Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Immigration advocates make major social media push

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BREAKING: 12 Chicagoans Form Human Chain Calling on President to Suspend Deportations

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Why Does is it take Immigration Reform to Protect Immigrants?

I stumbled upon an article written by Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislation Office.  Ms. Murphy provides a summary of the "highlights and lowlights" of the recent immigration reform legislation that has made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In reading the summary it struck me that the proposed Senate immigration bill specifically includes protections against the hallmarks of the Obama administration's deportation and detention policy. Such protections include prompt bond hearings for detainees, alternatives to the for-profit privately run immigration detention system, bars to racial and ethnic profiling by federal law enforcement officials, restrictions on the use of solitary confinement, and restrictions on middle-of-the-night deportations.

So let me ask you this... Why does it take a new law to protect immigrants from the discriminatory and abusive practices of the current administration?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Section by Section Summary of House's SKILLS Visa Act (The Issa Bill) by Greg Siskind

ISSA bill summary



"Six months ago, Bertha Alicia Avila Medrano (A# 076-257-333) was arrested while driving her three daughters to California to attend a family baptism.  Jennifer (16), Rosaly (9), and Xitlaly (5) now wake up every morning with the image of their mom being taken away in handcuffs.  Bertha has been detained in Eloy for 6 months, in the same detention center where two detainees committed suicide less than a month ago, far from their families and communities.
Bertha needs your help, so that she can get back home where she belongs.  She is a dedicated volunteers at children’s schools and her church, known for her generous smile and how much she gives back to make her community a better place for everyone. Her two oldest children attend Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, where they are in the top 1% of their classes, committed to becoming a doctor and an engineer with their mother’s loving support."

Click here to sign the petition to bring this woman home to her family.

REPORT: ICE takes 1,500 Immigrants into Custody Each Day

Syracuse University's TRAC Immigration's latest report found that ICE takes 1,500 immigrants into custody in a typical work day, and of those taken into custody roughly 1,000 are ultimately deported. Only about 1/4 (360 immigrants) of all individuals taken into custody are released by ICE, and a very small percentage (20 immigrants) are released under electronic monitoring (ankle bracelet) or placed on enhanced supervision.

What is even more troubling is that many custody determinations are made directly by the agency that takes the individual into custody in the first place.  A much smaller percentage of custody determinations are made by an immigration judge in the context of a court proceeding.

Click here to read the fully study.

How Do Low-Skilled Workers Fit Into Equation of Immigration Reform?

Senate Immigration Bill Markup Update

Friday, May 10, 2013

Current Status of Senate Immigration Bill 5/10/2013

50,468 new Immigration Prosecutions in First Six Months of FY 2013

Syracuse University's TRAC Immigration has reported that in the first six months of fiscal year 2013 there have been 50,468 new immigration prosecutions, which is an estimated 9% increase from the previous year.

TRAC provides the following a historical perspective:


They report that in March 2013 alone there were 7715 criminal defendants in immigration related cases filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts.  Statistics show that 66.4% of all charges alleged violation of 8 U.S.C § 1325, Entry of alien at improper time or place, and 29.5% of all charges were for violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326, Reentry of deported alien.

As for charges filed in District Court, there were 915 new immigration related cases in the U.S. District Courts during March, and an additional 1169 cases moved to District Courts from magistrate courts after the filing of an indictment or information.  The most common charge, 8 U.S.C § 1326, Reentry of deported alien, followed by  8 U.S.C. § 1324, Bringing in and harboring certain aliens.

Click here and here to read the full reports.

...And please consider donating to TRAC

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Suggestions for what can be done to ensure Due Process in Immigration Court Proceedings

The true obstacle to due process and fundamental fairness in civil removal proceedings is the harsh consequences of mandatory detention, and the administration's overtly castigatory immigration hold and detention policy that removes aliens from their support network vitiating both their ability and will to fight removal. 

Current detention policies are penal in nature, and erode an individual’s ability to obtain private counsel, especially where an individual may be detained for months if not years while challenging removal. The elimination of the mandatory detention provisions of INA § 236(c), especially as applied to lawful permanent residents, will immediately address this concern. This change should be coupled with the vesting of jurisdiction to immigration judges over custody review of aliens charged as arriving aliens.  In the spirit of fundamental fairness, an immigration judge, not the agency seeking removal, should be the final arbiter of whether an alien is a risk of flight or a threat to the United States precluding release from custody. 

Administrative closure or conditional termination should be mandated in cases involving unaccompanied minors, or individuals that are legally incompetent to stand before the Court pro se. Closure or termination should be followed by an immediate sua sponte custody review performed by the immigration court. In these cases the burden should shift to the Department to establish that the alien is either a risk of flight or a threat to the United States. 

In sum, if mandatory detention is removed, and detention policies softened detained aliens will have the ability to seek counsel in the approximately year and a half period between the scheduling of master calendar hearings, and due process will be served.

Our immigration courts must also be provided with the resources necessary to ensure hearings are being conducted fairly. This would require the allocation of sufficient funding to enable Courts to spend adequate time at each hearing to ensure cases are prosecuted fairly and that the rights of unrepresented individuals in detained settings are being protected.  To this end, the hiring freeze on immigration judges and support staff should be lifted to provide efficient and effective operation of the Court. As it currently stands removal proceedings take years to complete. 

According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) the average time removal cases wait to be heard before the immigration court has increased to 553 days, compared with 489 days at the end of FY 2011. The number of cases awaiting resolution before the Immigration Courts has risen along with the average time these pending cases have been waiting. As of February 2013, the backlog has reached a new all-time high of 325,296. That total rose by 1,571 in February 2013 alone. 

Office of Chief Counsel may also be utilized as an asset to assist pro se aliens by advising the Court of potential relief available after a review of the record. Office of Chief Counsel should be reminded that the trial attorney’s obligation is to see that justice is done, which does not mean winning the case at all costs. 

IJs should also be required to educate pro se aliens to ensure a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of rights. Include a mechanism for automatic reopening of proceedings should it be subsequently discovered that an alien was not properly advised by either counsel or the Court prior to a waiver of available defenses.  

As for availability of legal counsel, Court Administrators should be required to properly monitor the Free Legal Service Provider list to ensure that those appearing on the list are fulfilling their pro bono obligations. Each individual lawyer appearing on the list should be mandated where practicable to take at least one case per month on a pro bono basis. The time provided could be coordinated with State and local bar associations to include satisfaction of continuing legal education reporting requirements. 

IJs and the BIA should be required to correct counsel errors without the necessary filing of an attorney grievance with a disciplining tribunal, especially when the error is clear on its face. 

These are simple, commonsense solutions to the problems that serve the interests of justice.

I can only hope that someone is listening.