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“Rescinding DACA Is Inhumane,” Quakers Vow To Keep Fighting For Immigrant Rights

30 members of faith communities pray #LetThemStay at ICE office in Manchester, NH on Sept 5th. Image from Arnie Alpert Twitter.

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE —The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has worked for immigrant and refugee rights for almost 100 years – condemned today’s decision by the Trump administration to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that has provided temporary deportation relief to almost 800,000 people who came to the U.S. as children, including nearly 1,000 in New Hampshire.

“The decision to rescind DACA is an inhumane attack on young people, their families, and our communities,” said Maggie Fogarty, co-director of the organization’s New Hampshire Program. “This decision puts thousands of young people at risk of deportation, and a six-month delay does nothing to mitigate that. We support DACA because we strongly believe that no one should be deported.”

Fogarty received the news while standing outside the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office in Manchester, where dozens of immigrants were given deportation orders today.  “We will continue to support individuals and families threatened with deportation,” she said.

Since the DACA program was announced by executive order in 2012, AFSC has been involved in helping people sign up for the program, providing know-your-rights information,  advocating for DACA expansion (which was effectively blocked by the Supreme Court in 2016), and mobilizing constituents to contact their congress people in support of the program.

“DACA has created opportunities for young immigrants to work, pursue educational opportunities, and support themselves and their families,” said Arnie Alpert, the NH Program’s other co-director. “In the absence of just and humane immigration policies, the program has provided some necessary relief for thousands of people. These protections should be expanded, not rescinded.”

Many DACA recipients have also spoken out about how DACA has impacted them and why future programs or legislation need to be expanded. “As an undocumented student, I was able to benefit from DACA. This enabled me to continue my education, get a job with AFSC, and pursue a master’s degree,” said Jesús Palafox, Regional Administrative Associate in AFSC’s Chicago office. “DACA has been very helpful to me, but I am just part of a tiny minority of millions of people living in this country who need to be able to adjust their status. We need solutions that include everyone.”

Despite the setback, AFSC and immigrant rights groups across the country say this movement for immigrant rights, family reunification and social justice is not over. “We will continue our work – in the courts, in our communities, and in the streets – until everyone has access to legal status,” said Fogarty.

Labor Speaks Out Against Ending DACA

“President Donald Trump’s move to terminate DACA and strip work authorization away from 800,000 productive members of our society is cruel and wrong,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Ending DACA will increase the pool of vulnerable workers in our country and embolden employers to retaliate against working men and women who dare to organize on the job or speak out against abusive working conditions. This indefensible act will make our workplaces less fair and less safe and will undermine our freedom to join together and fight to raise wages and standards.”

“This direct attack on union members and union values only strengthens our resolve to overcome racial divisions and demand changes to a system rigged to benefit the wealthiest and corporations. The eyes of history are upon us. The labor movement will stand with these brave young workers and fight for legislation so that the contributions they make are celebrated, rather than assaulted. We will push for a pathway to citizenship and continue to oppose enforcement policies that discriminate and generate fear in our workplaces and communities. We will not give up the struggle until all working people have rights on the job, regardless of where they were born,” Trumka added.

“President Trump has left 800,000 lives in limbo by rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We condemn this appalling and counterproductive action,” said United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez. “Donald Trump is scapegoating immigrants who were already vetted by the federal government and who are not a threat to our country. Trump taking DACA away from Dreamers so that he can try to deport them is heartless and immoral.”

“Many Dreamers are farm workers who feed this nation or their sons and daughters. They are also doctors, lawyers, researchers, students—all of them supporting America. This is the only home most of them have known,” Rodriguez added.

“Donald Trump’s announcement today that Deferred Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) will be terminated in six months barring congressional intervention is an astounding act of political cowardice, and a missed opportunity to make a significant step towards comprehensive immigration reform,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor and General Vice President Maria Elena Durazo in a joint statement. “Donald Trump has passed the buck to Congress on what even he has acknowledged is a humanitarian crisis, because of his lack of political courage. Donald Trump, by failing to perform as a leader, has placed the fates of the 800,000 law abiding, tax-paying immigrant workers with DACA status in the hands of a dysfunctional Congress.”

“Because of Trump’s refusal to show political courage, it is now incumbent upon the American Congress to take immediate action to save DACA. The American hospitality industry relies heavily on DACA and Temporary Protective Status (TPS) workers to run, and the termination of DACA will have serious negative consequences for the tourism industry because of this. Under DACA, 800,000 immigrants have received work authorizations, including many hospitality workers and their families. Through this program, young people have been able to fulfill their dreams to live, work, study, and contribute legally to America without fear of deportation. Elimination of legal worker status will not result in immigrants self-deporting.  It will result in preventing hospitality industry workers from working lawfully and force them into the underground economy of undocumented workers exploited by bad businesses.

“Because of Donald Trump, 800,000 legal workers are now facing loss of their ability to work legally, and face deportation and loss of their families. It is imperative that the Congress act immediately to protect the 800,000 DACA workers whose fate is now in their hands. It is now up to Congress whether these nearly one million immigrants, who contribute to the American economy, live productive and meaningful lives, and attain education and employment at higher levels than natural born Americans, lose their most basic rights to live in a country they were brought to as children. UNITE HERE resoundingly condemns termination of DACA, as well as Trump’s lack of political courage, and will work tirelessly to advocate to the Republican-controlled Congress for justice for DACA workers,” UNITE HERE concluded.

“The young people covered by DACA are woven into our communities—learning in, working in, defending and contributing to the country that is their home,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Offering protection to DACAmented immigrants was done based on the understanding that America is stronger when we value people and create opportunity to achieve the American dream, regardless of demography or geography.”

“President Trump made a promise that he would treat Dreamers with ‘great heart.’ Now, for seemingly political reasons, he is breaking his promise to students, teachers, doctors, nurses and lawyers who took him at his word. This is not the America I know—an America that says one thing to its citizens and then does another. Betraying DACA Dreamers is betraying the values of our diverse and welcoming nation. America will not be stronger or more secure when these young people are torn away from the country they love and call their own. America will be diminished—and the toll will be measured by families ripped apart, people cast into the shadows and into poverty, businesses upended, economies weakened and dreams shattered.”

“As children return to school, many carry with them constant, crippling terror and uncertainty because of their immigration status. Children should be free to learn and live without fear. Inhumane immigration policies deprive them of that freedom.”

“The AFT will continue to fight to protect undocumented students, refugees, individuals with temporary protective status, and their families from the threat of deportation. A nation built by immigrants should welcome those in pursuit of the American dream, not pull up the ladder behind us,” Weingarten concluded.

Chris Shelton, President of the Communication Workers of America called the move “cruel and mean-spirited.”

“These young people were brought here by their parents at a very young age. They know no other home than the United States, and have made productive, successful lives here, contributing to their communities and looking to be full participants in our nation.  The United States is their home country.

Democrats and Republicans, including the Republican leadership, have urged the President not to eliminate DACA. It’s now up to Congress to focus on passing legislation to protect these innocent young people. DACA should not be eliminated until Congress passes a replacement,” Shelton concluded.

“The Teamsters are disappointed by this decision, as the union has long supported immigration reform and a path to citizenship for our nation’s ‘dreamers’. These young people are already citizens in every way that matters and deserve to have all of the same rights and opportunities enjoyed by U.S.-born children,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “The Teamsters Union supports comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  Today’s action by the Administration makes the need for congressional action all the more urgent. It is time to pass legislation that will ensure the futures of these children and young adults so that they may pursue the American dream as millions of immigrants have done before them.”

“Many of the young people covered by DACA are young professionals, working as teachers, doctors, nurses, and lawyers, who contribute greatly to the American economy,” said Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) President Paul E. Almeida. “By eliminating the DACA program, President Trump is ripping over 800,000 hard-working young people from their communities, jobs, and families. DPE stands with the young professionals and union members affected by the termination of DACA and will work to help these young people stay in the place that they call home.”

“President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) today is a disgrace. This is not what the United States of America represents, nor is it who we are. This policy is another clear example of White Supremacy strategies and tactics and we denounce it,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer of the Culinary Union Local 226 (Las Vegas). “This action is shameful and completely stains the Republican party. We call on Republican legislators in the Senate and Congress to support young immigrants and work with Democrats to pass a clean, stand-alone DREAM Act. We call on our Las Vegas employers on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas to stand with your workforce and to not let this immoral decision pass quietly. ”

“Instead of putting young people on a pathway to citizenship, the administration’s heartless act today forces immigrant children into the shadows of our society based solely on their immigrant status,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Reversing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program renders undocumented people targets for unscrupulous employers, wage theft, and other abuses in the workplace, limits educational opportunities, and weakens the economic well-being of their families, including their citizen spouses, siblings and offspring.  It is also a cruel example of how the current Administration’s advancement of policies that promote racial and ethnic profiling and xenophobia have further emboldened white nationalists, who have a history of contributing to a climate of fear and hate.”

“Even after the departure of Steve Bannon, the Trump Administration continues to signal that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is brimming with white nationalist-fueled policies,” said Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta. “Rather than going after greedy CEOs and corporations that depress wages, offshore jobs, fuel economic insecurity, and make workplaces worse, President Trump has decided to scapegoat young immigrants who are working hard, contributing to the U.S. economy, and making a better life for themselves and their families.”

United We Dream is organizing support rallies for Dreamers all across the country.  Click here to find an event near you. 

Below is an infographic from United We Dream of the 5 thinks to know about the end of DACA.

(Featured image from  Not 1 More rally in 2014. Image by the LBJ Foundation FLIKR)

Prayer Vigil Outside Of ICE Office Planned For Sept. 5th

Manchester, NH – Members of area religious congregations will hold a vigil at the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester on Tuesday morning to pray for an end to immigrant deportations.

“Deportations are tearing apart families, tearing apart congregations, tearing apart our communities,” said the Rev. Joseph Gurdak of Saint Anne/Saint Augustin Church in Manchester, whose congregation includes many immigrants.  “We are offering prayers for this cruel practice to end.”

The vigil will begin at 8:30 AM with a “Jericho Walk” around the building, led by the Rev. Eric Jackson, pastor at Brookside Congregational Church and President of the Greater Manchester NAACP.

The prayer vigil coincides with required appointments that dozens of immigrants have with officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for immigrant detention and deportation, which has offices on the building’s second floor.

“Our traditions call on us to love our neighbors and welcome the stranger,” observed the Rev. Rev. Becca Girrell of the Lebanon United Methodist Church.  “My faith compels me to stand with those who face the danger of detention and deportation, so that if nothing else, they know they are not alone. My hope is that our presence conveys that people of faith denounce these cruel practices, support keeping families together, bear witness to the humanity and dignity of all persons, and believe in a Divine who holds all people’s lives as sacred.”

Following the Jericho Walk, prayers and readings will be led by Father John Bucchino of Blessed Sacrament Church, the Rev. Jonathan Hopkins of Concordia Lutheran Church, and other faith leaders.

Among those who are required to report to ICE on Tuesday are more than twenty members of the state’s Indonesian immigrant community, whose members fled from religious persecution but who have been denied asylum in the United States.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka To Demand An End To Deportations At Pasadena’s Worker Center

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

During the event, day laborers, elected officials and immigrant and community leaders will highlight how failed enforcement policies undermine workers’ rights  

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will be at a worker center in Pasadena, Calif., today where he will oppose the ongoing deportations that undermine family unity and weaken rights for all workers. He will be joined by Los Angeles Labor Federation of Labor President Rusty Hicks; Pasadena City Mayor, Terry Tornek; Pasadena Councilmember, District 5, Victor Gordo; California State Labor Commissioner, Julie Su; and dozens of day laborers and workers who will share their experiences as immigrant workers.

During the event President Trumka plans to deliver the following remarks [Excerpts]:

“America’s deportation crisis is a bipartisan failure. 

“And I could not come here today without saying how disappointed I am with the Obama Administration’s recent decision to send women and children back to dangerous Central American nations.

“I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for President Obama, yet the plague of immigration raids in America is nothing less than a travesty.  A human travesty.

“All over our country, those who fled violence and poverty to come here for a better life are being forced to live in fear.  This is wrong and today we say once again: stop the era of deportations!

“It’s time for us to ramp up the pressure on our elected leaders.  Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with America’s labor movement and our allies, we are going to protect all working people.

“We demand an end to deportations and safe haven for workers who speak up on the job.

“We call on the Supreme Court to give DAPA and DACA the green light.  But no matter what the justices decide, we will keep mobilizing and keep organizing.

“We shouldn’t be building walls.  We should be building bridges—to security and prosperity and a better life.

“The future of immigrant workers is not in detention centers.  It’s in worker centers like this one.

“So brothers and sisters, continue to stand up when your communities are under attack.  Your bravery is inspiring.  Your courage lifts us all.”

Pro-Bono Law Groups Stops Unlawful Deportation

33 Mothers and Children Protected from Immediate Deportation By The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project

Emergency rulings reveal indefensible deportation strategy for vulnerable Central American families

Washington D.C. – In the last week, 121 mothers and children were brought to the South Texas Residential Family Center in Dilley, Texas, after being rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project reviewed the cases of 13 families, filed appeals for 12, and won stays of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals for all 12 families – 33 mothers and children. While this is a major victory for these families, the troubling fact remains that many, who very likely also had claims for relief, were swiftly deported without the chance to consult with CARA staff or volunteers. The 12 families for whom CARA obtained stays were fleeing extreme domestic violence or targeted for recruitment, kidnapping, assault, or extortion by transnational criminal organizations.

We now call on the Obama Administration to release the families confined at Dilley pending their appeals. The continued detention of these children and mothers violates well-established law regarding the treatment of immigrant children, as reflected in the Flores Settlement Agreement. CARA Managing Attorney, Katie Shepherd explains, “Under Flores, the government may not hold children in unlicensed, secure detention centers like Dilley. The children should be released immediately, with their mothers, as the law requires. The plight of these families, victims of ICE’s recent raids, highlights more pervasive problems with our immigration system. The Obama Administration’s troubling approach toward refugee families needs to be rethought, beginning with the immediate closure of its current family detention centers.”

The CARA Project team served as the last hope for these families. Their successful stays of deportation raise serious concerns about the glaring due process violations that deprive bona fide asylum seekers of a meaningful opportunity to present their claims. Every single mother for whom the CARA Project filed an appeal had been denied due process in one or more ways, including:

  • Cases thrown on a “rocket docket,” leaving no time for their attorneys, if they were able to secure legal representation, to compile the evidence required;
  • Lack of information on what the process was and what their obligations were;
  • Officials pressuring them to sign legal documents without access to counsel;
  • Arrest and detention after they had cooperated with every single requirement ICE had mandated.  

The government’s decision to round up Central American families over New Year’s weekend and its refusal to disavow such aggressive enforcement tactics against vulnerable mothers and children continues to reverberate across the United States and beyond. President Obama must fully acknowledge that these families deserve humanitarian protection rather than punishment. The Obama Administration has consistently refused to recognize and treat these families as refugees and has erected enormous obstacles again and again in an effort to deter future asylum seekers. This is a shameful choice that contradicts our own laws and our history as a nation of immigrants.

CARA looks forward to receiving details from the government regarding plans to partner with the United Nations to assist refugees fleeing Central American violence. But, in order to live up to our country’s values and principles, real solutions need to be sought and implemented for those fleeing violence who reach our borders, including meaningful access to counsel and full due process, as well as an immediate end to family detention. Additionally, the administration should immediately protect this vulnerable population from deportation by granting humanitarian parole, Temporary Protected Status, or another form of relief.


*The CARA Pro Bono Project is a partnership of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council (Council), Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), that provides legal representation and undertakes advocacy on behalf of mothers and children held in federal family detention centers.

President Obama To Address The Nation On Immigration, Republicans Threaten Shutdown

Image by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) CC FLKR

Image by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo) CC FLKR

Today is the day that millions of aspiring Americans have been waiting for. The day when President Obama stands up to Congress and states clearly that if they will not do something to pass meaningful immigration reform then he will do what he can through executive orders.

It was announced last night that the President would make a prime-time address announcing his plans to stop the deportations of millions of aspiring Americans seeking citizenship. He will also stop the ripping apart of families, by stopping the deportation of the parents of children who are legal US Citizens.

A group of immigration lawyers from across the country sent a letter to President Obama citing his legal authority to defer deportations through executive actions.

“Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law. “This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal.”

“This letter reflects a clear, broad, and informed consensus on two key points,” said Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law. “First, the president has the legal authority, exercising his discretion as the nation’s top immigration prosecutor, to establish enforcement priorities. Second, the president’s lawful discretion includes the authority to set up an orderly system, modeled on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), for granting temporary relief from deportation.”

“It is well established that the President has the legal authority to end this crisis by granting temporary relief to a broad class of workers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is also equally established that current enforcement of immigration law is at odds with our American vision of a just society and our values of family, hard work and fairness.”

President Obama’s Executive Order would protect nearly 5 million people currently residing in the United States.

Of course the Republicans were quick to respond to the announcement with more threats to harm real Americans if the President takes action without Congress.

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

Senator Marco Rubio who once championed immigration reform in the Senate now is hints of a government shutdown if the President takes executive action on Immigration.

The Des Moines Register reported that Rep Steven King wants to tie executive action on immigration to funding the government.

“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear …,” King said. “I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that.”

King said if that happens, House-passed legislation on border security, including rolling back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, order, “becomes a requirement” for a continuing resolution.

Over the last six months conservative pundits has indicated that President Obama’s threat to defer action on deportations is unlawful and would warrant everything from a government shutdown to all out impeachment.

The irony of this is that Republicans have already forgotten that their hero, President Ronald Regan, took similar action to provide amnesty to over 3 million undocumented residents.

“The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave up to 3 million unauthorized immigrants a path to legalization if they had been “continuously” present in the U.S. since January 1, 1982 (The Hill).

The IRCA was not without issues, forcing the government to deport the immediate family members of those who were covered under the new order.

President George H.W. Bush followed up the IRCA with a “family fairness” policy that would close the loophole in the IRCA in turn protecting another 1.5 million aspiring Americans. The combination of the “family fairness” policy and President Reagan’s executive action provided amnesty to over 40% of the undocumented population living in the United States.

President Obama’s proposal to some seems extreme, however it would cover approximately 40% of the undocumented population currently residing in the United States.

The battle is set to begin tonight as President Obama lays out his plan to help millions of aspiring Americans.

The current government funding extension will expire on December 11th and we will have to wait to see if the Republicans will harm millions of Americans in their opposition to the President by completely shutting down the government.

 

Related Articles:

When Reagan and GHW Bush took bold executive action on immigration.

The American Immigration Council And The AFL-CIO Push For An Executive Order On Immigration

Obama’s Immigration Plan Could Shield Four Million

Groups Sue Federal Government Over Failure To Provide Legal Representation For Children Placed Into Deportation Proceedings

Gavel

Editor’s Note: This post comes from the American Immigration Council 

Washington D.C. – The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP today Immigration Policy Center logofiled a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children who are challenging the federal government’s failure to provide them with legal representation as it carries out deportation hearings against them.

Each year, the government initiates immigration court proceedings against thousands of children. Some of these youth grew up in the United States and have lived in the country for years, and many have fled violence and persecution in their home countries. The Obama Administration even recently called an influx of children coming across the Southern border a “humanitarian situation.” And yet, thousands of children required to appear in immigration court each year do so without an attorney. This case seeks to remedy this unacceptable practice.

“If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone.”

The plaintiffs in this case include:

  • A 10-year-old boy, his 13-year-old brother, and 15-year-old sister from El Salvador, whose father was murdered in front of their eyes. The father was targeted because he and the mother ran a rehabilitation center for people trying to leave gangs.
  • A 14-year-old girl who had been living with her grandparents, but was forced to flee El Salvador after being threatened and then attacked by gang members.
  • A 15-year-old boy who was abandoned and abused in Guatemala, and came to the United States without any family or friends.
  • A 16-year-old boy born in Mexico who has lived here since he was 1 year old and has had lawful status since June 2010.
  • A 16-year-old boy with limited communication skills and special education issues who escaped brutal violence exacted on his family in Honduras, and who has lived in Southern California since he was 8 years old.
  • A 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala and now lives with his lawful permanent resident father in Los Angeles.

All are scheduled to appear at deportation hearings without any legal representation and face a very real risk of being sent back into the perilous circumstances they left.

While the Obama Administration recently announced a limited program to provide legal assistance to some youth facing deportation hearings, this proposal does not come close to meeting the urgent need for legal representation for all children whom the government wants to deport. And there is no guarantee that additional funding proposed by the administration yesterday will materialize or meet the overwhelming need. In the meantime, children continue to appear alone in court every day.

“While our law firm, and others around the country, provide free legal services to children facing the injustice of appearing alone in court, we can help only a small fraction of the children in need,” said Theo Angelis, a partner at K&L Gates LLP.

Kristen Jackson, senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, a not-for-profit law firm that works with immigrant children, added, “Each day, we are contacted by children in desperate need of lawyers to advocate for them in their deportation proceedings. Pro bono efforts have been valiant, but they will never fully meet the increasing and complex needs these children present. The time has come for our government to recognize our Constitution’s promise of fairness and its duty to give these children a real voice in court.”

The complaint charges the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Office of Refugee Resettlement with violating the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a “full and fair hearing” before an immigration judge. It seeks to require the government to provide children with legal representation in their deportation hearings.

“Deportation carries serious consequences for children, whether it is return to a country they fled because of violence and persecution or being separated from their homes and families. Yet children are forced into immigration court without representation – a basic protection most would assume is required whenever someone’s liberty is at stake. Requiring children to fight against deportation without a lawyer is incompatible with American values of due process and justice for all,” said Beth Werlin, deputy legal director for the American Immigration Council.

“It is simply unacceptable that children are forced to stand alone before an immigration judge, pitted against trained attorneys from the federal government,” said Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “Any notion of justice or fair play requires that these children be provided legal representation.”

The case, J.E.F.M. v. Holder, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Wash.

  • The Complaint is available at: http://legalactioncenter.org/sites/default/files/Counsel%20Complaint.pdf

More information about this case is available here.

Understand The Lie That 36,000 Criminal Aliens Were Released By ICE

(Image by Sasha Kimel)

(Image by Sasha Kimel)

Understanding ICE’s Release of Immigrants with Criminal Convictions
By Wendy Feliz at American Immigration Policy Center

Understanding the complexities of immigration law and its intersection with criminal law is not easy. Over the past month, a flood of reports about enforcement policies and deportation data have compounded the confusion. Some of these reports were clearly designed to derail genuine and productive conversations around immigration policy reform. Case in point, this week the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) issued a paper that claims over 36,000 “criminal aliens” were released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

It’s important to understand a few key issues underlying this report:

First, it’s difficult to assess the methodology of their data collection or analysis because CIS makes none of it publicly available. There are no footnotes in the document, or citations of any kind. All of their data comes from “a document obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies,” which they don’t provide or describe. The chart in the report says nothing more than “Source: ICE.” The article then goes on to draw even more conclusions about the document that are based on “separate information” that is never discussed or identified.

However, even for those who are unwilling to challenge the integrity or value of the CIS “data,” it is still important to understand the following:

While all of the 36,000 they refer to may be foreign-born, by no means are they all unauthorized or “illegally” in the United States. In fact, many of them are likely to be legal permanent residents or green-card holders. So it may not even have been determined whether they can or should be deported from the United States. The offenses they committed may or may not even be grounds for revoking their green card and deporting them. Until that determination has been made, the use of alternatives to detention is not only consistent with the Constitutional principles and values that are the foundation of the judicial system in the United States, but it makes economic sense as well. DHS spends $5 million dollars per day (nearly $2 billion per year) detaining immigrants at a cost of $159 dollars per person, per day (fiscal year 2014). For people who have homes, family, and other ties to the community, who are unlikely to flee, and who pose no threat to the community, alternatives to detention are smart and effective. The test for detention should be an individualized consideration of public safety threat and flight risk, not a one size fits all rule that covers all immigrants.

Next, all the people identified in the CIS document appear to have paid their fine or done their time for their criminal offense. However, since they are foreign-born, after completion of their criminal sentences they are turned over to immigration authorities who determine if their offenses should result in deportation. Many of these people are legal permanent residents (including those who have been here for many years and have family here) who have a right to a hearing before they lose their status. Immigration proceeding are not meant to be, nor should they be, criminal proceedings. In fact, the justification for the lack of due process in immigration proceedings is that they are civil, not criminal. The demand for harsh detention and punitive treatment is completely at odds with what the immigration system is supposed to be. If we are going to treat these people like criminals, then CIS should be equally adamant in demanding full due-process rights. Not surprisingly, they are not.

Also, the overwhelming majorities of these convictions are for minor offenses and include things like tax fraud, disturbing the peace, traffic convictions, and other minor crimes that would be classified as misdemeanors for natives, but which for immigrants are often classified as felonies. Wild accusations notwithstanding, we know next to nothing about the true nature of the offenses or the potential threat that these people pose. DHS should be vigilant about protecting communities from those who truly pose a threat, but that is accomplished by looking at the facts, not by making decisions based on labels or fear- mongering.

Moreover, just like in the criminal justice system, the immigration laws contemplate that many individuals going through the court system can remain home while those proceedings are pending. All of these individuals were released under supervision because of basic Constitutional principles that apply to all people. The Supreme Court has affirmed that the United States cannot lock people up indefinitely after they have served their sentence. For those facing the possibility of indefinite detention, the Court has made it clear that there must be a process to review these cases and release people who can be safely released. However, for those who pose a “special risk to public safety,” they can continue to be detained.  All of the cases in the CIS report appear to have been determined to be cases where this exception does not apply.

Finally, there is nothing in the CIS paper which indicates that DHS has terminated proceedings or exercised any kind of prosecutorial discretion in these cases. Being “released” from custody doesn’t mean people are “set free.” They are released after paying a bond, under an order of supervision, with an ankle bracelet, etc. while DHS can and does continue to pursue a case against them.

There is no question that our current immigration laws and policies are broken, and the status quo is unsustainable. However, inflammatory rhetoric and baseless accusations are not going to get us an immigration system that is good for our economy, good for families, and that keeps our country safe. That will require our elected officials to move past political rhetoric and posturing and start debating what reform should look like. We can and should have laws that are fair, sensible, and humane – laws that are consistent with our Constitution and our values, and that will keep our country safe and improve our economy. The only question that remains is when will Congress act?

AFL-CIO Calls For An End To Deportations, Projects Stories Of Deported Workers On AFL-CIO Building Wall

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

Display highlighted deportation crisis’ impact on immigrant workers

(Washington, DC) Last nightthe AFL-CIO and its pro-immigrant allies highlighted the cost of the deportation crisis by way of a 90 by 60 foot projection of a video onto its downtown headquarters.  The event highlighted many speakers from inside the labor movement.   Workers from every trade coming together to call for an end to deportations, calling for Speaker Boehner to bring the Senate passed immigration reform bill up for a vote.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka summed it up perfectly when he tweeted, “Why is the labor movement all in to stop deportations? Because deportations hurt workers, families and America

Tefere Gebre an Executive Vice President with the AFL-CIO stated,”No father or mother should leave their house in the morning and worry they won’t see their children again.” He continued in his speech (which is in the video just below) that “This is a moral issue.”

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler stated, “We can’t stand by and let one more child be torn away from their parents!”  Shuler called on everyone to come together to make his happen.

Others called on the President to use his power to stop the deportations now.  People on stage were joined by people in the crowd “SÍ SE PUEDE” which loosely translates to Yes We Can.

The video, featuring the stories and names of deported immigrant workers, will be projected onto the AFL-CIO again tonight, May 1st, as well as tomorrow, May 2nd, from 8:30pm to 11:30.

However, if you are not in the Washington D.C. area, you can see the video here.

Everyday over one-thousand hard working aspiring Americans are being deported while Congress sits in gridlock.  These people are being torn away from their families, their friends, their neighbors, and their homes.  Many of these immigrants have been waiting for over a decade to be given the chance to become Americans.

President Obama has the power to stop this, and he should use it.  If Congress will not get off their butts and do something about these deportations, the President should.

Granite Staters Call For An End To Deportations That Are Literally Tearing Families Apart

What has happened to our great country, a country that welcomed millions of immigrants from around the world, into America with open arms?

We are a nation of immigrants, yet now we evicting people by the thousands who are just trying to become Americans.

“This Administration is deporting more than 1,000 immigrants every day.  It’s time to stop the practice of tearing families apart. President Obama can and should act immediately to halt deportations,” said Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees.

Nearly two million people have been deported since Obama has taken office.  These are people with families, some who have children who are legally American citizens.

According to estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, there are 4 million U.S.-born children in the United States with at least one parent who is an unauthorized immigrant, plus 1.1 million children who are themselves unauthorized immigrants and have unauthorized-immigrant parents. Moreover, Department of Homeland Security estimates that nearly three-fifths of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the United States for more than a decade. In other words, most of these people are not single young men, recently arrived, who have no connection to U.S. society. These are men, women, and children who are already part of U.S. society.”
(Research from the Immigration Policy Center)

However the legal status of the children does not seem to make much of a difference to the government who is deporting them.

“New Hampshire people are raising our voices in support of our immigrant brothers and sisters who simply want to work hard and be with their families.  We say ‘Not one more deportation,’ ” said Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee’s NH Program.

Image from AFSC-NH

Image by Arnie Alpert / AFSC-NH

On April 5th, the AFSC, the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and the Immigration Working Group of the United Church of Christ NH Conference held a rally in Nashua, NH calling for an “end to deportations.”

Here is just one example from the Nashua rally of how the current deportation policy is literally ripping families apart.

“Octavio, a native of Mexico, said immigration police took him from his home while he was giving his little girl a bath.  When he was deported, his family hoped to reunite in Mexico, but the grave illness of his youngest child forced his wife to return with the girl for medical treatments.  After substantial effort, Octavio was able to overcome what was initially a ten-year ban on re-entry to the USA and win a temporary visa to join his own family, all of whom are US citizens.”   (Dozens Call for End to Deportations at Nashua Rally, AFSC Blog)

“Immigration enforcement greatly increases the chances that families will never see each other again,” said Rinku Sen President of Applied Research Center. “Detaining and deporting parents shatters families and endangers the children left behind. It’s unacceptable, un-American, and a clear sign that we need to revisit our immigration policies.”

A report from the Applied Research Center (2011) conservatively estimates that there are more than 5,000 children currently living in foster care whose parents have been either detained or deported.

“The Obama Administration is deporting the very people who would qualify for the legalization we are fighting for,” said Maggie Fogarty.

Fogarty pointed out that the US Congress has mandated that 34,000 immigrant prison beds be kept full, at a cost to taxpayers of $164 a day.  With many of those cells in privately owned prisons and others in county lock-ups that have grown to depend on the flow of federal dollars, the detention bed mandate serves as a driving factor behind detentions and deportations.

John Sandweg, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the New York Times, “We are fulfilling the mandate.”

We call on Congress to stop funding the detention bed mandate,” stated Fogarty.

Due to policies like the detention bed mandate and others, the Department of Homeland Security (Border Patrol) budget has grown immensely.  “The annual budget of the Border Patrol has increased ten-fold, from $363 million in FY 1993 to $3.5 billion in FY 2013.”

Border Patrol Budget

We must act now to stop the deportations, and pass meaningful immigration reforms.

“The House of Representatives should vote on the bipartisan Senate immigration bill that passed overwhelmingly nine long months ago,” stated AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.  “Since the U.S. Senate voted 68-32 last June in support of a bipartisan bill to address our long-standing immigration crisis, America has suffered more than 250,000 deportations, and House Republicans have made a partisan decision not to allow that bill a single up or down vote.”

“At the same time as we fight to end House Republican stalling, we will continue to push the Administration to take broad executive action to relieve the ongoing deportation crisis for millions of workers,” continued Trumka.

As a government agency, the Department of Homeland Security must follow any executive orders issued from the President.  This means that with the stroke of his pen, President Obama could say “no more deportations.”

Will President Obama do the right thing to keep families together, while they wait for Congress to take action and pass a real immigration bill?

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