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Immigration Law News
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is facing potential rifts with members of his own party in tough re-election contests as he barrels toward a fall fight with Republicans over his ability to change immigration policies.
If Obama takes the broadest action under consideration — removing the threat of deportation for millions of people in this country illegally — the short-term risks appear greatest for Senate Democrats in conservative-leaning states. Weeks before the November vote, they could find themselves on the hot seat for their views not only on immigration but also on Obama’s use of his presidential powers.
Wary of what could be coming, some of those lawmakers have said Obama should act with caution.
“This is an issue that I believe should be addressed legislatively and not through executive order,” said Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., one of the top targets for Republicans trying to retake control of the Senate.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., another vulnerable incumbent, said in a statement that he also is “frustrated with the partisanship in Washington. But that doesn’t give the president carte blanche authority to sidestep Congress when he doesn’t get his way.”
Such statements have immigration advocates on edge.
A coalition of advocacy groups, in a letter to congressional Democrats on Friday, said immigrant families should not have to wait until after the November elections for relief. The organizations said any attempts by Democrats to delay or dilute administrative changes “will be viewed as a betrayal of Latino and immigrant communities with serious and lasting consequences.”
The letter was released because of advocates’ concerns that leading Senate Democrats may be shifting their positions because of political considerations after previously urging Obama to act.
A spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to say Friday whether Schumer still believes Obama should act by October, as Schumer had said before. A spokesman for Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said the timing of executive action on immigration was up to Obama. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman had no comment on timing.
Still, Obama looks determined to move forward on his own despite the political risks for Democrats.
He is irritated by House Republicans’ inaction on immigration legislation passed last year by the Senate. The crisis over unaccompanied minors arriving in South Texas does not appear to have deterred him, and the slowdown of arrivals at the border may be shifting the issue away from the spotlight anyway.
The exact contours of Obama’s plans remain unclear.
Advocates and lawmakers who have talked with administration officials anticipate that he could expand a program that granted work permits and deferred deportation to more than 700,000 immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids. It could be extended to include parents of those children, as well as parents of U.S. citizens, or potentially others — groups that could add up to perhaps 5 million people.
During a news conference this month, Obama was not specific on his immigration plans. He did say that in the absence of congressional action and in order to address the crisis involving unaccompanied youths, he had to shift resources on his own and exercise prosecutorial discretion.
“I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done,” Obama said.
Some GOP leaders worry that opposition to a comprehensive overhaul will harm their party in the 2016 presidential race, where Latino turnout is higher than in midterm elections. Hispanics are a fast-growing sector of the presidential electorate and backed Obama overwhelmingly in 2012.
But Republicans also see a nearer-term chance to translate Obama’s potential executive actions into electoral success in November. Republicans need to win a net of six seats in order to take control of the Senate for the remainder of Obama’s term. The GOP already is all but assured of maintaining control of the House.
As Republicans meet with voters in their districts during the summer break, lawmakers have raised alarms about the scope of Obama’s potential plans. In some cases, they are hearing clamors for impeachment in return.
“It is up to Congress to actually go back and restrain this guy,” one voter told GOP Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland at a town hall meeting on the Eastern Shore. Harris had warned that Obama could expand an existing deportation relief program to 4 million or 5 million more people, “competing with Americans for work.”
Republicans have tagged Obama as an “imperial president” who goes around Congress rather than working with lawmakers, and House Republicans have moved to sue him over it. The prospect of the president making a unilateral move on a contentious issue such as immigration has Republican consultants salivating.
“President Obama’s executive amnesty would inject adrenaline into an electorate already eager to send him a message of disapproval,” said Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Also problematic for Obama: His apparent plans to act on his own authority come after years of saying that he did not have the legal justification to proceed without Congress.
“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing them through Congress, I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws,” he said in November. A heckler had interrupted a speech he was giving in San Francisco, prodding him to halt deportations, which have reached record highs on Obama’s watch.
Since then the White House has apparently concluded otherwise.
Democratic pollsters argue that any executive action by Obama could give a political boost to Democrats, not just from newly energized Latino voters but from an electorate at large that would welcome any action from gridlocked Washington.
“Voters are so sick of the do-nothing Congress they don’t mind if there’s an imperial president,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “They would just like someone to get something done about something.”
Pace reported from Edgartown, Massachusetts. Follow Pace atWritten by Ruby Powers on August 18, 2014 @ 10:09 am and Werner at
Filed under: Immigration Law
If your previous period of deferred action expires before you receive a renewal of deferred action under DACA, you will accrue unlawful presence and will not be authorized to work for any time between the periods of deferred action. For this reason, USCIS encourages you to submit your request for renewal 120 days before your current period of deferred action under DACA expires.Written by Ruby Powers on February 20, 2014 @ 2:53 pm
Filed under: Deportation, education, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform
By Eli Saslow
Judge Lawrence Burman sat quietly in front of the chaos, adjusting his reading glasses and sifting through a stack of files on his bench. He had 26 cases listed on his morning docket in Arlington Immigration Court — 26 decisions to make before lunchtime about the complicated future of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
“Next,” Burman announced. “Let’s go. Busy day.”
At a time when Congress and President Obama have signaled an increased willingness to reform the immigration system, they insist on urgency by repeating a series of skyrocketing numbers: 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, at least 50,000 more trying to enter every month, 21,000 agents patrolling the borders, $18 billion spent each year on enforcement and about 1,000 people deported each day.
In Burman’s courtroom, the urgent number on this January morning was smaller but just as daunting. He had an average of seven minutes per case.
While Congress and the White House make promises about the future of undocumented immigrants, this is the place where decisions must be made — day after day, case after case, in one of the 57 overwhelmed immigration courts across the country. Here, on the second floor of a high rise in Crystal City, tissue boxes are stacked near the courtroom entrance and attorneys push rolling file cabinets, because a briefcase is no longer sufficient to hold caseloads that have tripled in the past decade.
Undocumented immigrants try to prove they deserve to remain in America by bringing their versions of America with them to court: wives carrying family photo albums; babies wrapped in American flag blankets; pastors, bosses, neighbors and community soccer teams, all of whom fill the courthouse and sometimes kneel in the hallways to chant or to pray.
“Somos Americanos,” one group said. We are Americans.
Now Burman looked at his docket and called up a case: Mario Iraheta, 36, father of three, citizen of El Salvador, longtime resident of the United States. For Iraheta, the future of immigration reform was not about Congress, or Obama, or two political parties positioning for a presidential election in 2016. It was about the next seven minutes.
“Court is in session,” Burman said.
An empty seat
Iraheta’s seat in the courtroom remained empty. A clerk turned on a television near the prosecutor’s table, and up came a video feed to a detention facility in Farmville, Va. Suddenly Iraheta appeared on screen, his hair still wet from the shower, in a room 165 miles away.
This was the latest symptom of a deportation system backlogged with 350,000 cases. Since the government often lacks the time and the resources to transport detained immigrants, they often attend their hearings remotely.
“Farmville, Room 294, can you hear us?” a court interpreter asked. The screen seemed to freeze. The court took a short recess while a technician fixed the video feed. As the recess continued, Iraheta’s wife, Maria, and two sons stood up in the second row of the courtroom and walked toward the video screen. “There he is!” said Dylan, 9, an American citizen, tugging at his mother’s shirt. They stood within view of the camera so Iraheta could see them. “Oh, God,” Iraheta said, wiping his eyes as they smiled and waved. “You came. Thank you.”
He had not seen all of them together for seven months, since he got into his car to drive to his sister’s house for a Sunday barbecue and was pulled over by police for drinking and driving, a mistake that threatened to undo the life he had built in the Manassas suburbs. He had crossed into the United States illegally in 2000, and Maria had followed a year later. He worked in construction; she walked two miles each evening to wash dishes at IHOP for $8 an hour. They paid taxes, joined a church and raised three kids, now 19, 15 and 9. Two months after Iraheta was apprehended and placed into deportation proceedings, his family celebrated the birth of his first granddaughter — “an honest-to-God second-generation American,” one cousin said.
For 14 years, Iraheta and Maria had shared the same bed in a small apartment, but now they could think of little to say. He motioned for his boys to come closer to the camera so he could study their haircuts. “You look nice,” he said. “Grown up.”
Maria wondered if she should tell him about the debts they were accumulating to the thriving deportation industry: the $300 she had paid a driver to take her to visit him in Farmville; the $25 they spent on 18-minute phone calls; the $5,000 and counting in legal fees to a succession of notaries and lawyers; the work shift she was missing now, to support him in court. He wondered if he should tell her about the nightmares he’d been havinglately, in which he returned to El Salvador, got lost at the airport and was stabbed by a gang of men trying to steal his jeans.
“Today will be a new beginning for us,” he said instead. “You look beautiful. We are smiling. They will see we are a good family.”
“I hope so,” she said, now wiping her eyes, too.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she said, but now the recess had ended, and Iraheta’s lawyer approached the bench.
Crimes or mistakes?
“Your Honor, we would request that you set a bond in this case,” said Ricky Malik, Iraheta’s lawyer. “My client is a longtime resident. He is not a flight risk. He would like the opportunity to be reunited with his family.”
“We would contend that he is a flight risk,” the prosecutor said. He reached into his case file and pulled out two court documents, criminal convictions for hit-and-runs.
Malik looked over the charges. Both were misdemeanors for property damage of less than $1,000, one from 2003 and the other from 2004. The first time, Iraheta had hit a car in a parking lot and driven away, scared that he would be deported because he didn’t have a driver’s license. The next time he had hit a car in the rain, fled, felt guilty and went to a police station a day later to fill out a report.
If Burman decided that the crimes indicated poor character — what the law refers to as “moral turpitude” — Iraheta would not only be ineligible for bond but also much more likely to be deported to El Salvador.
“These are small property incidents,” Malik said. “We would argue that these are not crimes of moral turpitude but unfortunate decisions.”
Malik knew that his argument was a long shot, but so was everything else about his job. He represented 300 undocumented immigrants from Manassas to Richmond, mostly working-class Mexicans and Central Americans who came to him after they had been apprehended and placed in deportation proceedings. His clients were not the perfect face of undocumented immigration but the complicated heart of it — not college graduates, or victims of violent crime, or active military members, or breast-feeding mothers, or“dreamers,” or members of any one of the small groups for which Obama has created patchwork immigration solutions. His clients were people like Iraheta, whose mistakes had been compounded by fear and bad luck, and whose paths to stay in the United States were as complex as they were uncertain.
“To be honest, these odds are not good,” Malik had told Iraheta’s family during an early meeting about his case. To stay in the United States, Iraheta needed to file for his case to be reopened, win bond, file for deportation relief and then win again at trial — and even that unlikely outcome would only return him back to where he started, free but undocumented. Nonetheless, Maria had borrowed money and cashed out her savings to pay Malik for a few months of work, and here he was five months later, providing representation for free, taking on what immigration lawyers called another “case of conscience.” Unlike criminal defendants, undocumented immigrants are not guaranteed a lawyer, and the 40 percent who appear in court without representation are several times more likely to be deported. Malik didn’t want a family broken apart because it couldn’t afford his billable hours.
“Your Honor, my client is not a perfect person, but he is a good person,” Malik said now, lifting his hands.
“What if it was your car that he hit?” Burman said.
“For all we know this could have been a dent, $150 in damages,” Malik said.
“Or it could have been $850,” Burman said.
He turned away from Malik and looked at Iraheta on the monitor, studying him, searching for some impression of the man on the screen.
“I have gone back and forth on this issue,” he said. “Are these crimes of moral turpitude? This is tough.”
Tough: That was his job. Tough was hearing 1,500 cases per year while federal judges decided 440. It was sharing one law clerk with other immigration judges while each federal judge had four clerks of his own. It was being scheduled to sit on the bench for 36 hours a week and listen to asylum cases that detailed people’s escapes from gangs, rapes, beheadings, human trafficking and torture; and then having to objectively ask those people for the documents, for the scars, for the proof; and then making a judgment about the character of those people, first through a video feed and then through an interpreter; and then judging the merits of their cases in the shifting landscape of immigration law; and finally taking a deep breath, synthesizing so much information, and rendering a lawful, smart, artful, confident decision on the spot, because the schedule allowed little time for reflection or written decisions before the next case began.
“Like doing death-penalty cases in a traffic-court setting,” one immigration judge said in testimony before Congress about the job.
