For Immediate Release
June 25, 2012
Washington D.C. - In a blow to the state anti-immigration movement, the Supreme Court ruled today that the authority to enforce immigration laws rests squarely with the federal government, limiting the role that states may play in crafting state-level answers to immigration enforcement. By a 5-3 margin, the Court struck down three of the four provisions of SB 1070 that were challenged by the Obama administration as pre-empted under federal law. While the Court agreed that Arizona’s attempt to limit immigration by creating new laws and new penalties to punish undocumented immigrants was pre-empted, it found that a provision requiring local police to investigate the legal status of suspected undocumented immigrants was not pre-empted on its face. The court read this provision very narrowly, however, leaving open the door to future lawsuits based on racial profiling and other legal violations.
“Today’s decision makes clear that the federal government—and only the federal government—has the power and authority to set the nation’s immigration policies,” said Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “Despite its strongly worded rejection of Arizona's effort to set its own immigration policies, the Court adopted a wait-and-see approach to the controversial racial profiling section of the law. There is already ample evidence of discrimination and abuse in Arizona, and many communities in the state will bear the brunt of the Court's unwillingness to face that reality. It's time for Congress to heed the dire warnings contained in this opinion and recommit to fixing our broken immigration system.”
For additional information see:
American Immigration Council Reveals Government’s
Interference with Noncitizens’ Access to Legal Counsel
Washington D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center released a report and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on the pressing issue of noncitizens’ access to counsel. Reports from across the country indicate that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) immigration agencies—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—often interfere with noncitizens’ access to counsel in benefits interviews, interrogations, and other types of administrative proceedings outside of immigration court. Depending on the context, immigration officers completely bar attorney participation, impose unwarranted restrictions on access to legal counsel, or strongly discourage noncitizens from seeking legal representation at their own expense.
A joint report by the Legal Action Center and Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights, Behind Closed Doors: An Overview of DHS Restrictions on Access to Counsel, describes restrictions on access to legal representation before DHS, provides a legal landscape, and offers recommendations designed to combat these harmful practices. It also addresses recent changes to USCIS’s guidance that are intended to expand access to legal representation.
Also today, in collaboration with Dorsey & Whitney LLP, the Legal Action Center filed a lawsuit against ICE and DHS to compel the release of records relating to noncitizens’ access to counsel before ICE. This is the third of three FOIA lawsuits filed by the LAC seeking records from DHS’s immigration agencies regarding their policies on access to counsel in DHS proceedings.
To date, ICE has failed to turn over any documents. Initially, ICE informed the LAC that it had conducted a search for records, but was “unable to locate or identify any responsive records.” ICE has since conceded that its search was inadequate and renewed its search for documents, but no documents have been forthcoming.
The LAC has long advocated for the right to counsel in immigration settings, including meaningful access to legal representation in immigration court and DHS proceedings.
To view the report and the complaint against DHS, see:
To learn more about LAC's efforts around Access to Counsel, click here.
May 30, 2012 - Labor shortages have been a significant challenge to U.S. agriculture for as long as I can remember. On my rice farm in Texas growing up, it seemed we were always running short of farmhands when it came time to harvest.
But now, unlike the simpler days of my youth when we could just hire teenagers and retirees, farmers and ranchers are facing new challenges with labor issues. From border security concerns and state versus federal authority questions to I-9 audits and government-caused labor delays under the H2-A program, finding a reliable agriculture workforce is becoming more and more difficult.
From the Border to the Court
Farmers and ranchers in states like Mississippi and Arizona are currently caught in the crosshairs of an immigration battle that’s been waged over state versus federal control. Arizona took their case for state authority (based on legislation S1070) all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in May and is expecting a decision later this month. In the meantime, other states are waiting in the wings to determine the impact the court’s decision will have on them.
For Arizona farmers, S1070 is only a band aid that has been applied over the festering, underlying problem of border security and of reforming the visa program to enable farmers to get the temporary and seasonal workers needed for their farms. Farmers and ranchers who live along the Mexican line deserve a secure border and a major component of that is having a visa program that allows a legal flow of workers back and forth across the border so border security officials can concentrate their resources on the illegal activities.
The American Farm Bureau Federation supports federal jurisdiction, as well as increased presence and cooperation of all branches of law enforcement on both sides of our borders, to eliminate border issue challenges facing many of our members, like theft, drug and human trafficking, as well as illegal crossing. We must secure our borders by the most technologically advanced means possible and in a way that has minimal impact on farmers and ranchers.
Stepping Off the Fence
With proposed implementation of mandatory E-verify (a system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.) in our near future, an agricultural guest worker program that addresses farmers’ unique needs has become a necessity. AFBF will only support a mandatory E-verify program if there is a workable solution for agriculture. Absent that solution, if E-Verify is implemented, agriculture faces losing millions of dollars in productivity due to labor shortages.
In hopes of finding a workable solution that meets the needs of our members, Farm Bureau created a work group charged with looking at labor challenges more closely and how best to use our policy to resolve them. Made up of Farm Bureau leaders and staff from across the nation, the work group is looking at all parts of the equation, including options that provide a secure workforce, allows portability, addresses the needs of all commodities and limits bureaucratic red tape.
Everyone is affected by the ensuing immigration battle playing out in our nation. Unfortunately, no one feels its impact more than farmers and ranchers living and working on our borders, as well as those who are continually faced with labor shortages on their farms. Band aids will not work. Congress must get to the root of the problem by providing a guest worker program that works for the entire agricultural sector.
Bob Stallman, President
American Farm Bureau federation
Many real immigration attorneys tell stories of clients who came to them after having wasted thousands of dollars paying a "notario" for a green card that never materialized, or for a student visa that falsely promised a legal way to stay in the U.S.
In Mexico, "notarios" are attorneys who give up private practice, but still help clients navigate the legal system. However, more and more "notarios" in the U.S., who have no legal authority here, have become successful immigration scammers.
For the past year, the federal government has made a big push to crack down on these types of businesses by prosecuting scammers and forcing them to pay damages of up to $7,000 a victim. Rigoberto Reyes, a chief investigator with the L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs, says "notarios" here typically advertise in ethnic media outlets.
“These guys are spending a lot more money than even your immigration attorneys," says Reyes. "They don’t have to cover the expenses that a regular attorney has to in order to stay in business. But you see this in the Armenian community, the Korean community, the Filipino community, the Cambodian community.”
One of Reyes’ most successful cases involved interviewing more than 150 victims of fraud by an Armenian scammer who targeted clients from Israel, Lithuania and Singapore. She is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.
But getting immigrants to report these scammers is difficult in the first place. As a result, some real immigration attorneys are making a greater effort to serve as middlemen between victims and prosecutors.
Some nonprofits have joined the fight, creating task forces and handing out materials warning about scams — including the San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
“That stuff needs to be distributed throughout the community in places like nonprofits," says Nora Privitera, director of the Center's Provider Fraud Project. "But also in places like grocery stores and health clinics, and wherever immigrants are likely to be."
Not surprisingly, the immigration scam business is constantly changing and adapting to the needs of desperate immigrants. Experts say many of these shops now simply exist online, charging exorbitant fees and recruiting clients in their home countries.
"[Immigrants] are vulnerable victims," Privitera says. "They tend to be likely to trust somebody who speaks their language fluently and is one of their countrymen, so it’s just too easy for them to get victimized.”
WASHINGTON - In an aggressive effort to boost deportations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun to increase by nearly 25 percent the number of agents tasked with finding and deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records, pulling 150 officers from desks and backroom jobs to add extra fugitive search teams around the country.
The plan was launched when the number of deportations slumped after several years of growth, partly due to the drop in illegal immigration along the Southwest border. But critics, including some inside ICE, denounced the effort as politically inspired to help President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
The move, which began without public notice May 14, calls for increasing the number of fugitive operations teams to 129 from 104. Each team has been given a goal of arresting 50 suspects per month, according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau, although ICE officials insisted Friday that no quotas were set for the teams.
An early draft of the plan says ICE is "experiencing a shortfall in criminal removals for the fiscal year," and called for using 300 Border Patrol agents, dressed in ICE uniforms, to close the gap. The plan was scaled back to 150 ICE officers after objections were raised by union organizers for the Border Patrol.
The fugitive teams were instructed for the first time this month to focus chiefly on finding and deporting illegal immigrants convicted of a felony or more than two misdemeanors, multiple immigration violations, or having used fraudulent documents, and not on broader categories of illegal immigrants.
ICE officials are also reviewing pending deportation proceedings to look for those who do not fall into those categories and pose no security risks. So far, about 10 percent of the cases reviewed have been placed under an administrative hold.
The stepped-up effort may prove politically sensitive in an election year with both parties scrambling for voters in states where immigration issues are important, including Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
Obama, who has drawn strong support from Latino voters, is under pressure from Latino activists to find more humane ways to enforce federal immigration laws and protect families with deep roots in America. Focusing on criminal immigrants tends to avoid that issue.
Republican leaders, including likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney, have demanded greater efforts to identify and deport anyone who is in the U.S. illegally, including those who have lived and worked here for years, not just those found guilty of committing crimes.
ICE Director John Morton defended the program Friday as "the best way to use our limited resources" against those who pose the greatest threat to public safety.
"We changed agency policy to focus fugitive operations more on criminal offenders," Morton said in a telephone interview. "This is part of a permanent restructuring of agency resources to meet the highest priority of removing serious offenders. ... We think that is the right call because at the end of the day public safety is our goal."
In a memo last year, Morton wrote that ICE prosecutors could use their discretion as to whether or not to seek deportation of people with strong family ties in the U.S., including college students and members of the military.
After Morton gave the memo to a congressional committee, Republicans criticized the Obama administration for trying to use back channels to enact the DREAM Act. In 2010, Congress narrowly defeated the measure, which would have created a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors.
Some ICE agents condemned the latest plan as politically inspired, rather than a more efficient use of resources.
With a new fingerprint sharing program to determine the immigration status of suspects set to start today, May 15, federal immigration authorities are taking steps that would mitigate concerns.
The Secure Communities program, which Massachusetts officials preparing to start today, May 15, will have local law enforcement officers run fingerprints of suspects through federal databases to determine whether a suspect is in the country illegally.
ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said the agency's policy is confirm the program's start only after it is actually launched.
As it prepares to roll out the program, ICE has taken the following steps to improve its implementation, according to a federal immigration official.
At a meeting at Mass Bay Community College in March 2011, Megan Christopher, an attorney at MetroWest Legal Services, spoke about how if enacted the new federal program could break the trust between the community and the police.
“When we make so that the victim have a greater difficulty in reaching out for help, we create a small, tight, isolated community of people who are easily victimized,” said Christopher. “Slum lords, bad employers, abusers of all kind, can practically find by a zip code people who cannot stand up for themselves.”
It is already active in Boston. New Hampshire, Rhode Island and overall 2,792 jurisdictions in 48 states are using it, according to a federal immigration official. Nationwide activation will be complete by the end of 2013.
More than 135,000 people have been deported as a result of the program and 49,000 of those were convicted of serious crimes, according to a federal immigration official.
But at that March 2011 meeting, Sarang Sekhavat, policy director for the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, who spoke on behalf of 900,000 immigrants across the country, said "This program is not doing what was supposed to be doing. Of those arrested and deported by a pilot program, which started in Boston in 2008, 53 percent were non-criminal immigrants, only about 25 percent were what the government calls criminals."
The federally-mandated program is an added step on the federal level as far as what happens to fingerprints after someone commits a crime. Before Tuesday, local law enforcement was required to forward all finger prints to the FBI. Starting today in Massachusetts and New York, the FBI will send those fingerprints to the Department of Homeland Security, where they will be screen.
In a passionate plea for immigration reform, an unplugged Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday criticized the Obama administration and said politicians don't take the issue seriously.
The mayor made the comments at a panel discussion that also featured Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas and at which a report on why the U.S. is failing to attract and retain talent was unveiled.
The report—by the Partnership for New York City, a local group of big businesses; and the Partnership for a New American Economy, a national coalition of mayors and business people co-founded by Mr. Bloomberg and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch—noted that ((foreign countries are shaping immigration policies to boost their economies)), while a broken U.S. immigration system turns away the workers it needs for economic growth.
"What's happened in government is they're worried so much about getting re-elected, it's become so partisan, that they just don't even consider immigration as a real issue," Mr. Bloomberg said at the event, which was sponsored by the New York Forum, a group that promotes economic growth. "All they do is look to see what the politics of it are, and they never get around to discussing what the economics of it are or what the impact is on the educational system or business formation."
Mr. Bloomberg, a former Republican who dropped his party affiliation in 2006, laid the blame for the nation's failed immigration policies on both sides of the aisle.
"The demagoguery against it has no basis," he said. "There are no heroes here. You show me anybody who has stood up."
He criticized the Obama administration for failing to lead on the issue.
Gov. Susana Martinez, who has insisted she isn't interested in becoming presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate, criticized his stance on illegal immigration during a recent Newsweek interview.
Political blogs picked up on the article Monday, in which she took aim at the "self-deportation" idea promoted by Romney:
" 'Self-deport?' What does that mean?" Martinez snaps. "I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during his campaign. But now there's an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why."
Among her suggestions: Republicans should remind Latinos that Obama pledged to pass comprehensive immigration reform by the end of his initial year in office, but "didn't even have the courage to try."
The article said Martinez envisions a multi-level approach including "increased border security; deportation for criminals; a guest-worker program for people who want 'to go freely back and forth across the border to work'; a DREAM Act-style pathway to citizenship, through the military or college, for children brought here illegally by their parents; and a visa (coupled with a 'penalty' or a 'tagback') that allows the rest of the illegal population to remain in the U.S. while they follow standard naturalization procedures."
Source: (c) 2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)
The US today said that the deportation of Indian orphan Kairi Abha Shepherd was consistent with its immigration priorities, indicating it would go ahead with the proceedings, despite an appeal by New Delhi that her case be treated with "sensitivity and compassion".
India had said that the humanitarian dimension of the case should be considered before removing Shepherd, who was adopted by an Utah woman from Kolkata when she was just three months old and has lived in the US ever since.
In 2004, Shepherd, was convicted of attempted forgery and third-degree forgery. After she served her time, the
government initiated removal proceedings against her, and the 30 year old is facing deportation as a "criminal alien".
Reacting to the Indian request, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the deportation proceedings were in line with immigration enforcement priorities.
"ICE has reviewed Ms Shepherd's case at length and believes seeking her removal is consistent with the agency's immigration enforcement priorities, which include focusing on identification and deportation of aliens with felony criminal convictions," spokesperson Virginia Kice said.
The statement came in response to the Indian Embassy spokesman, Virander Paul's plea in this regard that her case "deserves to be treated with the utmost sensitivity and compassion, keeping in mind the humanitarian dimension and tenets of universally accepted human rights".
"The Embassy has seen reports concerning Kairi Shepherd, and has requested the US authorities for facts on this matter," the spokesman said. "All the information available to us on this case indicates that it has a clearly humanitarian dimension that cannot be ignored. As reports indicate, Kairi Shepherd was brought to the United States after adoption, as a baby, and has known no other home," Paul said.
Explaining the case of Shepherd, the ICE spokesperson said she was originally encountered by Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers at the Salt Lake County Adult Detention Complex in October 2007 following her incarceration on unknown local charges.
"ERO officers processed Ms Shepherd and placed her in immigration removal proceedings after determining she was potentially deportable based upon her criminal history," Kice said.
She said an immigration judge had ordered Shepherd's deportation in February 2010, and a Court of Appeals had recently declined to set aside that order.
"Background checks indicate Ms Shepherd's criminal history includes two prior convictions in Utah in 2004 for attempted forgery and forgery, the latter of which constitutes an aggravated felony," Kice said, defending ICE's decision to move ahead with the deportation proceedings.
Shepherd has said deportation was akin to 'death sentence' for her.
Shepherd was adopted by an Utah woman in 1982. As luck would have it, her mother died of cancer when she was eight. "Ms Shepherd was an orphaned baby in India when she was brought to this country for adoption in 1982 by a US citizen. Her adoptive mother died when she was eight years of age, and she was thereafter cared for by guardians. There is no record of any effort by Ms Shepherd or her guardians to petition for her citizenship," court documents say.
The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, May 24:
Apparently, Alabama lawmakers felt they hadn't gone far enough last year when they enacted the most draconian immigration law in the nation, which, among other things, required schools to determine the immigration status of their students. Now, the Legislature has revised the law to ensure that it does further damage to the state's reputation and stirs even more fear among Latinos.
Under the revised law, known as HB 658, all undocumented immigrants who appear in court for any violation of state law will find their names published on the official state website, along with the names of the judges assigned to their cases and the dispositions. It's hard to imagine what useful purpose such information might provide other than to shame immigrants and to allow anti-immigrant groups to exert pressure on judges.
Another new provision requires the state's Department of Homeland Security to compile an annual progress report updating the Legislature on how efforts to rid Alabama of illegal immigrants are coming along. That will make little difference in the life of most Alabamians, since less than 2 percent of the state's residents are believed to be in the country illegally.
The changes came during a special session in which Gov. Robert J. Bentley had sought to soften the law by removing some of its worst provisions, several of which have led to federal lawsuits. The Justice Department has already sued the state, as it has Arizona, arguing that the law interferes with the federal government's sole authority to regulate immigration. But state Sen. Scott Beason and state Rep. Micky Hammon chose to ignore the more moderate voices, including law enforcement groups and farmers, who rightfully worry that the law is harming, not helping, the state. Those fears are well-founded. Since the law was passed, growers have reported labor shortages that have led to rotting crops and financial losses.
Sadly, the Alabama Legislature once again proved itself incapable of embarrassment. How else can it say the revisions were needed to protect residents and save jobs? The only thing lawmakers and the governor achieved with HB 658 was to add another dark chapter to Alabama's troubled history.