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.

Delaware Report Recommends More Funding for ‘Civil Gideon’

A Sacramento Police officer makes a traffic stop in November 2012. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in June to end the practice of Californians losing their driver’s license because of unpaid traffic fines. Photo Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / AP as reported by Los Angeles Times, 6/29/17.

A Sacramento Police officer makes a traffic stop in November 2012. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in June to end the practice of Californians losing their driver’s license because of unpaid traffic fines. Photo Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / AP as reported by Los Angeles Times, 6/29/17.

Another year brings another report about the need to improve access to civil courts for low-income residents.

A court-mandated legal commission in Delaware capped a two-year investigation this fall and issued its recommendations, agreeing the system is unfair to those in poverty.

In a 102-page report, the Delaware Access to Justice Commission urged equal justice under the law, “calling on the state Legislature, courts and law firms to divert more resources to provide poor people with legal aid, including additional hours of pro bono (without payment) representation,” according to a news report.

“The Delaware Supreme Court ordered the creation of the commission in 2014 to identify where access to justice fell short and to provide recommendations for cost-effective solutions,” reported The News Journal.

“The cost for a lawyer, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars for civil cases, is prohibitive for most of the 123,000 people who live in poverty in the state,” commission members said. “The phenomenon also is a problem nationally where more than 40 million people live in poverty, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Some states are trying to address this problem. This summer, California passed a bill ending driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court debt. Instead, courts can arrange a payment plan, a reduced payment, or community service for those who cannot afford to pay but can no longer suspend driver’s licenses for failure to pay. In Michigan, a package of bills has been introduced by the legislature that would help those with unpaid traffic debt to get their licenses back.

According to The Marshall Project, “Most of the movement on this issue began in the last two years, sparked by a Department of Justice investigation into the predatory practices of the Ferguson, Mo., municipal court. The report, issued in 2015, found that the local police and court system were run with an eye toward maximizing revenue, often on the backs of those who could least afford it.”

San Francisco Leads Nation In Immigration Court Backlog

Those waiting to have their asylum cases heard find the reality that there currently aren't enough judges and staff to handle the demand leaving some applicants forced to wait for years while their witnesses and key evidence disappear. NBC Bay Area Senior Investigative Reporter Stephen Stock reports in a video that first aired on Sept. 25, 2017. (Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017) Source: San Francisco Leads Nation in US Immigration Court Calendar Delays - NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/As-immigration-delays-skyrocket-San-Francisco-leads-the-nation-447705953.html#ixzz4v1aLYU00  Follow us: @NBCBayArea on Twitter | NBCBayArea on Facebook

Those waiting to have their asylum cases heard find the reality that there currently aren’t enough judges and staff to handle the demand leaving some applicants forced to wait for years while their witnesses and key evidence disappear. NBC Bay Area Senior Investigative Reporter Stephen Stock reports in a video that first aired on Sept. 25, 2017. (Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017

Investigative journalism by NBC-owned stations, working with Telemundo stations around the country, has found that San Francisco leads the nation in backlogged immigration court cases, which is no easy task considering how badly things are going.

A joint investigation by NBC owned and operated stations in conjunction with Telemundo stations around the country found a record backlog of immigration cases clogging an overloaded and over stressed system. The NBC Bay Area report says that “… court records show waits that last more than 1,000 days in some cases. And, those records show, some immigration cases in US Immigration Court in San Francisco now are being scheduled as far into the future as July 2022. The reason: there simply aren’t enough judges and staff to handle such an overwhelmed Immigration Court system.”

They quote Judge Dana Leigh Marks, one of the very few immigration judges daring to speak about the crisis. Why? Because these are not really “federal” judges, but actually work for the Justice Department. Note how carefully they identify her role:

“It is painful for the judges and it is painful for the community we serve,” says Judge Dana Leigh Marks, who spoke to us in her role as President of the National Association of Immigration Judges. “A lot of people tell us that they fear for their very life if they’re sent back to their home country. That’s a death penalty case.”

Going beyond the numbers, the journalists document real-world impacts. It’s not an easy read, but find the milestone report here: San Francisco Leads Nation in US Immigration Court Calendar Delays – NBC Bay Area

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/As-immigration-delays-skyrocket-San-Francisco-leads-the-nation-447705953.html#ixzz4v1On6rTK

PBS Airs Great Backgrounder On Immigration Courts Backlog Crisis

Amid the debate over President Trump’s immigration policies, it still gets overlooked that hundreds of thousands of people are in limbo because our immigration courts are backed up for years. Now PBS sheds some light with an interview featuring the San Francisco-based immigration judge who leads the National Association of Immigration Judges, Dana Leigh Marks. For years, hers has been a strong voice for the judges, who are not “federal judges” but who work for the U.S. Justice Department.

It’s a great backgrounder and you can find it here:

How a ‘dire’ immigration court backlog affects lives

Three State Will Lead On DACA Lawsuit

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, left, speaks with Graciela Nuñez, a DACA recipient, at a Seattle news conference called to announce Washington’s participation in a lawsuit against the Trump... (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, left, speaks with Graciela Nuñez, a DACA recipient, at a Seattle news conference called to announce Washington’s participation in a lawsuit against the Trump… (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

While 15 states and the District of Columbia are signed on to challenge President Trump’s planned removal of DACA, it turns out that only three – Washington, New York and Massachusetts – will take the lead on the lawsuit, That will include the state attorney general who is perhaps the most vocal in his opposition, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has long been an outspoken defender of DACA – the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program.

“It’s outrageous.” said Ferguson in a press conference. “It is. It’s outrageous. I’m not going to put up with it.” He also said this is “… a “dark time for our country.” The challenge will focus on claims of racial and ethnic bias against the “dreamers,” most of whom are from Mexico. The Seattle Times has coverage of Ferguson and the state’s leadership role here:

‘I’m not going to put up with it’: Washington AG Ferguson says lawsuit over DACA will show Trump’s bias

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

With Trump’s DACA Decision, A Look At Context

Tomas Martinez, with GLAHR, a grass roots organization from Atlanta, chants to excite the crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 18, 2016. Hundreds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to show their support for President Obama’s immigration executive action as the Court hears oral arguments on the deferred action initiatives, DAPA and expanded DACA.  Photo credit: Lexey Swall

Tomas Martinez, with GLAHR, a grass roots organization from Atlanta, chants to excite the crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 18, 2016. Hundreds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to show their support for President Obama’s immigration executive action as the Court hears oral arguments on the deferred action initiatives, DAPA and expanded DACA. Photo credit: Lexey Swall

The Texas Tribune continues excellent coverage of President Trump’s milestone decision on DACA, the Obama-era program that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the county with some status if they came into the country before they were 16 years old and were 30 or younger in June of 2012. The “dreamer” act is a big deal everywhere, but none more bigly a deal than in Texas.

The Tribune reminded its readers that Texas has a leadership role in opposing the plan, both with civil lawsuits and threats of legal action. They also note the relevance for the Lone Star State: “… as of August 2016, more than 220,000 undocumented immigrants in Texas had applied for a permit or a renewal of one under the program, and nearly 200,000 of those have been approved, according to government statistics. It’s the second-highest total behind California’s estimated 387,000 applications and 359,000 approvals during the same time frame.”

Texas, we are reminded, led 10 states in legal challenges to the Obama policy.

More context:

“The DACA initiative preceded a broader but ill-fated 2014 program, known as DAPA, which would have expanded the eligible population of the program and lengthened the work permits to three years. That program was never implemented after the state of Texas sued the Obama administration and successfully convinced a district judge and an appellate court that Obama overstepped his executive authority. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court split on the matter and upheld the appellate court’s decision.
“The Trump administration officially rescinded that policy earlier this month but said that DACA and some expanded DACA permits would remain in effect. Paxton argued in Thursday’s letter that that’s not good enough and warned that if the 2012 program isn’t rescinded, he and the other plaintiffs from the 2014 lawsuit would go back to court to settle the issue.
“If, by September 5, 2017, the Executive Branch agrees to rescind the June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum and not to renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future, then the plaintiffs that successfully challenged DAPA and Expanded DACA will voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit currently pending in the Southern District of Texas,” they write. ‘Otherwise, the complaint in that case will be amended to challenge both the DACA program and the remaining Expanded DACA permits.'”

Follow the debate from what amounts to Ground Zero in Texas here:

Texas leads 10 states in urging Trump to end Obama-era immigration program

New York City Embraces Civil Gideon

New York City’s Right to Counsel bill, proposed by Councilmember Mark Levine (pictured), passed on Thursday. Photo Credit: MoneyBox online article, 7/21/17

New York City’s Right to Counsel bill, proposed by Councilmember Mark Levine (pictured), passed on Thursday. Photo Credit: MoneyBox online article, 7/21/17

The argument for Civil Gideon process took a major step forward last week when the New York City Council passed legislation in support of legal representation in eviction cases. Sponsored by Manhattan City Council Representative Matt Levine, the measure allows the city to appoint counsel for those facing eviction court.
Though Mayor Bill DeBlasio is expected to sign the bill, the process will not happen overnight. The plan is to phase the assistance in over a five year period. A recent article in Slate Magazine pointed out that in the 150,000 housing eviction cases in the city, tenants in eviction cases were victorious in 77% of cases when legal counsel was appointed.

Read the Slate story here:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/07/21/new_york_city_has_taken_up_the_fight_against_the_eviction_machine_in_a_big.html