Burman was known as one of the country’s best: an immigration judge since 1998, working in Los Angeles, Memphis and now Virginia, mastering the changing nuances of the law even as his caseload continued to grow. Like all immigration judges, it was his responsibility to act in some ways as a de facto lawyer for unrepresented immigrants, notifying them of possible forms of deportation relief. He was funny, kind and sometimes sarcastic. He called the rotating cast of interpreters and court security guards by their first names. Lawyers on both sides considered him fair and empathetic — a small miracle given the pressure he was under.
A group of psychiatrists surveyed immigration judges about their work in 2008 and concluded that the job was “impossibly stressful,” with burnout rates exceeding those of prison guards or physicians in busy hospitals, and since then the courtroom conditions had only worsened. The law becomes more complex each time widespread reform defaults to more piecemeal solutions. A hiring freeze has reduced 272 judges to 249, and a congressional proposal to hire 225 more stalled last year in the House. Nearly half of the judges who are left will be eligible for retirement in the next year, which means caseloads are again expected to rise.
“The volume is constant and unrelenting,” one immigration judge wrote in a survey about job satisfaction.
“Similar to a factory assembly line,” wrote another.
“The drip-drip-drip of Chinese water torture.”
“Not enough time to think.”
“I can’t take this place anymore.”
“This job is supposed to be about doing justice. The conditions under which we work make it more and more challenging to ensure that justice is done.”
Now Burman looked beyond Malik into the courtroom benches, where Iraheta’s wife was praying, clasping her hands on her lap. What would constitute justice in this case? To grant bond and return a family to its life in the United States? Or to detain and eventually deport a man who had snuck into the country and then broken its laws?
Nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, and here came the same murky decision every seven minutes: Who would be allowed to stay, and who would be forced to go?
“I feel badly for the family,” Burman said, but he had made up his mind. On this day, in this court, the two car accidents counted as crimes of moral turpitude. He turned back to Malik. “Do you want to set aside a right to appeal?”
“So no bond?” Malik said.
“Yes. That is my ruling.”
‘We are out of time’
Malik looked down at his desk. The prosecutor reached for the next case file. The judge began to fill out his paperwork.
“Your Honor, I would like to simply ask for your kindness,” Iraheta said, speaking on the video screen. He had been silent until this moment, a forgotten member of his own proceeding, but now he leaned toward the camera and begged. “I need to be there to take care of my family,” he said. “Please. I know I made terrible errors and horrible mistakes. I would like to ask for your kindness.”
“I promise if given the opportunity I will do everything I can and try to change in every manner possible.”
“I think it is too late for that. I’m sorry. We are out of time.”
Iraheta tried to speak faster, and then louder, but the courtroom had already returned to motion. Lawyers huddled with their clients. More families streamed in through the crowded entrance. Malik consoled Iraheta’s family in the hallway outside, explaining that he would stay detained until another hearing unless he chose to be quickly deported. Burman stretched his back and looked back down at his docket. So many cases still to decide. Seven minutes each.
“Okay,” he said. “Next.”
Filed under: Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules
January 28, 2014
Washington D.C. - Tonight, President Barack Obama pressed the reset button and laid out his priorities for 2014—and, ultimately, the final leg of his presidency. During the State of the Union address, the President discussed the need to create jobs and greater opportunity for all. He also made it clear that immigration reform and economic recovery go hand-in-hand, and he expects the House of Representatives to make the next move on immigration reform. The President said:
“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
The President’s inclusion of immigration as a matter of economic necessity reinforces efforts over the last few years to redefine how we think about immigration reform. Immigrants create jobs as consumers and entrepreneurs andspend their wages in U.S. businesses—buying food, clothes, appliances, cars, etc. This builds our economy as businesses respond to the presence of these new workers and consumers by investing in new restaurants, stores, and production facilities. Also immigrants are 30 percent more likely than the native-born to start their own business. The end result is more jobs for more workers.
The President’s message on immigration extended beyond his speech. Immigrants and immigration activists attended as guests of Congress and the First Lady. Mrs. Obama invited two immigrants to attend as her guests: Cristian Avila, a DREAMer and DACA recipient who recently completed a 22-day fast on the National Mall in support of immigration reform and Carlos Arredondo, a Costa-Rican-American peace activist made famous by his heroic acts after the Boston Marathon bombing.
These guests remind us of the humanitarian nature of immigration reform that cannot, and should not be overlooked. As we grapple with efforts to create a more just and equal system in which everyone has a fair shot at economic prosperity, we cannot forget the need for a fair and just immigration system. Deportations that separate families, disrupt businesses, and destroy hopes and dreams help no one and ultimately do not reflect our tradition as a nation of immigrants.
Tonight, the President reiterated that he is prepared to use the authority of his office to push a range of initiatives forward. Thus, if 2014 is to truly be a year of action and opportunity, we encourage the president not only to support efforts to complete immigration reform, but to do all in his power to end needless costs—to families, to workers, and to the economy—of an immigration system that does not fulfill the promise of America.
Written by Ruby Powers on January 29, 2014 @ 10:04 am
Filed under: Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, pathway to citizenship
WASHINGTON — The House Republican leadership’s broad framework for overhauling the nation’s immigration laws will call this week for a path to legal status — but not citizenship — for many of the 11 million adult immigrants who are in the country illegally, according to aides who have seen the party’s statement of principles. For immigrants brought to the United States illegally as young children, the Republicans would offer a path to citizenship.
But even before the document is unveiled later, some of the party’s leading strategists and conservative voices are urging that the immigration push be abandoned, or delayed until next year, to avoid an internal party rupture before the midterm elections.
“It’s one of the few things that could actually disrupt what looks like a strong Republican year,” said William Kristol, editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, calling an immigration push “a recipe for disaster.”
“Don’t Do It,” said the headline on a National Review editorial on Monday aimed at the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio. “The last thing the party needs is a brutal intramural fight when it has been dealt a winning hand” — troubles with the president’s health care law — ahead of the elections, the editorial said.
At the same time, Republicans have seen their support from Latinos plummet precisely because of their stance on immigration, and the “statement of principles,” barely more than a page, is intended to try to reverse that trajectory.
The statement of principles criticizes the American higher education system for educating some of the world’s best and brightest students only to lose them to their home countries because they cannot obtain green cards; insists that Republicans demand that current immigration laws be enforced before illegal immigrants are granted legal status; and mentions that some kind of triggers must be included in an immigration overhaul to ensure that borders are secured first, said Republican officials who have seen the principles.
With concern already brewing among conservatives who call any form of legal status “amnesty,” the document has the feel more of an attempt to test the waters than a blueprint for action. House Republican leaders will circulate it at a three-day retreat for their members that begins Wednesday on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Several pro-immigration organizations that have been briefed on the guidelines say they are not intended to serve as a conservative starting point for future negotiations, but as a gauge of how far to the left House Republicans are willing to move.
The principles say that Republicans do not support a “special path to citizenship,” but make an exception for the “Dreamers,” the immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, quoting a 2013 speech by Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader. “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents,” Mr. Cantor said at the time. “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home.”
Even ardent proponents of an immigration-law overhaul are, at best, cautiously optimistic. In June, a broad immigration overhaul — with a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants now in the country illegally, and stricter border security provisions that would have to be in place before the immigrants could gain legal status — passed the Senate with bipartisan support. But that legislation has largely stalled in the Republican-controlled House, where Mr. Boehner has rejected any negotiations with the Senate over its comprehensive bill.
“This is obviously a long, hard road,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat, who helped negotiate the Senate bill, “but I think since August, the number on the other side vehemently opposed has stayed the same, the number who think it should go forward has grown, and numbers in the wide middle are less opposed than they used to be. But that doesn’t guarantee an outcome one way or another.”
Republican Party leaders, backed strongly by business groups, have said an overhaul is critical if they are to repair their political position with Latino and other immigrant voters.
Barry Jackson, Mr. Boehner’s former chief of staff, is consulting for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supports an overhaul that expands high-technology visas and guest worker programs.
But immigration is less of an issue during midterm elections, when immigrants are not as likely to vote and House members in safe districts are insulated somewhat from the wrath of more moderate swing voters. Often the biggest threats to Republicans are primary challenges from more conservative candidates who say that changing the immigration status of someone who is in the country illegally amounts to amnesty for a lawbreaker.Written by Ruby Powers on January 28, 2014 @ 7:16 pm
Filed under: immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform