebook page, "this nationally important issue will be resolved by the highest court in the land." White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters "You know the president’s position and the administration’s position. We look forward to arguing it in this case." (Sources: Politico and Neon Tommy.) — DH

For CRF’s classroom-ready lesson on Arizona’s SB 1070 law, click here.

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Arizona Court Allows Recall of Russell Pearce

November 14, 2011

The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona issued a ruling today that allowed the recall election of State Sen. Russell Pearce to go forward. Pearce was the author and sponsor of the controversial SB 1070 immigration legislation in Arizona, which has been challenged in court.

Last week, Pearce, a Republican, lost a recall election in his local Mesa district to another Republican, Jerry Lewis. Pearce challenged the recall, but the state’s Supreme Court ruled against him, stating that there is “no reason to abandon 86 years of precedent and 100 years of commitment to popular recall”and that “voters may attempt to remove an officer for whatever reasons they choose.” (Source: Tucson Sentinel) — DH

For CRF’s classroom-ready lesson on Arizona’s SB 1070 law, click here.

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Political Risks Behind Obama’s Deportation Policy

October 12, 2011

Back in August, the Obama administration announced it would generally not deport those who arrived in the United States as minors and who have either graduated from high school or served in the U.S. military. It would also prioritize deporting unauthorized immigrants who are convicted criminals or who are considered threats to national security or public safety.

As reported at Politico, the new policy could earn Barack Obama “huge political dividends” with the important Latino voting bloc. There are political risks, however:

Immigration advocates say the new policy, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended last week, has stoked huge expectations in immigrant communities that deportations of mostly law-abiding illegal immigrants will end immediately. Those hopes could turn to disappointment if the process bogs down in bureaucracy and inconsistency.

Critics say the policy smacks of presidential politics and will waste federal money by suspending deportation cases that already are completed. They also argue there’s no way to predict who poses a threat to public safety, so some individuals allowed to stay in the U.S. could go on to commit serious crimes.

— DH

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Governor Jerry Brown Signs the California Dream Act

October 11, 2011

Working through hundreds of bills on Sunday that had been passed by the California legislature, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill, AB131, known as the California Dream Act. The new law, which will go into effect in 2013, allows unauthorized immigrants within the state of California to be eligible to receive state financial aid to attend public colleges and universities. The law must still be approved by the UC Board of Regents.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Despite their lack of legal paperwork, the students won't be hiding in the shadows. Already, such students are required to sign an affidavit saying they are in the process of requesting legal status if they want to pay the lower in-state tuition rate at public universities.

The heads of California's three public university systems and many campus leaders have expressed strong support for the law authored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles.

About 100 undocumented students are enrolled at Berkeley, and about 800 across the UC system, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said, adding that many such students are brought to this country as children "and didn't do anything illegal themselves."

Opponents, however, see this as an economic burden to the state. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County), said, "Tuition rates have been going up, the universities have budget cuts of $1.2 billion and there are lotteries for classes — but if someone is here illegally, we roll out the red carpet." (Source: San Francisco Chronicle.) — DH

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Senate Expresses Regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

October 11, 2011

The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution, SR201, expressing regret for having previously passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 as well as regret for subsequent laws that discriminated against Chinese immigrants. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Scott Brown (R-MA) co-sponsored SR201, which the Senate unanimously approved. Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) will sponsor a companion bill in the House.

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act placed a 10-year moratorium on all Chinese labor immigration and prevented Chinese immigrants in the United States from becoming citizens. It was the first ban on immigration to the United States. Prior to the Act, U.S. borders were open. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle.) (For a classroom lesson about the Chinese Exclusion Act, 19th-century American nativism, and other issues, see CRF's History of Immigration From the 1850s to the Present, available on this web site.) — DH

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Federal Court Upholds Alabama's Immigration Law, Obama Administration Appeals

September 30, 2011

Earlier this week, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn upheld a state law in Alabama that allows police to detain persons suspected of being present in the United States without authorization. If a person is stopped for any reason by a police officer and cannot produce proper documentation of legal residency, then that person is subject to detention. Judge Blackburn also upheld a provision that requires Alabama public schools to determine whether children have legal residency.

Though Judge Blackburn's decision would allow the law to take effect, the Justice Department filed a motion today asking that the law be put on hold until the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals can review the case. Lawyers for the Justice Department argued that immigration is a federal matter not subject to a "patchwork" of state laws. (Sources: Los Angeles Times, Reuters.) (For classroom discussion of these issues, please see CRF's Arizona's SB1070 and State Policing of Immigration.) — DH

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Archbishop Speaks Up on Immigration

September 7, 2011

From CRF Blog:

José H. Gomez, the new Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, spoke about immigration to a group at the “Catholics in the Next America” conference in Napa, Calif., on July 28.

Read more at CRF Blog here. — DH

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Republican Candidates Likely to Discuss Immigration in Debate

September 7, 2011

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

[O]ne issue that will likely come up [in tonight's debate among Republican presidential hopefuls] will be one that has flummoxed Republicans who revere Ronald Reagan — immigration.

Most of the contenders have taken hard-line stands — seal the border, no pathway to citizenship and opposition to the DREAM Act....

The reason this might "flummox" those who revere Reagan is that Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. This act granted amnesty to as many as 1.7 million unauthorized immigrants or more. (Sources: The New York Times, The Salt Lake Tribune.) — DH

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Obama Administration to Conduct Case-by-Case Review of Deportations

August 18, 2011

The Obama administration will conduct a case-by-case review of approximately 300,000 unauthorized immigrants awaiting possible deportation. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the policy today, in which the administration will generally not deport those who arrived in the United States as minors, and who have either graduated from high school or served in the U.S. military. According to the new policy, the administration will focus on removing from the country those unauthorized immigrants who are convicted criminals, or who are considered threats to national security. Writing to a group of U.S. senators, Napolitano stated, "From a law enforcement and public safety perspective, DHS enforcement resources must continue to be focused on our highest priorities."

In response, Senator Lamar Smith (R-TX) criticized the policy, saying, "The Obama administration should not pick and choose which [immigration] laws to enforce." On the other hand, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) showed support, saying, "We need to be doing all we can to keep these talented, dedicated, American students here, not wasting increasingly precious resources sending them away to countries they barely remember." Senator Durbin also said that this new policy would halt the deportations of those who otherwise would have benefitted under the DREAM Act, if it had been become law. (Sources: The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times.) — DH

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Supreme Court Issues Decision in Flores-Villar v. United States

June 14, 2011

Ruben Flores-Villar challenged gender-based residency requirements for citizen fathers and citizen mothers in the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of those requirements. Yesterday, the Supreme Court affirmed that decision in Flores-Villar v. United States. The case dealt, in part, with the court's prior decision in Nguyen v. INS (2001).

The court’s entire decision reads as follows: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Justice Kagan had recused herself from the case.

SCOTUSblog provides an overview of Flores-Villar v. United States as well as the complete underlying documents, briefs, and petition for certiorari.

The brevity of the court’s decision has prompted Rich Samp at Forbes.com to speculate:

The Court’s seventh-month delay in releasing its decision suggests that a Justice has been writing a majority opinion, only to lose that majority when another Justice switched sides. Given the ideological nature Flores-Villar (the Petitioner alleges sex discrimination in determining U.S. citizenship), it’s reasonable to suspect that the Court lined up along its usual liberal-conservative divide, with Justice Kennedy somewhere in the middle.  My guess: Justice Alito was assigned to write the opinion for a 5-3 majority, but then Justice Kennedy switched his vote, thereby creating a tie.

The same brevity has prompted Martha F. Davis at ACSblog to write a critical appraisal of the Court's decision:

Unfortunately, it will likely be decades before we learn the back story, when the Library of Congress opens the archives of one of the currently sitting Justices. Then, we’ll learn if it was Justice Kennedy or someone else who joined the dependable group of Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor to strike down the deeply discriminatory citizenship law, creating the even split on the Court. Then, years from now, we’ll find out whether the 4-4- split was just an expedient compromise mandated by the impending end of the term, when the Justices simply couldn’t reconcile competing concerns about deference to Congress, the Court’s remedial power, and even issues of standing. We’ll find out how many opinions were drafted and what the decision might have been if, for example, Justice Kagan hadn’t recused herself from the deliberations.

— DH

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Supreme Court Orders Review of Hazleton Decision, Declines California In-State Tuition Case

June 6, 2011

In September 2010, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals declared in Lozano v. Hazleton that local laws in Hazleton, Pennsylvania that set punishments for employers and landlords who hire or rent to unauthorized immigrants were unconstitutional . The City of Hazleton appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Hazleton decision (stated that the decision was no longer valid) and ordered that the Third Circuit base its decision on the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting. In Whiting, the Supreme Court held that laws in the state of Arizona that set licensing penalties for employers who hire unauthorized immigrants do not conflict with federal law and are, therefore, constitutional. (Source: The Christian Science Monitor.)

In another decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a California Supreme Court decision that upheld granting in-state tuition rates to citizens and unauthorized immigrants alike. (Source: The Christian Science Monitor.) — DH

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San Francisco’s Sheriff May Help ICE

June 1, 2011

From the San Francisco Examiner:

San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey will begin releasing illegal immigrants suspected of low-level crimes instead of turning them over to federal authorities starting today, but individual sheriff’s deputies may be under no obligation to follow that policy.

That’s according to a previous legal advice letter from the City Attorney’s Office that said city officials cannot be barred from assisting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a retired sheriff’s deputy who disagrees with Hennessey’s defense of The City’s sanctuary policy.

Read the entire article here.

— DH

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Analyses of Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Whiting

May 27, 2011

Lyle Denniston writes "Opinion Recap: Shared Role on Aliens' Jobs" at SCOTUSblog (May 26, 2011):

A divided Supreme Court on Thursday sent a strong signal that states will be free to experiment with new laws dealing with unlawful aliens living within their borders, at least when the states seek to control access to jobs. The usual argument that immigration policy has to be uniform, across the nation, would appear to have a significant loophole.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, writes a statement on the decision (May 27, 2011):

The Supreme Court’s decision, while disappointing, applies very narrowly in Arizona. In a divided opinion, the majority found that Arizona’s employer sanctions relate to business licensing and are not subject to federal preemption. The narrowly focused majority opinion means that very little can be extrapolated about a potential ruling on the legality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law SB 1070.

Hans von Spakovsky writes "Arizona Wins Big in Supreme Court Immigration Ruling" at The Foundry (a Heritage Foundation blog) (May 26, 2011):

In its ruling against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration, the Court also disproved the breathless claims of liberals and the editorial pages of publications like the New York Times that the conservative justices on the Court are just the handmaidens of big business who always rule in favor of corporate America.

Cecilia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, is quoted at the National Immigration Law Center (May 26, 2011):


Today’s decision is a narrow one that only upholds Arizona’s specific law on employment verification. The decision has nothing to do with SB 1070 or any other state or local immigration laws. We are disappointed with today’s decision, and believe it does not reflect what Congress intended.

 

 

Daniel Fischer writes "Immigration Ruling Supports Leftist Idea on Corporations" on his blog at Forbes.com (May 27, 2011):

Now the conservatives on the Supreme Court have endorsed a state law that utilizes one of the more radical strategies discussed on the left: Stripping companies of their license to do business.

Bob Dane writes “U.S. Supreme Court Finds in Favor of Immigration Enforcement” at The Stein Report (May 26, 2011):

Today's Supreme Court decision in favor of Arizona's mandatory E-Verify law marks a huge victory for immigration enforcement. The Supreme Court has affirmed that states can cooperate in the federal government's efforts to enforce immigration laws.

– DH

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Supreme Court Upholds the Legal Arizona Workers Act

May 27, 2011

In 2007, the Arizona state government passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act. The law allowed the state to suspend or revoke the licenses of businesses that knowingly hired unauthorized immigrants. It also mandated that employers use the E-Verify system to check employees’ eligibility to work in the United States. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various business and civil rights groups filed a pre-enforcement lawsuit against the Arizona law, claiming that it was pre-empted by  federal immigration law. The Obama administration also opposed the Arizona law.

Yesterday, a 5-3 majority on the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Arizona law in Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Whiting. In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court held “that Arizona’s licensing law falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the States and therefore is not expressly preempted.”

Justices Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas joined or concurred in most of the majority opinion. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor dissented. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the decision due to her prior role as U.S. solicitor general. (Sources: The Guardian, The Sacramento Bee, and supremecourt.gov.) — DH

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Immigration Reform Controversy in Congress

May 19, 2011

After President Obama’s recent speeches in Texas and Washington, D.C., promoting comprehensive immigration reform, members of Congress are responding.

Congressional Democrats have taken the president’s speeches as a cue to reintroduce the DREAM Act. This bill would allow law-abiding people to earn legal immigration status if they were illegally brought to the United States as minors.

Congressional Republicans have vowed to oppose the bill, just as they did when it was last introduced last year. “It’s amnesty for up to 2 million people,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Smith also called it “an open invitation to fraud.”

One area of compromise for Democrats and Republicans may be their mutual support of the E-Verify system for businesses to check the eligibility of employees to work in the United States. “I am willing to sit down and work through issues,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), “to accomplish something in the interest of the country.” If a compromise bill involves the DREAM Act, however, Rep. Smith will not take it seriously.

(Source: The Washington Post with Bloomberg.) — DH

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Law Enforcement Sees Difficulties in Georgia’s New Immigration Law

May 18, 2011

Last Friday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 87, called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. (The full text of the law is available at the web site of the Georgia General Assembly.) Among many provisions, Article 5 of the law authorizes state and local police to check the immigration status of people they have probable cause to arrest:

[D]uring any investigation of a criminal suspect by a peace officer, when such officer has probable cause to believe that a suspect has committed a criminal violation, the officer shall be authorized to seek to verify such suspect's immigration status when the suspect is unable to provide [one among several valid forms of ID].

Some district attorneys and police in Georgia, however, see difficulties in enforcing the law. “Unless they [federal authorities] are willing to take them [unauthorized immigrants], we don’t have the authority to do anything with them,” said Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult. “We just can’t perpetually hold them.”

In related news, in Atlanta on Sunday, singer-guitarist Carlos Santana received an award before the fifth annual Civil Rights Game, a game sponsored by Major League Baseball. During his public remarks, Santana emphasized his disagreement with HB 87 (and a similar bill passed last year in Arizona), saying, “The people of Arizona and the people of Atlanta, Georgia, you should be ashamed of yourselves.” (Sources: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and USA Today.) — DH

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Reactions to Obama’s Immigration Speech

May 13, 2011

From an editorial in the Los Angeles Times (May 12, 2011):

Obama is absolutely right in his critique, and he’s right to call on Republicans to move beyond their enforcement-only rhetoric. But he must do more. Convening occasional meetings with advocates and urging bipartisan support for reform are not sufficient.

From an opinion piece for Fox News written by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) (May 13, 2011):

The president blamed Republicans for supposedly blocking comprehensive immigration reform. But what he didn’t say was that during the past two years Democrats held strong majorities in both Houses of Congress. Amnesty had bipartisan opposition, and was opposed by the American people.

From the San Francisco Chronicle (May 11, 2011):

Standing near the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday, President Obama made his self-described “big policy speech” on immigration reform. But it didn’t offer new proposals, didn’t say legislation was coming and didn’t explain how he would win over a skeptical GOP-led House.

From “The Caucus,” a politics and government blog at The New York Times (May 11, 2011):

On the heels of President Obama’s renewed call to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws in Texas on Tuesday...Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, along with Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, said the Senate will revive the Dream Act, one of the few signature pieces of Democratic legislation that failed during the lame-duck session of the last Congress, when Democrats controlled both chambers.

— DH

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President Obama Speaks About Immigration Reform

May 10, 2011

On Tuesday, May 10, President Obama gave a speech in El Paso, Texas on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. He described the problem of unauthorized immigration:


Today, there are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Some crossed the border illegally. Others avoid immigration laws by overstaying their visas. Regardless of how they came, the overwhelming majority of these folks are just trying to earn a living and provide for their families. But they’ve broken the rules, and have cut in front of the line. And the truth is, the presence of so many illegal immigrants makes a mockery of all those who are trying to immigrate legally.


He also outlined the necessity for reform:


Think about it. Over the past decade, even before the recession, middle class families were struggling to get by as costs went up but incomes didn’t. We’re seeing this again with gas prices. Well, one way to strengthen the middle class is to reform our immigration system, so that there is no longer a massive underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for everyone else. I want incomes for middle class families to rise again. I want prosperity in this country to be widely shared. That’s why immigration reform is an economic imperative.


He also laid out what the reform should look like:


First, we know that government has a threshold responsibility to secure the borders and enforce the law. Second, businesses have to be held accountable if they exploit undocumented workers. Third, those who are here illegally have a responsibility as well. They have to admit that they broke the law, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. And they have to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they can get in line for legalization.

And fourth, stopping illegal immigration also depends on reforming our outdated system of legal immigration. We should make it easier for the best and the brightest to not only study here, but also to start businesses and create jobs here. In recent years, a full 25 percent of high-tech startups in the U.S. were founded by immigrants, leading to more than 200,000 jobs in America. I’m glad those jobs are here. And I want to see more of them created in this country.


For full text of the speech, go to the National Journal. — DH

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Arizona Governor Plans to Appeal Ninth Circuit

May 9, 2011

In April 2011, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Cout of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that blocked key provisions of Arizona's SB 1070 law. That law required police officers to determine a person's immigration status and set up punishments for residents who violated federal immigration laws, among other provisions. The law became the center of controversy last year after the Arizona legislature passed it, and Governor Jan Brewer signed it in April 2010. The U.S. Department of Justice challenged SB 1070 by arguing that it was preempted by federal immigration law. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals then issued an injunction, which ordered that four major provisions (including the two listed above) could not be enforced.

Governor Brewer has pledged to challenge the Ninth Circuit ruling. Two ways of challenging it would be to either appeal to the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (called en banc) or to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "I’ve always known this legal fight would be a long one," Brewer said in a statement. (Sources: Politico, Decided (The Findlaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog), and LexisNexis.) — DH

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ICE Agents Arrest Nearly 700 Suspected Drug Traffickers

March 1, 2011

Between December 2010 and February 2011, agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 678 suspected gang members and associates in 168 American cities. The charges included drug, human, and weapons trafficking. Almost all those arrested were foreign nationals, representing 24 countries. The arrests were part of Project Southern Tempest, the biggest gang roundup by the federal government since 2005. (Sources: Reuters and Voice of America) — DH

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New Bill in Arizona Targets Hospitals

February 15, 2011

The Arizona Legislature may soon consider a bill that would require hospitals to check the immigration status of all their non-emergency patients. Supporters of Senate Bill 1405 argue that hospitals spend millions annually to care for people who are in the country illegally. State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) says, “We are going to enforce our laws without apology.” Opponents, however, argue that the bill misdirects responsibility for immigration onto hospitals. “The bill placed burden on hospitals to act as immigration agents,” says state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). The bill was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but is likely to be introduced in another committee. (Source: Politico) — DH

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Chipotle Investigated by ICE

February 11, 2011

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently investigated the Chipotle restaurant chain in Minnesota. ICE found that workers in more than 50 locations had turned in I-9 forms that could not be verified. (The I-9 is the official form used by employers to make sure their immigrant workers are eligible to work in the United States.) As a result, Chipotle fired over 100 workers in Minnesota. The restaurant chain has not yet stated, however, that it will change its hiring policies, even though it faces investigations in Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well. (Sources: Reuters, TIME) — DH

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Population of Unauthorized Immigrants Unchanged From Previous Year, Study Finds

February 1, 2011

A new study issued by the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States was 11.2 million as of March 2010. This number was virtually unchanged from the 11.1 million the Pew Center estimated in 2009.

The study also found that the four states with the largest populations of unauthorized immigrants are Nevada (10%), California (9.7%), Texas (9%), and New Jersey (8.6%). In 2010, California and Texas also had the largest number of unauthorized immigrants in the labor force.

Lee Hockstader at the Washington Post notes that California, Texas, and New Jersey also account for 25 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. (Source: Pew Hispanic Center) — DH

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Cuban Travel Restrictions Eased

January 14, 2011

The White House announced today changes in the United States’ policy toward Cuba. According to a White House press announcement, President Obama “directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Homeland Security to take a series of steps to continue efforts to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future.”

The announcement continues:

The President has directed that changes be made to regulations and policies governing: (1) purposeful travel; (2) non-family remittances; and (3) U.S. airports supporting licensed charter flights to and from Cuba. These measures will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.

(Sources: Politico, The White House Blog) — DH

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New Homeland Security Committee Chairman Vows to Focus on Immigration Enforcement

December 30, 2010

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) will assume chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee in the first week of 2011. Critical of President Obama's immigration policies, King says a major part of his expected role on the Homeland Security Committee will be to emphasize enforcement of the nation's immigration laws. As chairman, he intends to hold hearings, push legislative bills, and seek more funding for border security and enforcement at workplaces. He also plans to seek greater cooperation between local and federal law enforcement. "There should be money going to local police who work on immigration enforcement," he has said. (Sources: Newsday.com, New York Post)— DH

(For more on the issue of local police and immigration enforcement, see CRF's lessons "Arizona's SB 1070 and State Policing of Immigration" and "Local Police and Immigration Law: The Case of Special Order 40" available for download on this site.)

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DREAM Act Vote Delayed in Senate

December 9, 2010

The Democratic Party leadership in the Senate canceled the scheduled vote on the DREAM Act today, proposing instead that the vote would come later in the current lame-duck session of Congress. In the face of opposition to the bill from Senate Republicans and also some Democrats, such as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), the 60-vote majority needed to pass the bill did not exist.

The likelihood of the DREAM Act’s passage today was slim, and those opposed to it today claimed they would still oppose it in the future, especially if the tax deal reached by President Obama and Senate Republicans does not pass.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said, “The law says that if you're born here, you are a U.S. citizen. But if you come here illegally, you are not a citizen. There is not an injustice in enforcing the law.” On the other hand, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), sponsor of the original DREAM Act in 2001, said, “We owe it to the young men and women whose lives will be affected, we owe it to America who needs their service in the military and needs their skill in building our economy to honestly address this issue....” (Sources: Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, Financial Times) — DH

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DREAM Act Has Steep Climb in Congress

December 8, 2010

With a congressional vote on the DREAM Act scheduled for tomorrow, many observers note that the bill faces a steep climb toward passage. It is likely to be approved in the House of Representatives, but unlikely to be approved in the Senate. Supporters of the bill say it will provide a fair path to legal status for those brought into the United States illegally while they were minors. The Congressional Budget Office has also recently found that the DREAM Act would be a net economic benefit for the U.S. economy. Opponents, however, argue that the DREAM Act is overly broad. They say it will allow a path to citizenship not only for those brought here as minors, but also for their family members, many of whom may have come illegally as adults. Most congressional Republicans and some congressional Democrats oppose the DREAM Act. (Source: The Washington Post) — DH

UPDATE (December 9, 2010): The House passed the DREAM Act Wednesday night in a 216 to 198 vote. It has been sent to the Senate for a vote today. (Source: Politico) — DH

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Fifth Version of the DREAM Act Introduced in the Senate

December 3, 2010

Late Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a new version of the proposed DREAM Act for consideration by the Senate. It is the fifth version of the act to be introduced in Congress since 2001. Like previous versions, it retains a framework for a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors.

There are, however, significant differences in this new version. The time of a young person’s conditional legal status would increase from six to 10 years. After that 10-year period, the immigrant could have three-year legal permanent residency (colloquially known as a “green card”) before becoming eligible for naturalization. In addition, conditional-status applicants would be barred from receiving subsidies available in the new health care reform, would have to submit to background checks, and would have to register for the selective service, among other requirements.

The addition of these requirements makes this more restrictive than other versions of the DREAM Act. The requirements are intended to appease objections to the DREAM Act by Republican senators. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) urged Republicans to oppose this new version of the DREAM Act on Thursday, commenting that there needed to be more time for vetting sections of bill. (Sources: Feet in 2 Worlds, Politico) — DH

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California In-State Tuition Kept in Place for Unauthorized Immigrants

November 15, 2010

Today, the California Supreme Court ruled that unauthorized immigrants may remain eligible for in-state tuition rates at the state’s colleges and universities. California law guarantees lower college tuition to students who attend and graduate from California high schools. In the court’s written decision, Justice Ming W. Chin said that the law does not conflict with a federal ban on giving educational benefits to unauthorized immigrants based on residency. The law had been challenged by a group that opposes unauthorized immigration, and a lower court had decided in that group’s favor. The California Supreme Court’s ruling reverses the lower court’s decision. (Source: Los Angeles Times) — DH

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Ninth Circuit Indicates Reinstatement of SB1070

November 2, 2010

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard appeals on the Arizona SB1070 case. Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice argued that U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s injunction against key portions of the Arizona law should stand. On the other side, lawyers for the state of Arizona and Gov. Jan Brewer argued that the injunction should be overturned, which would allow the controversial Arizona law to take effect. It appears that the court mostly agrees with the state of Arizona.

During the oral arguments in San Francisco, the three-judge panel asked questions and made comments that showed they may lean toward allowing Arizona police to request proof of immigration status from suspected unauthorized immigrants. Those same judges, however, indicated that federal law prevents states from imposing penalties for unauthorized immigration.

In other words, it appears that the court may allow local law enforcement to request the identification of suspects in order to refer them to federal immigration authorities. It also appears, however, that the court may decide that those suspects cannot be prosecuted for immigration violations under state law.

The entire hour-long oral arguments are viewable online at Jurist Legal News & Research. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle) — DH

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Report Alleges Private Prison Industry Helped Draft SB1070

November 1, 2010

National Public Radio (NPR) reported last week that SB1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law passed last April, was not originally drafted by Arizona legislators. A model of the legislation was, instead, drafted by members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of conservative state legislators, business associations, and corporate representatives. One member organization is the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States.

NPR’s report alleged that in a meeting of ALEC in Washington, D.C., in December 2009, Arizona state senator Russell Pearce (R–Mesa, AZ) made a presentation on the idea of a state law that would authorize police and sheriffs to detain persons who had no proof of citizenship. Pearce’s idea met with approval by the members of ALEC, and Pearce and representatives of the Corrections Corporation of America began to draft a model bill to be presented in the Arizona legislature. SB1070 would be an almost word-for-word version of the model bill.

In a review of corporate documents, NPR reported that in 2009, CCA designated “immigrant detention as their next big market.” The corporation also anticipated the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as a source of “a significant portion of [their] revenues.” NPR’s report also indicated that after Sen. Pearce introduced the bill in the Arizona legislature, CCA “hired a powerful new lobbyist to work the capitol.”

Pearce denies many of the allegations in the NPR report. “It’s a lie,” said Pearce, who recalls proposing similar bills to the Arizona legislature in 2003 and every year thereafter beginning in 2005. The bills in those years either received inadequate support or were vetoed by then-governor Janet Napolitano. He says that private prison representatives did not help him write the bill.

Others have joined in refuting the NPR story. The Corrections Corporation of America denies any allegation that it lobbied Pearce. Michael Bowman, senior director of policy for ALEC, clarifies that Pearce presented a fully drafted bill to ALEC in 2009 and not just “an idea” that the private prison industry would turn into model legislation. Furthermore, Bowman states that Pearce presented the proposal to ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections task force “as model legislation that could be used by other states.” (Source: National Public Radio, AZCentral.com) — DH

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Spanish-Language TV Station Won’t Show “Don’t Vote” Ad

October 21, 2010

A political organization called Latinos for Reform has sponsored a TV ad with a message that says, “Don’t vote.” The ad, in both Spanish-language and English-language versions, singles out President Obama and congressional Democrats for not passing comprehensive immigration reform. The ad’s narrator says, “Clearly, the Democratic leadership betrayed us.” The narrator also urges viewers: “Don’t vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message.”

In response, Univision, the most popular Spanish-language television network in the U.S., announced that it would not run the ad on its stations. Representatives of Univision notified the head of Latinos for Reform of its decision Tuesday. A spokesperson for Univision stated in an e-mail “Univision will not be running any spots from Latinos for Reform related to voting. Univision prides itself on promoting civic engagement and our extensive national campaigns encourage Hispanics to vote.”

The ad ran in Nevada, where Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Sharron Angle is challenging Democratic Party incumbent Harry Reid. The Angle campaign has denounced the so-called “Don’t Vote” ad, but Reid and other Democrats have said the denunciation is insufficient. (Sources: ABC News, AOL News, Terra.) —DH

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California Debate Becomes Contentious Over Candidate’s Housekeeper

October 3, 2010

Last Saturday, California’s two main gubernatorial candidates, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown, debated issues at California State University, Fresno. Hosted by Univision, a Spanish-language television network, the debate gave each candidate a chance to speak about current issues of immigration policy, but the debate quickly focused on a recent development that Whitman may have knowingly employed an unauthorized immigrant as a housekeeper.

When asked about the allegation, Whitman responded “We hired [the housekeeper] because she had all the appropriate documents. We went through a hiring agency and then in June of 2009, she came to me to tell me that she was here illegally and did not have the appropriate documents. I made the hardest decision I have almost made in my life, which was to let her go.” Whitman then spoke directly to Brown, saying, “You and your surrogates put her deportation at risk.”

Brown denied the accusation that he was responsible for exposing the housekeeper’s immigration status to the press. Instead, Brown replied to Whitman, “You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions, but you don’t take accountability and you can’t be a leader unless you’re willing to stand on your own two feet and say, yeah, I made a mistake and I’m going on from here.” (Source: Fresnobee.com) —DH

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DREAM Act to Come Up for a Vote in the Senate

September 18, 2010


Senate Democrats have announced that they will attach a version of the DREAM Act to a defense reauthorization bill next week. Sen. Dick Durbin (D–IL) is the primary sponsor of the DREAM Act, would grant temporary legal status to immigrants brought into the country illegally as minors, provided they fulfill several requirements.

Opponents, such as Sen. John McCain (R–AZ), have criticized the attachment of the DREAM Act, characterizing it as a “social issue” rider attached to the $726 billion defense-spending bill. (A rider is a provision that is attached to a bill with no apparent connection to the bill and is attached for political expediency.) McCain called it a “transparent attempt to win an election [in November].” Supporters disagree, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) said the attachment is connected to national defense because the DREAM Act would allow temporary residents to join the military in order to gain permanent residency. (Sources: Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal ) (See CRF's lesson on the DREAM Act for the classroom here.) —DH

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Court Rules Immigration a Federal Issue


September 10, 2010

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that local laws intended to crack down on unauthorized immigration are unconstitutional, and that immigration is “clearly within the exclusive domain of the federal government.”

In 2006, the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania passed ordinances intended to crack down on unauthorized immigration. The ordinances set punishments for employers and landlords who hire or rent to unauthorized immigrants. In 2007, a federal trial court blocked the enforcement of the ordinances.

he U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision yesterday. The court’s three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the Hazleton government may not punish employers and landlords in order to enforce immigration law. “Deciding which aliens may live in the United States has always been the prerogative of the federal government,” wrote Chief Judge Theodore McKee. Hazleton’s Mayor Lou Barletta pledged to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Sources: Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Enquirer) —DH

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House Approves $600 Million for Increased Border Security

August 10, 2010

The House approved $600 million on Tuesday to provide more border security and surveillance along the Mexican border. The bill provides $176 million for 1,000 new border-patrol agents, $89 million for 500 new customs and immigration personnel, and $32 million to provide unmanned drones for aerial surveillance. The bill also includes $196 million for the Justice Department to hire more U.S. marshals and FBI, DEA, and ATF agents along the border. To offset the cost of the bill, Congress intends to raise fees on the H-1B visa programs that foreign companies use to bring skilled workers to the United States. (Source: Los Angeles Times) —AC

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ICE Deports Almost 47,000 People Through Secure Communities Program

August 10, 2010

The expansion of a federal program called Secure Communities has resulted in the deportation of almost 47,000 unauthorized immigrants over the last 18 months. The program analyzes millions of fingerprints recorded at local jails. The fingerprints are compared to federal criminal and immigration databases to determine a person’s immigration status. From October 2008 through June of this year, 46,929 people identified through Secure Communities were removed from the United States. Of those deported, 12,293 were considered non-criminals, and 9,831 were identified as having committed the most serious crimes.

Under Secure Communities, crimes are divided into three categories, with Level 1 being the most serious. Level 1 crimes include major drug offenses and violent offenses, such as murder, rape, robbery, and kidnapping. Levels 2 and 3 include burglary and serious property crimes.

Immigration advocates worry that Secure Communities will make people more fearful to report crimes, does not safeguard against racial profiling, and is being imposed on communities without their consent. Representatives of the federal government, on the other hand, say that Secure Communities identifies criminal immigrants who pose a threat to public safety. (Sources: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Los Angeles Times) —AC

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Federal Judge Blocks the Major Parts of Arizona’s Immigration Law

July 28, 2010

Today a federal judge issued an injunction stopping sections of Arizona’s immigration law from going into effect, An injunction is a court order suspending the enforcement of a law until legal issues are resolved.

The judge’s injunction was directed at the most controversial parts of the Arizona law. These included a provision that required officers to check a person’s immigration status during a traffic stop, detainment, or arrest. The injunction also blocked the part that made it illegal for undocumented workers to ask for work in public places, and the part that required immigrants to carry their paperwork with them at all times.


"Requiring Arizona’s law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully-present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked," U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled. Other provisions of the law, most of them procedural, will go into effect on Thursday. (Source: Yahoo News) —DH

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Secure Communities

July 26, 2010

The federal government is expanding Secure Communities, a program that compares the fingerprints of anyone booked into jail with information from immigration and criminal databases. The program can identify people who are in the country illegally and whether they have a criminal record. As of 2007, 467 jurisdictions in 26 states have joined the program.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expects Secure Communities to be fully implemented in every jail in the country by 2013. However, not every city supports it. The San Francisco sheriff refused to implement the program, as did the City Council in Washington, D.C. “Since everyone arrested would be screened, the program could easily deport more people than Arizona's new law,” said Sunita Patel, an attorney who filed a lawsuit in New York against the federal government on behalf of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Proponents argue that the program helps identify dangerous criminals. Police used Secure Communities to screen almost 2.6 million people from Oct. 27, 2008 to the end of May 2010. According to ICE, almost 35,000 of those people identified as unauthorized immigrants had previously been arrested or convicted for serious crimes, including murder and rape. More than 205,000 who were identified as unauthorized immigrants had arrest records for less serious crimes. (Source: Yahoo News) —DH

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Federal Judge Questions Lawyers in Challenges to Arizona Law

July 20, 2010

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton heard arguments in two separate challenges to Arizona’s SB1070 legislation. In one challenge, the American Civil Liberties Union claims that the Arizona law allows racial profiling, which is an unconstitutional practice barred by the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In the other challenge, the U.S. Department of Justice claims that the state of Arizona is preempted by the U.S. Constitution from regulating immigration.

In one hearing, Judge Bolton asked, “Why can’t Arizona be as inhospitable as they wish to people who have entered or remain in the United States illegally?” The judge has not, however, said when she will rule on the challenges.

These cases come at a time when President Obama has indicated that reforming federal immigration law is a priority. In May, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a poll showing that a majority of Americans support the Arizona SB1070 law. The poll also showed that almost three-quarters of Americans approve of the requirement that people must show proof of legal residency to police when questioned. (Sources: Bloomberg.com, Pew Research Center) —DH

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Attorney General Holder Makes Case for Second Lawsuit Against Arizona

July 11, 2010

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he might file a second lawsuit against the state of Arizona if its SB1070 immigration law ever goes into effect. Speaking on the Face the Nation television program, Holder said that the lawsuit the U.S. government filed against Arizona last week was mainly on preemption grounds (arguing that federal law already regulates immigration and leaves no room for state governments to do so). The current lawsuit will most likely postpone the enforcement of SB1070, which was scheduled to go into effect on July 29.

“It doesn't mean,” said Holder, “that if the law, for whatever reason, happened to go into effect that six months from now, a year from now, we might not look at the impact the law has had.” If the law appeared to lead to racial profiling, Holder said his office would file another lawsuit against the Arizona law. (Source: Los Angeles Times) —DH

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Obama Makes a Speech about Immigration Reform

 

July 1, 2010

 

President Obama gave a speech today at American University regarding the current debate over immigration reform. In the speech, Obama appealed to eleven Senate Republicans who supported immigration reform during Bush’s administration but now reject it. The president said these Republicans had given in to the “pressures of partisanship and election-year politics.” Republican senators, such as John McCain of Arizona, want an increase in border security and warn against granting amnesty to the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently residing in the United States.

 

While Obama indicated support for a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already in the U.S. as well as increased border enforcement, he did not lay out a timetable for legislative action. Obama also addressed Arizona’s new immigration statute, saying “Laws like Arizona’s put huge pressures on local law enforcement to enforce rules that ultimately are unenforceable. It puts pressure on already hard-strapped state and local budgets.” He did not announce, however, that the Justice Department would file a lawsuit against the statute. (Sources: Politico, Yahoo! News) —AC

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Nebraska Passes Immigration Law

 

June 22, 2010

 

In Fremont, Nebraska, voters approved a measure that would prohibit businesses and landlords from hiring or renting to undocumented immigrants. The measure will require renters to apply for a license from the city. City officials cannot issue licenses to those who are in the country without legal residency. Similarly, businesses must use the federal E-Verify database to ensure employees are allowed to work. Supporters for the measure wanted to take action for what they see as “lax federal law enforcement.” Opponents argue that the measure could “fuel discrimination.” The American Civil Liberties Union plans to file a lawsuit to stop the measure from taking effect. Similar measures were passed in Pennsylvania and Texas but were later struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. (Sources: CNN, Yahoo! News) —AC

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Mexico Weighs in on Challenge to Arizona Law

 

June 22, 2010

 

Lawyers for the government of Mexico submitted a legal brief on Tuesday in support of one of five lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s new immigration law. Also known as SB 1070, the new immigration law allows law enforcement officers to question a person’s immigration status during a lawful stop, detainment, or arrest if the officer has reasonable suspicion of that the person has no authorized immigration status. Mexico’s legal brief states that “Mexican citizens will be afraid to visit Arizona for work or pleasure out of concern that they will be subject to unlawful police scrutiny and detention.” Mexico also states that the law will encourage racial profiling, hinder trade and tourism, and obstruct the countries’ work against drug trafficking and related violence. Supporters of the bill argue that the law is in response to federal inaction over unauthorized immigration and that the law has protections against racial profiling. The law will take effect July 29 unless the court decides otherwise. (Sources: Verde Independent) —AC

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Reform Expected in Facilities for Detained Immigrants


June 17, 2010

U.S. Immigration officials and the Corrections Corporation of America have reached a preliminary agreement to reshape nine immigrant detention facilities. The corporation is the largest contractor for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The new changes will improve confinement for those who are not criminals and are not considered a threat. Some asylum-seekers and immigrants awaiting deportation will be permitted to wear their own clothes, participate in recreational activities, eat continental breakfasts, and celebrate holidays with family members. Furthermore, they would have access to fresh vegetables, self-serving beverages, and cooking and exercise classes. Overall, the facilities are expected to be less prison-like, with fewer pat downs and better access to legal resources. ICE wanted to create a less restrictive environment for immigrants who are not criminals, but the facilities would still maintain prison-like settings for those who are dangerous and have criminal records.
(Source: Los Angeles Times) —AC

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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Immigrant, Clarifies Automatic-Deportation Law

June 14, 2010

In a 9–0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held on Tuesday that the government cannot deport Jose Carachuri-Rosendo for minor drug possession charges. Carachuri-Rosendo, a legal permanent resident, pleaded guilty at different times for possessing a marijuana cigarette and a single Xanax tablet.

An earlier ruling from an immigration judge and affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals arranged for Carachuri-Rosendo to be automatically deported to Mexico, where he was born. The earlier ruling was based on a 1996 federal law, which required the deportation of non-citizens found guilty of an “aggravated felony.” The immigration judge held that Carachuri-Rosendo could not appeal for leniency because his second drug conviction amounted to an aggravated felony.

The Supreme Court, however, reversed the judgment. It noted that the local prosecutor could have charged Carachuri-Rosendo with being a repeat offender but did not. Therefore, he was not convicted of a crime that would make his deportation automatic. Thus, Carachuri-Rosendo, and others in his position, may now seek leniency from mandatory deportation. (Source: Los Angeles Times) —AC

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Arizona’s Next Law: Denying Citizenship for Children of Undocumented Immigrants

June 11, 2010

Arizona Republicans will introduce legislation this fall that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona to parents who are not legal U.S. citizens. The bill is largely the work of Senator Russell Pearce, who also introduced the current Arizona law, Senate Bill 1070, which allows law enforcement officers to ask about someone’s immigration status during a traffic stop or arrest if reasonable suspicion exists. The proposed bill would prevent the next generation from ever being able to obtain proper citizenship paperwork because of their parents’ undocumented status.

The question remains whether the bill would violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It states:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States….

Proponents of the bill, like Pearce, say the 14th Amendment has been “hijacked” by unauthorized immigrants in order to gain access to “the great welfare state we’ve created.” Opponents argue that all persons born in the United States are citizens and that Arizona does not have the power to decide who is and who is not a U.S. citizen. Both sides expect the bill to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court before it is enacted. (Source: Time) —AC

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Immigration Fees May Increase

June 9, 2010

U.S. Officials announced today that immigration fees would increase by an average of 10 percent under a new proposal. Some fee increases include applications to replace permanent resident cards (from $290 to $365), applications for naturalization certificates (from $460 to $600), and applications for status as a temporary resident (from $710 to $1,130). The proposal would not increase fees for citizenship applications. Furthermore, some fees would actually decrease, including applications to adjust status from temporary to permanent resident (from $1,370 to $1,070) and applications for family unity benefits (from $440 to $435). Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the proposed fee increases were needed to close a projected $200-million deficit for 2010–11. Budget cuts of $160 million were not enough to offset the gap between the agency’s projected $2.1 billion in revenue and $2.3 billion in costs. (Source: Los Angeles Times) —AC

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U.S. Border Patrol Kills Mexican Teen

 

June 9, 2010

Mexican teenager Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca was fatally shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent Monday night. Customs and Border Protection agents were responding to a report that a group of unauthorized immigrants were being smuggled into the U.S. near the Paso del Norte bridge, across from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. U.S. authorities said Tuesday that the Border Patrol agent was defending himself and colleagues when he fatally shot the 15-year-old. The officers were being pelted with stones while trying to detain undocumented immigrants on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. The Mexican government is requesting a full and transparent investigation regarding the fatal shooting of the teenager.

This is the second fatal incident in less than two weeks. Mexican migrant Anastasio Hernandez, 32, died after a Customs and Border Protection officer shocked him with a stun gun at the San Ysidro border crossing that separates San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. The San Diego medical examiner’s office ruled that death a homicide. (Sources: Yahoo, Los Angeles Times, and Anderson Cooper 360) —AC

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Man Arrested in Bomb Plot Investigation Is Subject to Deportation

June 3, 2010

A U.S. immigration judge ruled that a Pakistani man arrested in the investigation of the May 1 Times Square bombing incident must face deportation proceedings. No evidence links him to the attempted bombing, but an investigation has revealed that Pir D. Khan, a 43-year-old taxi driver from Watertown, New York, entered the United States illegally through Mexico in 1991. Khan has was arrested on May 13 along with his brother Aftab Ali Khan and another man, Mohammed Shafiq Rahman. All three men are accused of immigration violations. Khan’s lawyer argued that Khan’s American wife would face “extreme personal hardship” if he were deported. His lawyer could not be more specific with reporters, except to say that it was more than merely a financial hardship. He also argued that Khan has been an “upstanding citizen” since his arrival in the United States in 1991. (Source: Boston Globe) —DH

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McCain Bid to Send Troops to Border Defeated

May 27, 2010

On Thursday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) unsuccessfully proposed authorization for the federal government to send 6,000 troops of the U.S. National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border. Twelve Democratic senators supported his proposal in addition to Republican votes. McCain fell short, however, of the 60 votes out of 100 he needed, according to Senate rules. McCain had once been a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, but now backs policies that emphasize stricter border security. “The borders are broken,” he said Thursday. In addition, a proposal by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and John Kyl (R-AZ) to increase federal funding for border security by $2 billion was also defeated. President Obama had proposed on Tuesday to send 1,200 troops to the border and to increase border-security spending by $500,000. (Source: Los Angeles Times) —DH

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Los Angeles and Other California Cities Boycott Arizona

May 13, 2010

The Los Angeles City Council voted today to officially boycott the state of Arizona to protest that state’s recently passed SB1070 law. SB1070 is considered the strictest state law against unauthorized immigration in the country and is already the subject of legal challenges. (For a full classroom lesson on Arizona’s SB1070 law, click here.) Specifically, the City Council’s resolution states that SB1070 “encourages racial profiling and violates Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection....” This boycott means that the council formally requests that all city departments not sign any contracts with Arizona businesses. Currently, Los Angeles has about $56 million in contracts with businesses headquartered in Arizona.

Similar resolutions have been adopted by local government in Oakland and San Francisco. In April, San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an order banning travel by city employees to Arizona on official business. Newsom also sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to support comprehensive immigration reform. (Sources: CNN and American City & Country) —DH

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Arizona Governor Signs New Law Against Unauthorized Immigration, Sparks Criticism

April 25, 2010

On Friday, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed SB 1070, a controversial new state immigration law that targets unauthorized immigration. Among its provisions, the new law directs law enforcement officers to question persons they “reasonably suspect” are unauthorized immigrants. Of Arizona’s 6.5 million residents, an estimated 460,000 to 500,000 are unauthorized or undocumented immigrants.

At a press event following the signing, Governor Brewer argued that the law was necessary because the federal government had not been performing its function in controlling unlawful immigration. On the other hand, she expressed a commitment to uphold the new law fairly. “I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona,” she said.

Other political leaders and immigrant-rights supporters, however, have begun warning that the law will inevitably lead to abuses of civil rights. President Obama made a public statement of criticism, calling the Arizona law “misguided” and instructing the federal Department of Justice to determine its legality. Arizona State Senator Rebecca Rios, a Democrat, expressed concern about police harassment, using the example of her own 14-year-old son. “I don't want my son or anyone else's son targeted simply because of their physical characteristics,” she said.

Republican State Senator Russell Pearce of Arizona sponsored the bill in the state legislature. He said that opponents of the law are really more concerned about deportations than they are about racial profiling. “This is not about profiling,” he said, “They're worried about the laws being enforced.” Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, known for his self-described “aggressive” investigations of unauthorized immigrants, argues that the new law will be “just another tool to fight the illegal immigration problem that we have.” (Sources: Associated Press, BBC News, CBS News, CNN, MSNBC.com, and NECN) —DH

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Deportation Case Highlights Debate About Reform Prospects

April 22, 2010

Last year, the Obama administration argued a deportation case in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals against a Nevada couple. Both Ulises Martinez-Silver and Saturnina Martinez came as minors from Mexico. Neither have criminal records. They came to the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they complained that they were victims of a scheme by a fraudulent immigration consultant. Judge William Fletcher, one of three judges in the 9th Circuit panel, criticized the government’s case. “These people have worked hard. They have paid their taxes,” he said, “Why don't you go after the bad guys?” Nonetheless, the three-judge panel concluded that it had to decide in favor of the government.

 

The case against Ulises Martinez-Silver and Saturnina Martinez, though suspended this week by the Department of Homeland Security, has highlighted a growing skepticism among immigration activists that President Obama wants immigration reform. Activists who initially supported the president’s stated policy goals on immigration reform have indicated a feeling of betrayal. Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change says that Obama’s “enforcement policies are destroying families and communities.”

 

In the meantime, there are some indications that the administration seeks to move a comprehensive immigration reform bill forward. President Obama has announced support of a recent comprehensive reform proposal by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which is expected to be introduced as a bill in the coming weeks. The president also contacted Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts this week to gauge Brown’s potential support for comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. (Sources: Los Angeles Times and Politico) — DH

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Arizona Authorizes Police to Investigate Immigrants

April 14, 2010

The Arizona House of Representatives passed an immigration bill yesterday that has aroused controversy. The bill directs police officers to determine the immigration status of anyone, including non-criminals, whom they have a “reasonable suspicion” are unauthorized immigrants. The bill also makes it a misdemeanor offense for a person to lack proper immigration paperwork. Under current law, Arizona police may inquire about a person’s immigration status only if that person is suspected of another crime.

 

The bill will now proceed to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to sign. Opponents are urging Governor Brewer not to sign the bill. Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, has called the legislation “odious” and says, “I think it is going to be a disaster.” On the other hand, the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association issued a supporting statement, which reads “The Mexico-Arizona border is out of control.” They are reacting, in part, to a murder of a popular rancher last month who lived in a spot often used by smugglers of undocumented immigrants. (Source: AFP, The Guardian, and Los Angeles Times) (See the free online lesson “Local Police and Immigration Law: The Case of Special Order 40” here on the Educating About Immigration web site for more information.) — DH

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National Immigration Reform on Hold

April 12, 2010

With congressional elections coming in November 2010, political analysts doubt that proposed immigration reform will be brought up anytime soon. These analysts also cite the decrease in the number of immigrants coming over the border from Mexico illegally as a factor in the hold on reform legislation in Congress. They attribute the decrease to the U.S. economic downturn, increased border security, and an increase in workplace raids by immigration enforcement officials in the last few years.

 

With a proposal by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), however, there is some hope by activists that a reform bill will pass before 2011. Representative Charles Gonzalez (D-TX) has expressed optimism, but Dan Stein of the Federation for Immigration Reform argues against such reform. “We do not need to be importing a massive poverty stricken, poorly educated welfare class,” he states. (Source: Voice of America) — DH

 

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Muslim Scholar Allowed a Visa

April 9, 2010

In 2004, Swiss citizen Tariq Ramadan, a scholar of Islam and a Muslim himself, was hired by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana to be a professor of religion and peace-building. The Bush administration revoked his visa, however, because a section of the Patriot Act barred visas for those who “use a position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.”

 

Ramadan had donated about $1,300 between 1998 and 2002 to a Swiss-based charity that apparently gave money, in turn, to Hamas, a militant Palestinian group on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Ramadan contended that he knew nothing of the money going to Hamas.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Ramadan’s behalf, and eventually a federal appeals court reversed a lower court’s ruling that Ramadan be excluded from entering the United States. In January 2010, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton signed an order removing the ban on his visa. (Source: The New York Times) — DH

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Supreme Court Hands Down Decision on Immigrant’s Right to Counsel

April 1, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision yesterday that affects the rights of immigrants in criminal court cases. In Padilla v. Kentucky, a noncitizen was accused of transporting marijuana in the state of Kentucky. Defendant Padilla had been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. for more than 40 years. When he asked his attorney if his pleading guilty would affect his immigration status, his attorney advised him it would not. The attorney was wrong, and immigration officials moved to deport Padilla. Padilla appealed his conviction on the grounds of incompetent counsel.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority decision, which held that criminal defendants who are immigrants have a right to be warned of possible deportation if they plead guilty to a crime. “It is our responsibility under the Constitution,” wrote Justice Stevens, “to ensure that no criminal defendant—whether a citizen or not—is left to the ‘mercies of incompetent counsel.’ ” Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. (Sources: Los Angeles Times and SCOTUSblog) — DH

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Thousands Rally for Immigration Reform

March 22, 2010

A crowd estimated in the tens of thousands gathered Sunday in the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. At the rally in the nation’s capital, speakers included longtime supporters of immigration reform as well as newcomers to the movement. The executive director of the NAACP spoke in favor of new reforms, as did Catholic leaders, representatives of the National Council of La Raza, leaders of Asian American organizations, and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who introduced a new comprehensive reform bill in the House of Representatives in December 2009. Significantly, the executive vice president of the AFL-CIO also spoke in favor of comprehensive reform, which indicated a change in position for the nation’s largest labor organization since its opposition to the 2007 immigration reform bill. (Source: The Washington Post) — DH

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Major Immigration Rally Planned for Sunday

March 19, 2010

Tens of thousands of people plan to march to the National Mall on Sunday, March 21, in Washington, D.C., in support of comprehensive immigration reform. On that same day, Congress has scheduled a major vote on national health care reform. Many Latinos involved in the march have hinged their support for President Obama and the Democratic Party generally on their success in passing comprehensive immigration reform. “We are still interested in seeing the Democrats succeed, and see Mr. Obama succeed,” said a spokesperson for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “However, we also are telling Congress and the president that this particular promise is so essential...that if it’s not kept, we will remember in the November elections.” On the other hand, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes comprehensive immigration reform, has urged Americans to demand more border security from their elected representatives. (Source: CNN and The Washington Post) — DH

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Few Haitians Opt for Temporary Protected Status

March 15, 2010

Two months after the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti, only 34,427 of the estimated 100,000 to 200,000 unauthorized immigrants from Haiti filed for temporary protected status (TPS). Many charitable organizations claim that the application fee of $500 for TPS is too high for the mostly working-class immigrants. U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement officials, however, point out that only 1,657 of the immigrants have applied for a fee waiver based on economic hardship. The deadline for filing for TPS is July 2010. (Source: The New York Times) — DH

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President Praises Bipartisan Immigration Reform Effort

March 12, 2010

After meeting with two senators, one Democratic and the other Republican, President Barack Obama said that a bipartisan effort to reform the nation’s immigration system looks “promising.” He met with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to discuss their efforts to draft a bill that would be an “overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.” The proposed bill would create a guest-worker program, improve border security, resolve the status of 12 million unauthorized immigrants, and bar unauthorized immigrants from getting jobs. President Obama stated that he, like his predecessor President George W. Bush, favors a path to legal status for the unauthorized immigrants presently living in the United States. (Source: Business Week) — DH

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Alleged Scam Targeted Korean Immigrants

March 10, 2010

Attorneys with the Asian Pacific Legal Center filed a lawsuit accusing a Los Angeles law firm of defrauding at least 28 Korean immigrants. According to the complaint in the case, the firm Trinity Law Associates, Inc., falsely promised that their legal services would prevent foreclosures on the homes of these immigrants. The firm allegedly told the immigrants not to pay their mortgages and to ignore default notices. In return, the immigrants each paid thousands of dollars to Trinity Law Associates. The firm allegedly targeted Korean immigrants because of their limited English and unfamiliarity with the U.S. legal system. The Asian Pacific Legal Center has received more than 75 complaints about mortgage scams in the last nine months. (Source: Los Angeles Times) — DH

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Idaho Legislature Rejects Immigration Proposal

March 8, 2010

An Idaho state Senate committee voted 7–2 to reject a bill that would have sought to punish employers who knowingly hired unauthorized immigrants as employees among other provisions. Proponents of the bill, including a law professor who helped draft it, argued that the failure of the bill will hurt Idaho workers. Critics of the bill, including a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise (Idaho’s capital), were concerned that the bill might include penalties for ministers and volunteers who provided humanitarian aid and food to unauthorized immigrants. The proposal is part of a series of bills on immigration put before the Idaho state legislature. Another bill under consideration will criminalize using false documents to gain employment in the state. (Source: The Spokesman-Review) — DH

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U.S. and Cuba Resume Talks on Immigration Amid Controversy

February 22, 2010

Diplomats from the U.S. and Cuba met Friday to begin high-level talks on immigration policy. Convening in Havana, Cuba, the diplomats’ discussion quickly turned to a controversy over an alleged American spy. On December 3, 2009, Alan P. Gross, an American contractor, was arrested in Cuba on suspicion that he was spying for the U.S. government. He was working at the time for the U.S. Agency for International Development. At the talks on Friday, U.S. diplomats criticized the communist government of Cuba for holding Gross in a maximum-security prison for nearly three months without formally charging him with any wrongdoing. Tensions have already been high between the two nations for some time. The U.S. continues to include Cuba on a list of state sponsors of terrorism and maintains a trade embargo against Cuba that has lasted 48 years. In return, former President Fidel Castro of Cuba called President Barack Obama’s performance at the climate change conference in Copenhagen last year “demagogic” and the U.S. relief effort in Haiti an “occupation.” (Source: FindLaw and the The Washington Post) — DH

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California Governor Proposes to End Assistance to Legal Immigrants

February 16, 2010

In 1996, Congress passed a welfare reform law that barred most legal immigrants from receiving welfare. Many states responded by expanding immigrants’ access to state assistance for low-income, elderly, and disabled residents. California was one of those states. In Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newly proposed budget plan, however, non-citizen immigrants will no longer be eligible for many state assistance programs. The governor’s proposed cuts include ending a food assistance program, some Medi-Cal services, and a cash assistance program for low-income elderly and disabled persons. The projected savings to the state’s budget is $304 million. The governor says it is necessary to reduce California’s budget deficit, which some estimate to be as high as $14 billion for the fiscal year 2010–2011. Critics of the cuts say they are simply unfair, including a South Korean immigrant who says, “Immigrants pay taxes like everybody else.” (Source: Los Angeles Times) — DH

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Lawyers Call For a New Immigration Court System

February 9, 2010

The American Bar Association, the nation’s leading professional organization for lawyers, voted to recommend creating a new immigration court system in the U.S. Currently, the Department of Justice oversees the immigration court system. The judges are employees of the U.S. attorney general. Many of these judges and the immigration lawyers who appear before them have complained of problems with the system for years. As a result, lawyers made a report to the ABA calling for reform. One lawyer described the courts as “an overwhelmed system choked by an exploding caseload.” For example, in 2008, 231 immigration judges heard more than 300,000 cases, an average of about 1,200 cases per judge. The ABA recommends that Congress use its power under Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution to create an immigration court system independent of the attorney general. The president would appoint these immigration judges with Senate approval. The ABA notes that this would allow the courts to have more credibility and more power to seek funds from Congress. (Source: The New York Times) — DH

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Guest Workers File Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit

February 2, 2010

Guest workers from India have filed a civil rights lawsuit against Signal International, a major oil-rig company in Mississippi. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the company hired about 500 skilled metalworkers from India to repair damaged oil rigs. The workers were recruited in India, where they say recruiters promised them that their visas would be converted into green cards (and permanent resident status). The visas were part of the H-2B temporary guest worker program. The workers allege that when they arrived in Mississippi, they soon learned that the visas would not become green cards. They complained, and many openly protested. New testimony in the case reveals that an agent of the federal agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) advised some of Signal’s employees to take the workers and “send them back to India.” The employees attempted to do that, but it is against federal law for private companies to conduct deportations. (Source: The New York Times) (Read more about controversies related to guest-worker programs here.) — DH

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Haiti Immigrants Given Temporary Protected Status

January 15, 2010

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that 100,000 to 200,000 Haitian immigrants “not legally in the U.S.” would receive temporary protected status (“TPS”) after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti on January 12. Her announcement came the day after she stated that deportations would be suspended for about 30,000 undocumented Haitian immigrants living in the United States.

TPS will allow these Haitian immigrants to live in the U.S. and work legally for the next 18 months. According to the Department of Homeland Security, TPS can be granted to aliens (foreign-born persons) who come from nations that have “ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.” The earthquake, which has led to an estimated 100,000 deaths in Haiti, qualifies as an “environmental disaster” under the law.

Critics of the policy warn that granting TPS even to the Haitian immigrants will lead to an influx of refugees into the U.S. Advocates for granting TPS argue, however, that the Haitian immigrants in the U.S. can now legally send money back to help the needy in Haiti. (Source: TIME Magazine) — DH

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U.S. Suspends Deportations to Haiti After Earthquake

January 14, 2010

About 30,000 Haitians living in the United States face orders to be deported back to Haiti. Since a devastating earthquake struck the island nation of Haiti on January 12, however, U.S. immigration officials declared that sending these immigrants to Haiti now would put their lives at risk.

The Department of Homeland Security can grant immigrants temporary protected status if the home country of those immigrants is experiencing war or natural disaster. With this status, immigrants do not face deportation and can remain and work in the U.S. legally for a fixed amount of time. Thousands of Haitians have died from severe floods in 2004 and storms in 2008. Therefore, many have been asking the U.S. government to grant temporary protected status to Haitian immigrants for years.

Because of the earthquake, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has now said that Haitian deportations will be suspended “for the time being.” It is not yet decided whether they will formally receive temporary protected status. (Source: The New York Times) — DH


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