Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why Isn’t President Obama Protecting Refugee Children With A Stroke Of His Pen?

Originally published on Fox News Latino:
The humanitarian crisis on the southern border is the center of a political firestorm in Washington. At issue is the bipartisan 2000 anti-trafficking law, signed by President Bush and re-authorized in 2008, that requires the Obama Administration to institute immigration court proceedings against unaccompanied children from Central American countries rather than deporting them without a hearing like children from Mexico. 
Both the President and Republicans have expressed a keen interest in stripping those provisions to enable the Administration to expeditiously deport children without the full panoply of due process protections. For the obvious reasons, most Democrats and immigrant rights advocates oppose the proposed change.
Given the confines of the law, like many Republicans, President Obama has expressed a desire to “eliminate delays in deporting children” that his Administration unilaterally determines have no legal option to stay in the United States. Unfortunately for the children, President Obama has neglected to acknowledge that there is a distinct legal option available to each refugee child fleeing violence in Central America, and it is within the President’s sole discretionary authority to exercise it. 
The Immigration and Nationality Act specifically provides that under 8 U.S. Code § 1157, INA § 207(b) the President maintains the express power to grant refugee status to groups of individuals in the presence of “grave humanitarian concerns,” or if it is otherwise in the national interest. If tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing violence doesn't constitute a grave humanitarian concern, I don’t know what on Earth does.
To add insult to injury, not only is the President declining to exercise his authority to protect refugee children, his Administration is fast-tracking deportation proceedings, and children are being removed without the benefit of legal representation. This reflects a distinct policy shift by the Administration calculated to discourage children from fleeing violence in their home countries and an unconscionable decision to deport them back to an almost certain death.
The American Civil Liberties Union and American Immigration Council have filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of refugee children challenging the Administration’s failure to afford children an opportunity to obtain counsel as the law requires. The lawsuit begs the court to provide more time for children to find a lawyer, or to be provided representation at government expense if the Administration elects to proceed against them on an expedited basis.
Ahilan Arulanantham, Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU of Southern California and a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, commented that the children named in the lawsuit are fleeing violence in their home countries and “are now under imminent threat of being deported, potentially to their death, because of the Administration’s misguided ‘rocket docket’ policy for child refugees.” He remarked that “To force them to defend themselves against a trained prosecutor without legal assistance violates due process and our most basic values as a nation.”
But it gets worse. 
A recent release of a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that despite a 2010 policy against it, the Obama administration is detaining hundreds of pregnant women in detention facilities across the United States. The ignored policy provides that “absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirements of mandatory detention” women who are pregnant, nursing, or demonstrate that they are primary caretakers of children or an infirm person, should not be detained.
If only it stopped at detaining pregnant women. There are credible reports of expecting mothers being underfed, and being fed maggot infested food, while being denied gynecological exams and adequate prenatal care during pregnancy, in addition to being housed in unsanitary conditions in extreme temperatures.
It simply shocks the conscience that the most vulnerable among us, children, and detained pregnant mothers, are being treated as a political inconvenience to be disposed of like yesterday’s polling numbers, which incidentally are not good for the President. An Associated Press - GFK Public Affairs poll just released reveals that disapproval of the President’s immigration policy has jumped 18 points to 57 percent. Given the President’s handling of the current crisis, it is easy to understand why.
Democrats have been understandably quick to shame Republicans for their lack of compassion for children fleeing violence. Considering recent events, maybe it is time they start pointing fingers at the leader of their own party.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

President Obama’s Immigration Wait And See Looks To Maximize Political Impact

President Obama’s latest Rose Garden immigration announcement has left reform advocates scratching their heads while exhaling a heavy sigh of disappointment. The President spent most of his speech blaming Republicans for not passing immigration reform. When he was done finger pointing, he revealed that he has ordered the transition of interior immigration enforcement resources to the southern border, and that he has requested recommendations by the end of summer on what unilateral steps he can take to stem the tide of his record deportations. In sum, he merely promised to think about what he may do to stop deportations at some unspecified date in the future. 
The question becomes, why does the President need the rest of the summer to determine what actions he may take that are constitutionally permissible? Over the past two years he has been provided numerous suggestions from a crowd of sources including immigration lawyers, think tanks, reform advocates, members of his own party, and from undocumented immigrants themselves. So why does he need more time before taking action, and more importantly what has he been doing the last month since postponing the deportation review other than wasting time?  
The answer to me is clear: President Obama is delaying the expansion of prosecutorial discretion initiatives to time their announcement as close to the midterm elections as possible to maximize their political impact. In the meantime, while we wait for the President’s next Rose Garden press conference, tens of thousands of immigrants that could potentially benefit will be deported. What adds to the frustration is that the President spent the better part of his presidency claiming he does not maintain the constitutional authority to stop the deportation carnage, which he clearly does, as evidenced by the previous steps he has taken to provide both temporary and permanent deportation relief to specific classes of individuals.
To compound matters, this all comes on the heels of the President’s request for two billion dollars of additional resources to enable his administration to quickly and expeditiously deport the wave of unaccompanied children from Central America that have flooded the border. 
The response to this request has been swift and harsh.
Recently installed American Immigration Lawyers Association President Leslie Holman called the president’s decision “unconscionable” explaining that “rapid deportations without any meaningful hearing for children who are rightly afraid of the violence and turmoil from which they fled is wrong, and contradicts the fundamental values of this nation.”
On social media, former Board of Immigration Appeals judge Lory Diana Rosenberg expressed shock and outrage stating that “the efforts being made to ignore our protection obligations and to eliminate the due process rights of children from Central America - to have a credible fear examination, to be considered for humanitarian parole, to be reunited with parents and family in the U.S. is abominable, cruel and inhumane.”
Unfortunately, the President’s desire to rapidly deport children without due process isn't the only thing his administration is doing that is cruel and inhumane. A complaint has recently been filed on behalf of 116 unaccompanied immigrant children ages five to seventeen alleging torture, abuse, and mistreatment by agents of the Obama administration while being held in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Examples cited include physical abuse and beatings, sexual assault, racist and sexist insults, death threats, denial of urgent medical care and medication, theft, prolonged sleep deprivation, extended exposure to excessively cold temperatures, and the employment of tight metal restraints to inflict pain into wrists and ankles, as well as the denial of adequate food and water. This is the Obama administration's Abu Ghraib, only the abuses are on U.S. soil, and the tortured are children.
Suffice it to say the president doesn't need Republicans to act on immigration reform to clean up the mess in his own house, and he certainly doesn't need the rest of the summer to ensure the abuses are eliminated, and the abusers prosecuted.
The bottom line is that this President has been dragging his feet to provide deportation relief under the pretext that he was allowing the Republicans to act, when it has become blatantly obvious that they never had any intention to pass immigration reform. Betting on them was as much political folly as it is political suicide because unless the President enacts bold measures that provide deportation relief to the majority of the undocumented population you can rest assured that the Hispanic electorate will not come out to support his party this fall. 
What Mr. Obama doesn't seem to comprehend is that Latinos have long figured out that immigration has always been about politics to this President, and they simply are tired of waiting while their communities are destroyed.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Untenable Cost Of Doing Nothing On Immigration Reform

The following was originally published on Fox News Latino:

This past week House Democrats introduced a discharge petition, which if successful would force a vote on previously stalled immigration reform legislation. Most acknowledge that the strategy has been employed for the singular purpose of shaming House Republicans for their inaction on immigration reform, and has virtually no chance of success. In sum, Democrats are engaging in thinly veiled political gamesmanship motivated by the desire to score points in advance of the midterm elections. Most see through the charade.

Cristina Jiménez, Managing Director of, the nation’s first and largest national immigrant youth-led organization, has outspokenly scolded House Democrats for chasing rainbows while refusing to press President Obama to stop his record deportations. Ms. Jiménez observed that this is nothing more than a distraction, stating “political maneuvers like the House Democrats' discharge petition are just getting in the way.” 

Immigrant activist Erica Andiola of the DRM Action Coalition agrees, commenting that it is unconscionable to use the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants for political gain. Both agree that President Obama’s two million deportations have created a human rights crisis of epic proportions, demanding immediate action by the Executive Branch. They explain that the immigrant community can no longer wait for the Republicans in Congress to get their act together.

The Immigration Policy Center’s Walter A. Ewing brings credence to their argument, acknowledging the hypocrisy of the Obama Presidency in a report tracking the growth of the U.S. deportation machine. He points to the administration’s conscious expansion of detention and deportation as a major point of contention, reflecting that "rather than putting the brakes on this non-stop drive to deport more and more people, the administration chose to add fuel to the fire."

The Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project has also chimed in releasing a report that found that the deportation machine has been fed by a vast increase in federal criminal prosecutions for immigration related crimes, which has changed the landscape for Federal prosecutors. It did not go unnoticed that at 48 percent, Hispanics make up the bulk of those prosecutions. 

Meanwhile, Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) sifted through the numbers finding that in 2013 there were nearly 100,000 prosecutions for immigration related crimes, an all-time high. TRAC determined that new prosecutions were filed against 97,384 defendants, a 5.9 percent increase from 2012, and a 22.6 percent increase over the past 5 years, resulting in a 76 percent increase in federal criminal prosecutions for illegal reentry since President Obama took office. 

What this translates to is that the Obama administration has made a strategic decision to turn an unprecedented number of immigrants into convicted criminals when their only criminal infraction stems from an immigration law violation. In sum, they have been found guilty for doing everything in their power to try to get back to their family. This policy change has resulted in a padding of the criminal removal statistics that the administration touts in an effort to deflect scrutiny from their 2 million deportations. And at what cost?

Customs and Border Protections’ Fiscal Year 2013 budget was $11.9 billion. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s budget was increased to $5.9 billion. Another $2.9 billion was spent by Enforcement and Removal Operations in FY 2012. That’s not pocket change.

It is time to acknowledge that tax paying American citizens can no longer afford to continue writing checks to fund an out of control deportation machine that is disproportionately targeting people of color. Especially since passing immigration reform will actually save the country money. The Congressional Budget Office determined that immigration reform will result in almost a trillion dollar reduction of the nation’s deficit during the next two decades in addition to yielding long term benefits to American workers and the economy. Now we are speaking a language that even the most partisan Republican can understand.

Case in point, perennial budget hawk Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has recently acknowledged the inevitability of immigration reform stating reform is a question of when, not if. The problem he notes is that there aren’t enough Republican votes to reach a consensus on the issue. The clock is ticking, Congressman.

In fact, the time has long passed for hyper-partisans on both sides of the aisle to put down their midterm elections swords. Americans are tired of excuses and gamesmanship. Doing nothing to address our immigration crisis to score political points is simply an untenable strategy that is emptying our nation’s coffers while destroying families. It is a strategy that must be abandoned in favor of the adoption of common sense solutions. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Activists: We Want An Emancipator, Not A 'Deporter In Chief'

Via NPR:

"Activists who support an overhaul of the immigration system are angry and frustrated. The immigration bill that passed in the Senate in June is stalled out. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is on pace to deport some 2 million illegal immigrants since taking office six years ago."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Advocate at White House Immigration Meeting: Obama didn't listen to us

On Friday, President Obama met with 17 immigration reform advocates at the White House to discuss the fact that he has recently been the object of public derision and shame over his indefensible deportation record. The meeting was described as "sometimes tense but mostly cordial," with the President talking down to the participants. From one unnamed attendee: "It had the feel of him schooling us, but it didn't have the feel of him listening to us."

The attendee further explained that the meeting was more about Obama challenging advocates by demanding a shift of political strategy back to blaming the Republicans than about what steps the President can actually take to do something to stop his deportation machine from needlessly destroying millions of families. 

Anyone surprised?

Here is the full list of the attendees:

Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security
John Podesta, Counselor to the President
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President
Cecilia Munoz, Director of Domestic Policy Council
Katie Beirne Fallon, Director of Legislative Affairs
Deepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change
Angie Kelley, Center for American Progress
Marielena Hincapie, National Immigration Law Center
Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families
Frank Sharry, America’s Voice
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
Ali Noorani, National Immigration Forum
Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers
Mee Moua, Asian American Justice Center
Gustavo Torres, Casa de Maryland
Gabriel Salguero, NALEC
Angelica Salas, CHIRLA
Mary Kay Henry, SEIU
Karen Narasaki, CAMBIO
Lorella Praeli, United We Dream
Janet Murguía, National Council of La Raza
Eddie Carmona, PICO

Click here for the original source of this article.