Refugee Children

No resolution expected for ‘Dreamers’ by end of year

Photo by John Gastaldo/Reuters as included in the PBS report on Dec 5, 2017.

Photo by John Gastaldo/Reuters as included in the PBS report on Dec 5, 2017.

The status of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — commonly known as Dreamers — likely will remain in limbo until 2018, as members of Congress spar over Immigration reform and a potential government shutdown.

“Top Democratic lawmakers dismissed Tuesday a compromise bill offered by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley that would give protections to younger illegal immigrants in exchange for long-term immigration reform,” reported the right-leaning Daily Caller in a Dec. 5 update.

“Grassley’s so-called SECURE Act would implement several policies long favored by conservative immigration reformers, most importantly the mandatory use of e-Verify and limits on family-based migration.

In return, the law would grant recipients of the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program relief from deportation and work authorization for three years.” Democrats call the bill’s conservative provisions non-starters.

Grassley, in a Senate Floor statement about the SECURE Act on Dec. 5, referred to “the inherent unfairness in our nation’s immigration court and asylum adjudication systems, and how hundreds of thousands of aliens wait in backlogs for years at a time.”

The bill, he said, would “take meaningful steps to reduce immigration court and asylum adjudication backlogs by hiring more judges and personnel, limiting the number of continuances an immigrant can receive, and imposing new safeguards to combat well-documented fraud and abuse.”

Based on the tenor of talks in Congress, however, no quick solutions are expected for the court backlog.

Negotiations over immigration reform are being tied to funding of the federal government, prompting some to predict a delay in dealing with DACA.

Discussing immigration-reform negotiations, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters, “I hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will take our word for it as demonstrated by our good faith in making an offer to them that we do want to resolve this, but it’s not going to be before the end of this year,” according to CNN.

Others want quicker action on DACA. A group of 34 House Republicans on Tuesday asked Speaker Paul Ryan to act this month on legislation “dealing with the 800,000 young immigrants brought to the United States as children and living here illegally,” noted a PBS report. “Ryan has said he does not see a need to act before March, the deadline President Donald Trump gave Congress to find a permanent solution after he suspended the temporary protections against deportation granted by the Obama administration.”

But CNN reported, “There is a growing recognition on Capitol Hill that including immigration provisions to protect DACA recipients in the year-end spending bill could be a deal breaker for Republicans even as some Democrats in the House have threatened to vote against a spending package that doesn’t include it.”

To avert a government shutdown, the House and the Senate voted Thursday for a short-term spending bill “to keep the federal government running for another two weeks,” CNN reported.

15 States, D.C., Sue Over Trump’s DACA Decision

Protesters gather at a federal building at Congress Parkway and Clark Street in Chicago on Sept. 5, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump's rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Protesters gather at a federal building at Congress Parkway and Clark Street in Chicago on Sept. 5, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump’s rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Fifteen states – including California, the nation’s largest state – and the District of Columbia sued the U.S. government Wednesday to block President Donald Trump’s plan to end protection against deportation for young immigrants. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn asked a judge to strike down as unconstitutional the president’s action involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

The Chicago Tribune was among those reporting on the lawsuit, noting that “… the awsuit filed Wednesday says rescinding DACA will injure state-run colleges and universities, upset workplaces and damage companies and economies that include immigrants covered under the program. The lawsuit noted that Harvard University has over 50 DACA students while Tufts University has more than 25. Both schools are in Massachusetts.

Read more here: 15 states, D.C. sue Trump administration over ending DACA

Immigrants on their way to Ellis Island in New York for a naturalization ceremony last week. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

Immigrants on their way to Ellis Island in New York for a naturalization ceremony last week. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

One of the more thoughtful deep-dives into the immigration reform issue is making the rounds via The New York Times. Written by Eduardo Porter, it is one of the few to note that U.S. immigration policy and enforcement may not drive a person’s decision to come to the United States. He also notes the huge population differences brought about by the current trends:

“What the U.S. government is doing in terms of border enforcement, mass deportations and other restrictive policies just isn’t relevant to the decision to stay home,” noted the Mexican Migration Field Research and Training Program of the University of California, San Diego, which has interviewed thousands of immigrants and potential immigrants in communities across Mexico.”
And:
“Immigrants, their children and grandchildren have accounted for 55 percent of the country’s population growth since 1965, according to the Pew Research Center. Then, the country was 84 percent white, 4 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent Asian. Today it is 62 percent white, 18 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian. Unauthorized immigrants, brought close to zero after the legalization wave of the 1980s, are back at an estimated 11 million.”

Read the story here:
Immigration Reform: Disparate Ideas, Disparate Futures

Advocate Outlines Woes As Immigration Court Backlog Moves Past 500,000

Photo Credit: Francis Riviera

Photo Credit: Francis Riviera

In an opinion piece in The Hill newspaper in Washington D.C., a San Antonio immigration advocate outlines a recent milestone in the immigration court backlog: “In numbers just released, the backlog in immigration courts has now risen above half a million cases (500,051). Immigrants wait an average of 672 days for resolution of their cases, and for some cases the wait can reach up to six years. The highest number of pending cases are in California (93,466 cases), Texas (87,088 cases), and New York (86,834 cases).”

Sara Ramey says that “… in Texas, where my NGO RAICES serves the immigrant community, the average wait for resolution of a case is 712 days. The San Antonio court is setting hundreds, if not thousands, of cases for Nov. 29, 2019 as a place holder until the court can find a date, likely on an even later day. And this is just to start proceedings, not to determine the merits of the case.

Ramey does a good job outlining the problems when cases go that long and makes an appeal for both political parties to step up on the issue. See her argument here: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/289875-immigration-court-delays-make-a-mockery-of-us-justice

NY Mayor Predicts Legal Right To Civil Lawyers

The Wall Street Journal reported (9/29/15) that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sees "a day not too far away when indigent defendants have a legal right to a lawyer in civil cases."

The Wall Street Journal reported (9/29/15) that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sees “a day not too far away when indigent defendants have a legal right to a lawyer in civil cases.”

He admits that local jurisdictions will need federal help to make it happen, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is predicting that he can “see the day” when indigent defendants have a legal right to a lawyer in civil cases. The mayor was speaking at one of  a series of hearings led by New York’s chief appeals judge on the topic of civil legal services. His comments illustrate that New York continues to lead the nation in providing civil attorneys for life-changing cases like eviction and child custody disputes.
 
The Wall Street Journal is among those reporting on the civil Gideon effort, backgrounding that “… in the landmark 1963 case Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court recognized an indigent defendant’s right to an attorney in a criminal trial. But the high court has never extended the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of counsel to civil cases. The story quotes New York State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who has led the conversation: “We are talking about the necessities, or essentials, of life… we mean the roof over someone’s head, we mean their physical safety, their livelihoods, the well-being of their families, entitlement issues.”
 

Judges Renew Calls For Immigration Court Reform

After a period of relative quiet, the immigration judges facing hundreds of thousands of cases are speaking out, calling for help amid a crisis. A new NPR report explains that “… as Congress debates the fate of President Obama’s immigration policies, the nation’s immigration court system is bogged down in delays exacerbated by the flood of unaccompanied minors who crossed the southern border last summer. The administration made it a priority for those cases to be heard immediately. As a result, hundreds of thousands of other cases have been delayed until as late as 2019.”
 
NPR adds that “even before this past summer’s surge of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, the immigration courts were already clogged, says Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. There were too many cases for too few judges, and adding in the cases of the unaccompanied minors only made matters worse. There are currently more than 429,000 cases pending in the courts with just 223 judges.
 
The “judges” are not part of the usual judicial system, but are actually employees of the Justice Department – that means, for example, that they could not hold government agents – really, their co-workers – in contempt of court during one of the hearings. Read more: Immigration Courts ‘Operating In Crisis Mode,’ Judges Say

Thousands Of Immigration Cases Delayed Until At Least 2019

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that “… thousands of immigrants seeking legalization through the U.S. court system have had their hearings canceled and are being told by the government that it may be 2019 or later before their futures are resolved.” The paper says that “… immigration lawyers in cities that absorbed a large share of those cases, including New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Denver, say they’ve had hearings canceled with little notice and received no new court dates. Work permits, green cards, asylum claims, and family reunifications hang in the balance.”
 
By way of background, the cancellations began began to skyrocket over the summer as the Justice Department prioritized the tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, most of them mothers with children and the high-profile arrival of unaccompanied minors.
 
The Dallas newspaper report quotes David Martin, a law professor at the University of Virginia who worked for two Democratic presidents, who “criticized Congress and the Obama administration for not funding more immigration judges.” He also told the paper that “… you fund more investigators, more detention space, more border patrol, almost all of these are going to produce some kind of immigration court case… you are putting a lot more people into the system. It’s just going to be a big bottleneck unless you increase the size of that pipeline.” Read the story here.

‘Border Kids’ Noted In AP’s Top 2014 Stories

AP photo used in Tampa Bay Times report on 12/22/14 shows "Young detainees sleep in a holding cell on June 18, 2014, at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas."

AP photo used in Tampa Bay Times report on 12/22/14 shows “Young detainees sleep in a holding cell on June 18, 2014, at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas.”


The unaccompanied Central American minors seeking refuge in the United States was a key event as “immigration” was a Top 10 story in 2014, according to the Associated Press annual survey of U.S. editors and news directors. The wire service said “police killing of unarmed blacks” was the top story and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was second.
 
On immigration, the AP says that “… frustrated by an impasse in Congress, President Obama took executive actions in November to curb deportations for many immigrants residing in the U.S. illegally. GOP leaders in the House and Senate pledged efforts to block the president’s moves. Prospects for reform legislation were dimmed earlier in the year by the influx of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving at the U.S. border, causing shelter overloads and case backlogs.” Immigration courts are civil justice proceedings managed by the Justice Department. Judges in the system have called for an overhaul, including making the courts independent of law enforcement.
 
See the AP story list for 2014 here, via the Tampa Bay Tribune.
 

Amid Gridlock, California Comes To Border Kids Representation Rescue

The U.S. Congress inactive due to gridlock and campaign season. President Obama inactive, while cynically delaying action until after November’s midterm voting. The Justice Department relatively inactive over the very immigration court system it manages as the U.S. attorney general resigns. But the state of California is stepping up, setting aside $3 million for immediate legal assistance to the tens of thousands of Central American children showing up to see refuge in the United States.
 
Gov. Brown signed the law over the weekend and it includes assistance to keep some students in school who “defied” authority. In a Los Angeles Times story, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who backed the measure, said that “… the $3 million to help the immigrant children, said, will provide due process in the United States that will rescue some of them from the “virtual death sentence” they would face if deported to unsafe home countries.” Later, she added in a statement that “… with the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reaffirmed California’s commitment to doing its part to address the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at [the] border involving Central American youth.”
 
Read the Times story, which also covers other legislation signed ahead of Tuesday’s end-of-month deadline, here: Gov. Brown signs bills aiding immigrant children, troubled students

Immigration ‘Rocket Docket’ Raises Ire In S.F.

Local officials in San Francisco are raising issues with the Department of Justice “rocket docket” for unaccompanied Central American minors who were caught or surrendered to authorities at the U.S. border. The San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper is reporting that courts are now “… cramming through as many as 50 cases daily.”
  
“This new docket is dramatically accelerating the pace for the cases of newly arrived, traumatized children and families from Central America,” Robin Goldfaden of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Bay Area wrote in an email to the Bay Guardian. “For many, a wrong decision can mean being sent back to unspeakable harm – brutal beatings, rapes, even death. … But nonprofit legal services providers, already stretched beyond capacity, simply do not have the number of attorneys and other staff required to meet the ever-rising level of need.” 
 
At the Sept. 2 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, one county official proposed a budgetary supplemental to allocate $1.2 million for legal representation for unaccompanied youth being processed in immigration court in the Bay Area. “Under international law, many of these kids would actually qualify as refugees,” said the official. “And many of them have cases that would allow them to be protected by immigration law in the US…”