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

Congresswoman: Give Those Border Kids An Attorney

A group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas, in June. (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

A group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas, in June. (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren and 54 of her House colleagues have introduced a bill that would provide government-appointed attorneys to help them navigate the immigration asylum process. The Los Angeles Times, in a detailed report, says that “… Eleven California Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Lofgren is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.”

The newspaper explains that “… because being present in the U.S. illegally is a civil offense, there is no right to an attorney during immigration or asylum proceedings. That means many children stand alone before an immigration judge when they ask to stay in this country.” When unaccompanied children started arriving at the border in large numbers a couple of years ago, it is worth noting, they often did not sneak into the country but sought asylum at the border. We have called them “Border kids.”

Now the San Jose Democrat and 54 of her House colleagues have put forth a bill to argue that, at a minimum, children and people with certain disabilities should have government-appointed attorneys to help them navigate the asylum process. Eleven California Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Lofgren is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The U.S. Senate’s lone former immigration lawyer, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), has co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It remains unclear if any Republicans will support the bill.

Read the well-researched L.A. Times story here: ‘We have a moral obligation': Lawmakers want the U.S. to provide attorneys for immigrant children

Govt. Adding More Beds To Handle ‘Border Kids’

The new surge in unaccompanied children showing up at U.S. borders seeking asylum has prompted the federal government to move toward two new shelters, the New York Times is reporting. The paper says that the government is moving toward “two shelters in Texas and one in California this month, adding at least 1,400 beds to handle the increased flow, senior Obama administration officials said Monday.”
 
According to a 12/7/15 NYT report, "A United States Border Patrol vehicle at the border wall near Abram, Tex., last month. Credit Delcia Lopez/The Monitor, via Associated Press"

According to a 12/7/15 NYT report, “A United States Border Patrol vehicle at the border wall near Abram, Tex., last month. Credit Delcia Lopez/The Monitor, via Associated Press”

Family detention centers and the unaccompanied youth centers have been controversial and a federal judge has ordered the family shelters closed, although officials hope to work around that order. The Times also notes that “… on Monday, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, asked the Pentagon to also prepare tentative plans to provide shelter for 5,000 more youths. Those beds are not needed at this time, officials said, but the health department, which runs the shelters, would give the Department of Defense 30 days’ notice to get them ready if the numbers of young border crossers continue to rise.”
 
Immigration cases are often incorrectly seen as criminal court issues. The “courts” are actually a function of the U.S. Justice Department and those facing actions are classified as civil court participants. One effect of that is they do not have the same rights to counsel as if they were criminally charged.
 

AZ Case Shows How Little Border Patrol Fears Courts

Anyone looking for an example of Border Patrol officials basically ignoring the U.S. courts might check out a southern Arizona case. Migrants there have long complained about dirty and overcrowded cells, explains the Arizona Republic newspaper, and about being held in frigid cells deprived of adequate food and water, not to mention denied medical care. The ACLU and other groups sued, and the Republic explains that “… a federal judge then ordered the Border Patrol to save all video surveillance tapes dating back to June 10 at the eight holding facilities in the Tucson sector, one of the nation’s busiest, in response to a request from the ACLU seeking evidence to prove its case.”

But it turns out the Border Patrol has since “willfully” destroyed video recordings in direct violation of U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury’s order, the newspaper says. Government officials say it was a technical problem. The judge issued sanctions (no doubt strongly worded!) but otherwise there seem few consequences to defying the court.” See the story here.

ACLU Leader Outlines Immigration Lawsuit Argument

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

With armed “citizen groups” starting to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border and angry crowds protesting the arrival of children into their communities, the ongoing “unaccompanied children immigration” crisis is growing worse. Clearly, this is a tragic worst-case example of what happens with “rationing justice” in our civil courts, and California has the biggest caseload backup with tens of thousands of kids awaiting a day in court.

 
In a major Los Angeles Times opinion piece, the director of the ACLU of Southern California outlines theories behind this week’s lawsuit against the U.S. Government, filed by his group and other civil rights groups. Among other issues, the groups argue for legal representation, saying that 
“… the appointment of counsel is the only way to ensure that children with potentially valid claims can present the necessary arguments and proof. Given the complexities of immigration law and the language and cultural barriers immigrants face, it should surprise no one that attorneys matter in immigration proceedings. A 2012 study of New York immigration courts showed that immigrants who proceed without representation are five times more likely to lose their cases than those who have counsel.”
 
The ACLU director also argues that, while we may use the term “immigration,” these children are more accurately classified as refugees fleeing for their lives. These are the emerging talking points on the escalating crisis, and you can find them here: Kids caught at the border deserve due process, including lawyers