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

Study: Miami Immigration Court Is Most Lenient In Nation

The clearinghouse that tracks immigration court backlog says that some places are better than others for immigrations hoping remain in the United States. The Miami Herald reports that’s “… because judges at the Miami immigration court are deemed among the most lenient toward immigrants in the country… the report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University says that the Miami immigration court is in the top five immigration courts in the country whose judges are more likely to allow immigrants to stay in the country despite deportation orders sought by government trial attorneys representing the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the TRAC study, the Phoenix immigration court ranks No. 1 with “the highest proportion of individuals who were allowed to stay.” In second place was the New York immigration court, followed by Denver in third, San Antonio in fourth and then Miami in fifth, according to the study.

See the TRAC research here.

Read the newspaper’s story here: How lenient are Miami immigration judges? A study ranks the court

HuffPo Writer Notes Milestone For Immigration Court Backlog

The HuffPo writer B. Shaw Drake is noting an uptick in the number of immigration judges and some progress in Congress toward adding even more judges, a key to reducing the administrative backlog that leaves people waiting years and years to make their case for staying in the country. The report notes a new Human Rights First report: “In the Balance: Backlogs Delay Protection in the U.S. Asylum and Immigration Court Systems,” takes a deep look at the immigration court backlog, its causes and potential solutions. The report finds that chronic underfunding and hiring challenges have left the courts with two few judges to handle a steady flow of incoming cases. The result is wait times that stretch over three years nationally, and up to five or six years at the nation’s most burdened courts.

The crisis outlined: “As of May 2016, 492,978 cases were pending before the immigration courts, up from 480,815 just three months ago. That number that will likely top half a million cases when data is available for June 2016.”

You can read about the progress, such that it is, here: A Milestone In The Immigration Court Backlog Points To Progress

Supreme Court Begins Immigration Case With Sharp Questions

Demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court on Monday as it heard a challenge to President Obama’s plan to shield millions of immigrants from deportation and allow them to work. Photo Credit, New York Times report, 4/18/2016

Demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court on Monday as it heard a challenge to President Obama’s plan to shield millions of immigrants from deportation and allow them to work. Photo Credit, New York Times report, 4/18/2016

The New York Times reports that the U.S. Supreme court seemed “sharply divided” during extended arguments over a 26-state challenge to President Obama’s order to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work in the country legally.

The Times backgrounded that “… Scott A. Keller, Texas’s solicitor general, said Mr. Obama’s plan was unprecedented and unlawful. He faced skeptical questions from the court’s more liberal members about whether his state had suffered the sort of direct and concrete injury that gave it standing to sue. The case, United States v. Texas, No. 15-674, was heard by an eight-member court, and the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, has altered the judicial dynamic. A 4-4 deadlock is now a live possibility, one that would leave in place an appeals court ruling that blocks the plan without setting a Supreme Court precedent.”

Back in January, when the high court agreed to consider the case, the possibility was that the court would issue a major decision – in effect, the thinking was, the court might ask if President Obama had met his constitutional obligations to enforce the nation’s laws.

Of course the case, formally entitled “United States v. Texas, No. 15-674,” is being considered by an eight-member court after the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia. That opens the very real chance of a 4-4 deadlock, which would leave the lower court’s ruling against the president’s plan in place, but would not set a legal policy.

Read the NYT piece here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/19/us/politics/supreme-court-immigration.html?emc=edit_na_20160418&nlid=60665555&ref=cta&_r=0

Help U.S. In War? Forget It When Seeking Asylum

Image Credit, New York Times Report, 4/2/16

Image Credit, New York Times Report, 4/2/16

The New York Times has an important story about an asylum-seeker who worked with the American military in Kabul for years, enough to fear for his life. He made his way to the United States and sought asylum, making a case complete with death threats and the testimony of American military officers. Yet he was jailed for his trouble.

Reporter Elizabeth Rubin, who has reported from the Middle East and credits translators like the one in question for saving her life, outlines just how sad the immigration/asylum system has become. She notes that “… we know our asylum policy is broken. In 2014, more than 108,000 asylum applications were filed. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of these cases are life or death, yet they are handled by only 254 immigration judges, who are also juggling hundreds of thousands of non-asylum cases. Samey’s case is simultaneously unique and painfully common…”

She offers examples of possible fixes. But she also outlines a truly cautionary tale of a system where a state department administrative judge somehow values his own assessment over that of a Lt. Col. in the U.S. military.

Read it here:

Locked Up for Seeking Asylum

Seeking Safety, Young Migrants Find Abuse At Hands Of U.S. Placement

Photo Credit, AP report, 1/25/16

Photo Credit: AP report, 1/25/16

The Associated Press is releasing a Los Angeles-based investigative report that pretty much indicts the entire U.S. government effort to deal with those unaccompanied kids seeking a sanctuary in the United States. The tale of epic fail begins “… as tens of thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America crossed the border in search of safe harbor, overwhelmed U.S. officials weakened child protection policies, placing some young migrants in homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved, or forced to work for little or no pay, an Associated Press investigation has found.”

Responding to public pressure, the U.S. simply cut some corners. The AP notes that “… first, the government stopped fingerprinting most adults seeking to claim the children. In April 2014, the agency stopped requiring original copies of birth certificates to prove most sponsors’ identities. The next month, it decided not to complete forms that request sponsors’ personal and identifying information before sending many of the children to sponsors’ homes. Then, it eliminated FBI criminal history checks for many sponsors.”

The AP found dozens of children who were placed in abusive situations and reports that “Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who chairs the Senate’s bipartisan Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said he will hold a hearing on the agency’s child placement program Thursday because he is concerned that the failures are systemic.”

Read the AP story here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/e87200e7361b412fa8c1d5003b7bf357/ap-investigation-feds-failures-imperil-migrant-children

Supreme Court Will Hear Immigration Case Affecting Millions

Photo Credit: 1/19/16 CNN Politics video coverage

Photo Credit: 1/19/16 CNN Politics video coverage

Sweeping immigration reform implemented by President Obama’s executive order, which was frozen by federal courts, will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court announced this week that it will hear the case that would impact tens of millions of people. CNN notes that “the Supreme Court — which already has a docket bursting with consequential issues — will likely rule on the case by early summer. If the Court greenlights the programs that are considered a centerpiaece of the President’s second term, they will go into effect before he leaves office.”

The CNN report offers background: “At issue is the implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) aimed at the approximately 4.3 million undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, as well as an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) targeting teenagers and young adults who were born outside of the U.S. but raised in the country. The President’s actions allow eligible participants to obtain temporary lawful presence and apply for work authorization as well as some associated benefits.”

See the report here: Obama immigration reform: SCOTUS to hear actions – CNNPolitics.com

At USC, Law Students Provide Immigration Legal Advice

Legal assistance for asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. border has been an issue, whether that means trained volunteers or lawyers. How about a legal clinic staffed by law students looking for experience? The University of Southern California student newspaper reports that “… in January, the year-round USC clinic — the only one of its kind among Southern California law schools — will mark its 15th year of offering representation to asylum clients… since 2001, the clinic has taken on more than 170 clients. Approximately 120 of them, one-third of whom identify as LGBT, have received either asylum, withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture.”
 
While the Immigration Clinic clients receive life-saving legal representation, its students receive valuable experience.
 

‘Border Kids’ Immigration Influx Is Once Again On The Rise

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 Texas newspaper reports that the number of unaccompanied children being apprehended at the southern United States border – I’ve dubbed them “border kids” – is once again on the increase. Reporter Dylan Baddor at the Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune writes that in the Border Patrol’s Big Bend sector of Texas, “the number of unaccompanied children apprehended trying to enter the country during that period averaged 24 between 2010 and 2014. This year agents tallied 319.”
 
Statewide, says the report, 7,390 unaccompanied children were caught crossing in those two months, and 85 percent increase over the same period last year. The newspaper quotes Marc Rosenblum, a deputy director at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington D.C., saying that“… we’re clearly seeing a significant uptick.”
 
The Border Kids crisis became a national focus last year and prompted the Obama Administration to fast-track the cases, sometimes moving them to the “front of the line” in a backed-up immigration court system. Current estimates are that more than 450,000 cases are backlogged in the courts, which are actual civil procedures held as part of the U.S. Justice Department.
 
See the Daily Tribune story here: http://www.dailytribune.net/site/about.html

U.S. Family Detention Centers: Still There, Still Debated

 
As events in Paris rivet the U.S. media on the massive immigration crisis in Europe, it’s worth noting that we still have
Photo from LA Times Report, 10/23/15, "Immigrant family detention centers are prison-like, critics say, despite order to improve"

Photo from LA Times Report, 10/23/15, “Immigrant family detention centers are prison-like, critics say, despite order to improve”

 450,000 pending cases in the United States immigration court system and our “family detention” centers have been ruled illegal by a federal judge, who has ordered them closed. The federal government has responded by trying to license them through state agencies. 
 
The Los Angeles Times reminds us that “… this summer, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles castigated federal officials, finding they had failed to meet conditions for detaining immigrant children established by a 1997 court settlement, Flores vs. Meese. The judge prohibited the administration from holding children at centers not licensed to care for them and from holding families unless they posed a flight risk or a threat to national security…”
 
Find the rest of that story and related reporting about the situation here: