Report: Half of Californians Worry Somebody They Know Will Be Deported

A new report by the Capital & Main group, published at Newsweek, outlines how deeply the immigration and deportation issues are felt in California. The report also notes that”… fifty-one percent of California adults said increased federal immigration enforcement left them worried that someone they know could be deported, according to the survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Thirty percent said they worry ‘a lot’ about it, according to the poll.

The report also notes that, under President Trump, “… deportations have actually fallen…compared with the same time period last year, but the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants has increased. Some of those people are owed a day in court, and the immigration courts are backlogged with pending cases.”

The immigration cours are designated as “civil” cases, as opposed to criminal cases. One difference is that people in civil cases lack the guarantee of a lawyer.

See the story here: http://www.newsweek.com/half-california-adults-believe-someone-know-deported-trump-619282

Amid ICE Raids, Courts Are Even More Backed Up

Reporting on immigration raids and related issues often overlook the ongoing backlog at the nation’s immigration courts, where more than a half-million cases are already awaiting hearings and wait times can reach into years. But do not count the CBS Austin TV affiliate among those missing the story.

CBS Austin reports that U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, has introduced legislation to freeze funding to ICE and Border Protection until immigration court funding is increased. The “courts” are not actual federal courts. They are civil hearings conducted by the U.S. Justice Department; judges are employees of the Justice Department and have no authority to hold federal agents in contempt.

Read the story here:
As ICE enforcement grows, immigration courts can’t keep up

U.S. Dodges International Move To Free Refugee Children

22 women who are being held at Berks County Residential Residential Center started a hunger stike on August 8. They are asking to be released from detention as their cases for asylum move through the courts. Credit: Valeria Fernández/PRI

22 women who are being held at Berks County Residential Residential Center started a hunger stike on August 8. They are asking to be released from detention as their cases for asylum move through the courts. Credit: Valeria Fernández/PRI

The New York Times coverage of this week’s United Nations discussion about refugees, which includes a “summit” hosted by President Obama, including spotlighting that ” … the U.S. and a number of other countries also objected to language in the original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.”

That may be because the U.S. has more than a half-million pending Immigration Court cases backed up for years and has detained some refugee families for more than a year. The detention camps have been found illegal by a federal court, and some moms have resorted to hunger strikes. Some 45 countries are expected to agree to new, non-binding goals for the international refugee crisis this week.

In the U.S., immigration regulation is enforced at immigration courts as s “civil matter,” meaning those under detention do not have the same rights as criminal defendants, which would include the right to representation by a lawyer.

Read about the hunger strikes here:
Moms go on a hunger strike to get themselves and their kids out of immigration detention

Shifting Immigration Sands Catches NC Teen in Kafka-esque Purgatory

For one North Carolina teen, seeing his mom again meant a difficult, six-month journey through ICE, the courts and the ever shifting immigration waters. Having fled two powerful Honduran gangs – Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street Gang – seeking to add him to their ranks, Wildon Acosta became the face of the immigration crisis for the small Durham community who rallied to support his cause.

ABC News Reports (8/16/16): Masked members of the 18th Street gang give a press conference inside the San Pedro Sula prison in Honduras, May 28, 2013.

ABC News Reports (8/16/16): Masked members of the 18th Street gang give a press conference inside the San Pedro Sula prison in Honduras, May 28, 2013.

Part of the ongoing Border Kids crisis, Acosta feared the consequences of not joining one of the two gangs. ABC News recently reported, “Those two gangs are major contributors to the violence that has made Honduras the country with the highest homicide rate in the world according to the World Bank, forcing thousands to flee their homes. The government of Honduras, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, estimates that 174,000 people were internally displaced within the country between 2004 and 2014 because of violence and insecurity.”

When federal agents arrested him on his way to school, the story continued, Acosta had gone from speaking only Spanish to earning a B average in English-only courses. He was even held a part-time job.

Acosta is hardly the only minor fleeing the violence, either, to build a new life here in the U.S. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that more than 63,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended while attempting to cross the border between October 2013 and September 2014 as the gang violence was reaching a crescendo in Central America.

The issue of overhauling the immigration system has been on the front burner since George W. Bush was president. A former Governor of a border state, President Bush attempted to overhaul the system under his tenure, but was blocked by his own party. Subsequent attempts have come close, but real reform has failed each time.

In 2014, President Barack Obama announced he was using his executive order power to bring about sweeping immigration changes. During his tenure, he has stepped up deportations, putting Border Kids at the front of the line, while also attempting to protect so-called DREAMERs. His executive orders have been stayed by the courts as states challenged his authority to implement immigration changes by executive order.

This policy uncertainty has led to myriad stories of young people caught in a shifting web of changing rules, leading to a legal purgatory that Kafka would find surreal. Were it not for the community pressuring their local member of Congress to act on his behalf, Acosta would have been deported already. With $10,000 in bail money raised in two days, he is grateful to back in his community with his family, but his future remains uncertain as he works to file a petition for asylum. The support from his community undoubtedly means that he will have legal representation to aid him in making his case to become a legal, permanent resident of the U.S.

For minors and youth with legal representation, their chances of being granted asylum are significantly better. But, as we reported back in May, Sen. Patrick Leahy said, “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.”

For more on the Acosta case, be sure to check out the in-depth ABC News report. You can follow along with our two-year project tracking the Border Kids crisis here.

“Equally Divided Court” (Sorta) Leaves Obama’s Deportation Executive Order In Limbo

Questions will persist on whether President Obama superceded his authority by creating by executive order the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program designed to defer deportation for millions of immigrants.

Today, the Huffington Post reports the Supremes affirmed a lower court ruling that blocked the program stating simply, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” While immigration advocates may lament the loss, the order itself rings hollow given the Administration’s renewed call last month to seek out and deport Border Kids escaping gang and drug cartel violence from Central America.

Irrespective of where one stands on the immigration reform debate, the fact is that the question of executive power was left unanswered because now even the judicial branch has been brought to a standstill.

Are Unaccompanied ‘Border Kids’ Now The ‘New Normal’?

In a story over the Christmas weekend, the Dallas Morning News cited the increase in unaccompanied minors showing up at the United State’s southern border. Along with statistics indicating that the influx has doubled compared to recent years, the story quoted  U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske saying “… the concerning part is, are we seeing the new normal?”
 
The situation has already prompted new shelters, a response from local charities trying to assist families and other efforts.
 

Federal Judge Ready To Close 3 Immigration Detention Centers

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.

A federal judge is poised to order immigration authorities to close three family detention centers housing some 1,700 people awaiting decisions on their stay-or-go arguments. Dolly Gee, a U.S. District judge in Southern California, ruled that federal authorities have violated key provisions of an 18-year-old court settlement that placed restrictions on detention of migrant children.
 
The Los Angeles Times notes that “…  The ruling, released late Friday, is another blow to President Obama’s immigration policies and leaves questions about what the U.S. will do with the large number of children and parents who crossed the border from Latin America last year.”
 
Judge Gee blasted the government and the conditions at both the detention centers (two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania) as she gave the government until Aug. 3 to explain why an order she plans to issue should not be implemented within 90 days. Read the LAT report here:
 

California, Texas Lead In Immigration Court Delays

It may the one of the few places where Texas does not mind being second to California: immigration case backlog. A Houston Chronicle newspaper report notes that  “… the stack of cases at Texas’ overburdened immigration courts grew by nearly 60 percent since October 2013, bringing the state’s pending cases to a record high of nearly 77,000, making it the largest backlog in the country after California.”
 
The delays are truly staggering, especially for younger people. The Chronicle says “… nationwide it now takes an average of 604 days to process an immigration case, according to an analysis of federal data through April by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. In Houston, where the pending case load grew by 13 percent from late 2013 to nearly 32,000 so far this year, the highest in the state, the delay is 636 days.”
 
That’s to be “processed.” Some cases are taking five years to resolve. The HC explained that “… the long overburdened and underfunded immigration court system has been further overwhelmed by the influx of more than 67,000 unaccompanied Central American children who streamed across the Southwest border in 2014. In response, the Obama administration prioritized their cases and those of other migrants who arrived here last year to deter more from coming.” That means folks waiting years for a day in court might have to wait years longer.
 
(Immigration courts are not criminal courts, but rather an administrative function of the Justice Department and are considered civil cases.) Read more here. 
 
 

SF Immigration-Murder Case May Be ‘Willie Horton’ of 2015

The broad-daylight killing of a woman by an undocumented immigrant is becoming a political football, and the San Francisco Chronicle gets it right by saying: “… from the presidential stage to California’s local political contests, it may be accused killer Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican citizen with a string of deportations and drug-related felonies in the U.S., who becomes this year’s Willie Horton and shapes the debate over illegal immigration.”
 
The report quotes a political science professor saying that the victim’s death “… has catapulted itself onto the national stage, because it allows those who are running in the heartland to talk about all the liberal icons and all the stereotypes associated with San Francisco… in some way, this is becoming a Willie Horton moment for the country.”
 
But the story also reminds us that  more than 320 jurisdictions have sanctuary policies similar to San Francisco. Supporters say such policies help, among other things, foster trust with people living in the community without documentation. Meanwhile, the USA Today coverage tells us that more than 10,000 people have been released that federal authorities wanted held.
 
The USA Today and Chronicle stories are below.
 
 
 
 

It Had To Happen: Immigrant Avoids ICE Hold, Now A Murder Suspect

It made headlines last year as jurisdictions, acting on a federal court decision out of Oregon, decided they would not honor “hold” requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. Now a San Francisco murder suspect was freed despite such a hold request just before committing the alleged killing. But an attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department says “…nothing in his background showed anything like that.”
As reported in the LA Times: Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle, parents of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot Wednesday in San Francisco. A suspect with seven felony convictions who had been deported five times has been arrested in connection with the shooting. (Lea Suzuki / San Francisco Chronicle)

As reported in the LA Times: Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle, parents of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot Wednesday in San Francisco. A suspect with seven felony convictions who had been deported five times has been arrested in connection with the shooting. (Lea Suzuki / San Francisco Chronicle)

 
Says an ICE spokesperson: “An individual with a lengthy criminal history, who is now the suspect in a tragic murder case, was released onto the street rather than being turned over to ICE for deportation… we’re not asking local cops to do our job. All we’re asking is that they notify us when a serious foreign national criminal offender is being released to the street so we can arrange to take custody.”
 
San Francisco County Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said ICE misses the point. “ICE was informed about San Francisco’s position on detainers,” he said, “but did not seek a court order for Sanchez’s transfer as required under the law.”
 
The Courts Monitor follows immigration issues because the cases are civil, not criminal. Read more from the L.A. Times here: