Getting Deported Back to Haiti Almost Killed Me

Illustration Credit: Paul Moreno

Illustration Credit: Paul Moreno

The ongoing debates over United States immigration and refugee policy is bringing many personal stories into the spotlight, mostly featuring immediate concerns. But VICE is offering a compelling story of a South Florida man who was deported back to Haiti at the age of 22. The story is counter-intuitive in many ways – he prefers Reagan to Clinton as American presidents go and offers mixed feelings about how Florida would have worked out.

Now Jean Pierre Marseille is described as a “journalist, fixer, translator, salesman” and “jack of all trades.” His story offers a lesson in how policy translates into personal history, and you can find it here:

Getting Deported Back to Haiti Almost Killed Me

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Emory University School of Law are calling for an investigation

AJC File

AJC File

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Emory University School of Law are calling for an investigation into the federal immigration court practices in Atlanta, alleging discrimination and noting outcomes that differ from the rest of the country’s immigration courts. Those “courts” are actually not part of the federal judicial system but are administrative functions of the U.S. Department of Justice – the judges work for the DOJ.

The SPLC, in a letter to federal authorities, said that the Atlanta-based court “… denies asylum at the highest rate of any immigration court – 98 percent. The average bond set by its judges is typically 41 percent higher than the national average ($8,200 versus $11,637).”

Read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report here:
Your Daily Jolt: Emory law school wants probe of immigration court | Political Insider blog

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

Private-Prison Phase-Out Will Not Apply To Immigration Jails

The much-heralded phase-out of privately run federal prisons had many wondering if that means changes in how immigrants are held by the Department of Justice. It will not, and the New Orleans website NOLA.com does a good job of breaking down the issue, which is partly because immigration jails are really “civil” vs. “criminal” charges.
 
NOLA backgrounds that “… the policy shift has no bearing on the private operation of immigrant detention facilities. As of December, 62 percent of the 34,000 beds for people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are in privately-run facilities. They are under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Justice. The vast majority of privately-run prisons in the U.S. are at the state level, and will be unaffected by the DOJ announcement. As of 2014 they housed 91,244 state prisoners, or 6.8 percent of the total state prison population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
 

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.

CA Court Interpreter Funding Boost Key to Access to Justice

In states like California where roughly 44 percent of residents speak a language other than English, court interpreters are a key component to reasonably equitable justice. Just last week, we noted the backlog of California immigration cases had trumped 500,000 making court interpreters a sought after commodity.

The LA Times Reports (8/9/16): Aldo Waykam, a Mayan language interpreter, meets recently with Vinicio Nicolas, 15, outside the federal immigration court in Anaheim before Vinicio's asylum hearing. Vinicio speaks Kanjobal, the language used in his village in the highlands of Guatemala. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The LA Times Reports (8/9/16): Aldo Waykam, a Mayan language interpreter, meets recently with Vinicio Nicolas, 15, outside the federal immigration court in Anaheim before Vinicio’s asylum hearing. Vinicio speaks Kanjobal, the language used in his village in the highlands of Guatemala. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Earlier this month, the LA Times reported extensively on the challenge of Border Kids whose native language is Mayan.  Many of these kids are coming in from countries such as Guatemala to escape gang violence epidemic with the drug cartels.

They report, “Spoken by almost 80,000 people in mostly rural municipalities in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Kanjobal is common in places like Santa Eulalia… but rare everywhere else.”

As with other court funding issues; however, funding has been short. The shortages have real consequences, according to the Times Report, “The shortage of interpreters is leading to a host of issues. Often, judges delay immigration hearings until one is found. At times, asylum seekers are deported even if they have a strong case because a qualified interpreter cannot be found in time. And unlike in immigration court, interpreters aren’t provided for free during asylum hearings.”

Gov. Jerry Brown just signed into law the California budget which includes nearly a 10 percent increase in funds for court interpreters, Slator.com reports, bringing the total over $103 million. This is a major development considering the Justice Index placed California in 30th place out of 52 for language access in its 2016 report.

The money isn’t going into a vacuum either, it appears. The reporter notes, “The numbers are huge. A 2015 report by the Judicial Council of California showed that court interpreters in the state provided a total of 254,000 service days from 2012–13.”

As other states struggle with the Border Kids crisis, court interpreter funding will likely become an ever present issue demanding more attention.

Tucson Newspaper Outlines Asylum-Immigration Trend

Esteban/Felix: Associated Press

Esteban/Felix: Associated Press

The typical narrative of undocumented immigration, sneaking across the border, is giving way to people who turn themselves in at the border, say officials in a Tucson.com report. Why? The report by Perla Trevino of the Arizona Daily Star newspaper explains that “… as soon as people who turn themselves in at an official crossing point say they are afraid of returning to their home country, it sets in motion the asylum process, which can drag on for years.”

The report backgrounds that “… more and more on the Southwest border, the new challenge is mixed flows,” said Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. “The basic illegal immigration of young men or younger Mexicans who are purely coming for job function is basically behind us.”
One surprise: “Cubans are responsible for a large share of this growth. Since fiscal 2010, the number of Cubans presenting themselves at Southwest ports of entry has grown from 5,500 to nearly 34,000 as of June of this fiscal year.”
Immigration cases are a leading example of civil justice rationing. The immigration “courts” are actually Justice Department administrative hearings and the judges are employees of the department, not independent judges. The system is backed up by a half-million cases, including asylum seekers, many of them children who have arrived at the border independently of adults.

See the report here: Asylum-seekers pose new challenge to US immigration system

“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.

Trump Promises Deportation, But Obama Already Delivering It

Advocates say immigration raids are making it more difficult to contact potential Latino voters. | AP

Advocates say immigration raids are making it more difficult to contact potential Latino voters. | AP

While Donald J. Trump has outraged immigration advocates by saying he intended to deport massive numbers of undocumented residents, the Obama administration is outraging many of the same people by actually deporting families here to seek asylum from dangerous countries. Politico is reporting that “… the administration has so far declined to confirm specifics about the latest round of raids, which were disclosed in a Reuters report this month. According to a document obtained by the news agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have told agents across the country to prepare for a 30-day ‘surge’ of arrests targeting mothers and children who have recently arrived in the country illegally but have been told to return to their home countries.

One part of the political fallout is simply that immigrant families that might worry about their status just don’t come to the door when political organizers visit. Politico is all over the story here:

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/immigration-raids-latinos-sanders-clinton-223671#ixzz4AFkexpwS

NYT Offers Insight Into Obama’s Immigration Woes

Photo from NYT report, 1/8/16: A 2-year-old boy from Honduras at a shelter in San Antonio, where he stayed with his mother before joining relatives elsewhere in the United States.

Photo from NYT report, 1/8/16: A 2-year-old boy from Honduras at a shelter in San Antonio, where he stayed with his mother before joining relatives elsewhere in the United States.

A New York Times story is detailing how an influx of Central American refugees is complicating the Obama Administration’s immigration policies, including how building family detention camps to send an anti-immigration signal in 2014 has come back to challenge legal and political situations in an election year. In particular, the report notes that Jude Dolly M Gee of the Federal District Court of the Central District of California ordered back in August that migrant children could not be held in a locked detention center and had to be released, with their parents, “without unnecessary delay.”

Instead of moving away from the camps, the government doubled-down win increased capacity. The NYT report is also interesting in noting that the camps were meant to send a “stay away” message to potential asylum seekers. It says that the “… Obama administration devised a strategy to manage the influx, putting them in detention centers to convince others that illegal crossers would be caught and sent back.”

Read the report here: A Rush of Central Americans Complicates Obama’s Immigration Task