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.

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

Thousands More Border Kids Swept Into Provider-Attorney Lawsuit

Remember that class-action lawsuit involving legal representation for thousands of “border kids” facing deportation? The one where a senior immigration judge named Jack Well said in a sworn deposition that children did not need legal representation and that he had “taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds” who were facing deportation.
 
Just last month, U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly certified a class in that lawsuit, filed in 2014 by a coalition of immigration-rights groups, that officials say could impact thousands of immigrant children awaiting deportation hearings. Zilly ordered the class of immigrants swept into the lawsuit to include all children under the age of 18 residing in the 9th Judicial Circuit who are facing so-called “removal proceedings” after June 24. It also includes those children who don’t currently have an attorney and can’t otherwise afford one, and who may be eligible for asylum or protection under the United Nation’s Convention Against Torture, which forbids countries from returning people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
 
“This ruling means that thousands of children will now have a fighting chance at getting a fair day in immigration court,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles.
 

Sen. Patrick Leahy: Many children facing deportation are forced to proceed before a judge without a lawyer

Immigrant children and their mothers arrive in Guatemala after being deported from the United States in 2014. The migrants had come to the U.S. to flee a humanitarian crisis in their homeland. Photo Credit CNN Report, 5/9/2016

Immigrant children and their mothers arrive in Guatemala after being deported from the United States in 2014. The migrants had come to the U.S. to flee a humanitarian crisis in their homeland. Photo Credit CNN Report, 5/9/2016

A powerful U.S.senator, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s justice committee and on the body’s subcommittee on immigration, has authored a national CNN piece opinion piece blasting the nation’s current approach to the “border kids,” our term for often unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the U.S. Asserting that a fair day in court is “… a bedrock principle of our justice system,” Sen, Patrick Leahy of Vermont said that having legal representation is “… especially important for children who cannot advocate for themselves.”

The Democrat didn’t call out the Obama Administration, but does ask “… so how could we possibly expect children to navigate court proceedings on their own?” He answers by noting “… and yet, each year, the United States government does just that. In immigration court, in case after case, a trained federal prosecutor represents the interests of the government while too many children facing deportation are forced to proceed before a judge without a lawyer.” He also says that “.. it is the longstanding policy of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to pursue immigration cases against children, even very young children, without lawyers. And it is a longstanding executive policy they are actively defending in federal court, right now.”

You can read his comments, which do not include plans from his various committees, here:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/09/opinions/children-need-lawyers-leahy/

Paper Reports On Little-Known Option For ‘Border Kids’ In U.S.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent detains juvenile undocumented immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border in December 2015 at La Grulla, Texas. The number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border from Central America has surged in recent months. Photo Credit, San Diego Union-Tribune report, 3/11/16

A U.S. Border Patrol agent detains juvenile undocumented immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border in December 2015 at La Grulla, Texas. The number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border from Central America has surged in recent months. Photo Credit, San Diego Union-Tribune report, 3/11/16

Remember that influx of “border kids” from two summers ago? The owes who showed up at the border, often unaccompanied, asking for asylum? Well, the San Diego Union-Tribune has a great story about a little-used program that is allowing many to stay in the country on a path to a green card – in effect, bypassing the overworked parts of the immigration system.

The paper offers some background: More than 100,000 [border-crossing] children since 2014 have been released to sponsors — usually family members or relatives — with more than 11,000 settling in California, federal data shows. Los Angeles has received 5,776, the largest number of any county in the state. San Diego has received a fraction of that, some 359

The report outlines what is known as “Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status” and said such documents “… filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Service has increased 187 percent from 2013 through last year, records show. The number of those petitions that have been approved has also risen sharply, from 3,431 in 2013 to 8,739 in 2015, according to government data.

The point, says the Times-Union, is that “… getting status as a Special Immigrant Juvenile can be important, since it paves the way for recipients to become lawful permanent residents — getting a “green card” that allows them to live legally in the U.S. Advocates see it as a humanitarian step available only to those children who are fleeing abuse, neglect or who have been abandoned in their home countries. But some critics say the program highlights a weakness in the immigration system that opens a backdoor for some to get legal status.”

It’s an interesting report even for those following the immigration situation fairly closely:
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/mar/11/unaccompanied-minors-legal-program/

Fallout Continues Over Judge’s Comments That 3-Year-Olds Can Represent Themselves

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the country illegally board a bus after being released from a family detention center in San Antonio, Texas in 2015. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the country illegally board a bus after being released from a family detention center in San Antonio, Texas in 2015. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Political fallout continues over that immigration judge who recently made headlines for testifying that 3- and 4-year-old migrant children could be taught immigration law and could competently represent themselves in court. The backlash includes a powerful Los Angeles Times editorial that warms readers not to “be fooled” as the government tries to dilute the comments.
The Times notes the actual comment: “You can do a fair hearing,” said Judge Jack H. Weil. “[Children] get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.” He was testifying in a deposition for a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other legal organizations to challenge the government’s failure to appoint counsel for children facing deportation.

The L.A. Times notes that “… Weil’s bosses promptly disavowed his comments, and he claimed his words had been taken out of context. But don’t be fooled. Weil is an assistant chief immigration judge responsible for training other judges on cases involving children. He is not just knowledgeable about how young people are treated in immigration court, he facilitates the process. His deposition unmasks the government’s deplorable position: Deportation hearings in which children must defend themselves are not right, but they will continue.”

It’s worth noting that Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Southern California and the attorney who questioned Weil in the now-infamous deposition, told The Washington Post that he initially thought the judge had misspoken, “because what he said was so outrageous. As I asked further questions, he obviously meant what he said.”

Read the Times opinion, including just how much more likely non-represented kids are to be sent back, here: The injustice of deporting children without representation

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

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