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.

Massachusetts’ Top Court Nixes Immigration ‘Holds’

Photo Credit: The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Photo Credit: The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017.
Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

The top Massachusetts court has ruled that police and court officers do not have authority to detain undocumented immigrants until federal law enforcement officials can take them into custody, a controversial practice called a “hold” that is debated around the country. It is believed to be the first time a state supreme court has ruled to ban the practice and the Reuters news service says the “… decision amounts to a rejection of requests by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for courts and law enforcement agencies to hold illegal immigrants, who are facing civil deportation orders, in custody for up to 48 hours after their cases are resolved.”

The court ruled that ordering the hold amounts to a “fresh arrest” and said there is no authority to do so. News organizations quoted ICE officials as saying they are reviewing the decision.

Read the Reuters story here: Massachusetts cannot hold immigrants so U.S. can detain them: state top court

Newspaper Deep-Dives  Into Asylum-Seeker Jailings

 
A guard escorts an immigrant detainee through the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, California, where around 2,000 detainees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement await hearings on their immigration status. John Moore/Getty Images

A guard escorts an immigrant detainee through the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, California, where around 2,000 detainees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement await hearings on their immigration status.
John Moore/Getty Images

The Colorado-based High Country News has published a deep-dive into how some asylum seekers looking for refuge in the United States are ending up being held in jail for longer times than might be necessary, and hinting that there might be financial incentives to do so. Shadowing once such seeker, the HCN says that “…he, like many of the other asylum-seekers held in the detention center, had passed a ‘credible fear’ interview and had no criminal record. Back in Ghana, [he]  had always imagined America as a country of freedom; a country where basic human rights were protected. Why keep us locked up? he thought. If you don’t want ustell us to go back.”
 
The HCN backgrounds that “… under government policies, asylum seekers who pass their “credible fear” interview should be released from detention if their “identity is sufficiently established, the person poses neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, and no additional factors weigh against release.”
 
But the HCN report details an array of incentives, including financial motives both public and private, for keeping people in jail longer. For example, the paper says, “… in 2012, 80 percent of asylum seekers who passed their credible fear interview were granted parole. By 2015, the number had dropped to 47 percent. The sharp drop coincided with an influx of migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, many of them asylum-seekers. On June 20, 2014, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced a plan to significantly expand detention capacity to detain and quickly deport Central Americans, in an attempt to ‘send a message’ to those seeking asylum or attempting to cross the border illegally.
 

NYT Shines Light On Civil Detainee Labor

The New York Times has published a detailed report on how civil immigration detainees are being used for cheap or free labor in the facilities where they are being held, benefiting not only government agencies but for-profit companies that operate in the facilities. California is one of the states with multiple detention centers, and the report notes that “… near San Francisco, at the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility, immigrants work alongside criminal inmates to cook about 900 meals a day that are packaged and trucked to a county homeless shelter and nearby jails.”
 

The NYT notes that the federal government has become the largest employer of potentially illegal immigrants: “Last year, at least 60,000 immigrants worked in the federal government’s nationwide patchwork of detention centers — more than worked for any other single employer in the country, according to data from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. The cheap labor, 13 cents an hour, saves the government and the private companies $40 million or more a year by allowing them to avoid paying outside contractors the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Some immigrants held at county jails work for free, or are paid with sodas or candy bars, while also providing services like meal preparation for other government institutions.”

The report includes the government response of “… the federal authorities say the program is voluntary, legal and a cost-saver for taxpayers. But immigrant advocates question whether it is truly voluntary or lawful, and argue that the government and the private prison companies that run many of the detention centers are bending the rules to convert a captive population into a self-contained labor force.”
 
This is the kind of story that might illustrate the difference in rights people have in criminal vs. civil cases – it is hard to imagine people being held in de facto labor camps if they faced criminal charges, because a different set of rights kicks in. Read the NYT game-changing story here: Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor