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The Expected Expansion of the Provisional Waiver (I-601A)

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Consular Processing, Deportation, I-601 Waivers, I-601A Waivers, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, pathway to citizenship Leave a comment

The Expected Expansion of the Provisional Waiver (I-601A)

By Board Certified Immigration Attorney Ruby L. Powers

November 4, 2015

The Provisional Waiver (I-601A) process currently allows certain people who are present in the United States to request from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a provisional waiver for certain unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility prior to departing from the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visas—rather than applying for a waiver abroad after the immigrant visa interview using the Form I-601, Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes to expand eligibility for provisional waivers to include aliens in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories, including family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, certain special immigrants, and Diversity Visa program selectees, together with their derivative spouses and children.  It also proposes expanding who may be considered a qualifying relative for purpose of the extreme hardship determination to include legal permanent resident spouses and parents.  This has a far reaching scope and is a refreshing positive change in light of deadlocked reform and executive actions being held in litigation all year.

Before the existing and more limited provisional waiver rule was implemented in March 4, 2013, many families had to be separated for 4 to 18 months to complete a legal permanent residency process via consular processing due to an illegal entry or other grounds of inadmissibility. Before the provisional waiver, clients might have been able to stay in Mexico only 4 months due to the generous pilot program in Cd. Juarez, Mexico or in some cases wait 18 months in Honduras or longer, if an appeal was sought and in other countries there were inconsistent waiting times. Obviously, there were hesitations for families to proceed with this process for legalization.

Then the idea of the Provisional Waiver was formulated as a way to allow certain family members to apply for the waiver in the U.S., and prevent waiting and separation times abroad. The concept was proposed in January 2012 and initially opened for Federal Register comment period on January 9, 2012 and again April 2, 2012. The rule was announced January 3, 2013 and began 60 days later, on March 4, 2013.

After the Provisional Waiver program began, the Law Office of Ruby L. Powers has been able to help countless families gain legal permanent residency for family members who only need to remain out of the country for 2 to 4 weeks, sometimes for less time, to complete their consular processing. From fiscal years 2013 to 2015, 74,439 waivers were filed and of those 44,198 waivers were approved and 18,773 waivers were denied.  It was such a success that the DHS would like to expand it to people in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories and expand the qualifying member for the waiver to spouses and citizens of legal permanent residents as well.

On November 20, 2014, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a memorandum, “Expansion of the Provisional Waiver Program,” directing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to amend its regulations to expand access to the provisional waiver program, to provide additional guidance on the definition of “extreme hardship,” and to “consider criteria by which a presumption of extreme hardship may be determined to exist.”

Currently DHS is proposing to expand eligibility for provisional waivers to include as qualifying relatives, who can establish extreme hardship, an LPR spouse or parent, not just to U.S. citizen spouses or parents, as it currently stands.  This would be in the interests of encouraging eligible aliens to complete the visa process abroad, promoting family unity, and improving administrative efficiency. The expansion of the provisional waiver program would be a welcome change. The hardships suffered by preference category families, who face the same lengthy separation from loved ones when they seek legal permanent resident status, are as equally compelling as those suffered by immediate relatives. Opening up the provisional waiver process to these individuals will offer more measurable benefits to USCIS and DOS, will further facilitate legal immigration by encouraging a more sizable group to come out of the shadows, and comports with USCIS’s goal of alleviating unnecessary familial hardships.                 On July 22, 2015, the Federal Register opened a 60-day public comment period on the expansion of the provisional waiver which ended September 21, 2015. As we see, the previous provisional waiver had two comment periods and took a year of discussion that was noted to the public. In this case, the expansion was noted nearly a year ago on November 20, 2014 and we greatly hope the rule will be in place in early 2016.

Additionally, the new rule may have a more concise definition of extreme hardship, the standard one must meet for a successful provisional waiver.  This will allow legal practitioners to save their clients time and money by telling them what specific type of evidence is required to prove extreme hardship and accordingly streamline the process and shorten the processing times for cases filed meeting the new guidelines. Currently there are only a few cases that hold guidance and a large room for discretion which can cause varying results in the applications and outcomes.

If you may know someone who could benefit from this expanded provisional waiver, although it is not a rule yet, it is helpful to have a consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.  Ideally, learn if the attorney and their firm have extensive experience with waivers. It is important to plan in advance in case freedom of information act requests, FBI background checks, and collection of other documents are necessary. Additionally, in many cases certain processes would need to be started with requisite wait times before the waiver process may begin. In some cases, preparation, research and strategy take time. Once this rule is in effect, many people will be searching for help to see how it could benefit them.

Furthermore, we would like to warn you and others about the use of people who practice law without a license. In Texas, people often called ‘notarios’ frequently persuade people needing immigration legal services that the process is simple and an attorney is not needed. In the process, they are acting illegally by providing legal advice without a license and many times put people in difficult situations that are hard to correct.

The Law Office of Ruby L. Powers has had continued success with waiver and provisional waivers reuniting families from many countries.   I regularly speak locally and nationwide on the topic of waivers and am regularly consulted by other attorneys on problem cases. We have a team with many years of immigration, consular processing, and waiver experience specific to this article’s topic. We pride ourselves in quality service and helping guide clients through the arduous process to a reunification, peace of mind, greater financial and emotional stability and an improved life in the United States.


DACA Renewal

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Deportation, education, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

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.


Immigrants jailed just to hit a number

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Deportation, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment

Nobody likes quotas. When there’s even a whiff of a parking-ticket quota, the public is outraged. When France imposed a quota on imported American movies, it provoked international controversy.

But there is one quota — and a pernicious one — that no one denies. While the Congress is to be congratulated for passing an appropriations bill with bipartisan support, there are troublesome riders attached to it. One is the rider establishing a quota of a minimum of 34,000 immigrants in detention on a daily basis while they resolve their immigration status.

The detention quota is unprecedented and unique to the immigration context. As Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat, explained to Bloomberg News in June 2013: “No other law enforcement agencies have a quota for the number of people that they must keep in jail.”

But hard-liners in Congress fight tirelessly to keep it in place. Last year, when the prisoner population dipped to 30,773, U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul wrote a pointed public letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, informing him that he was “in clear violation of the statute” and its 34,000 prisoner requirement.

Notice that’s not the number of immigrants Congress wants to deport; it’s the number Congress insists on incarcerating while they await their fate.

The quota can be found in a few lines of the 1,582-page government funding bill. The section requires ICE to continue to maintain that set number of people in immigration lock-ups — what the bill euphemistically calls “beds.”

If that sounds like a lot of detainees, it is. As recently as 2005, when we had about the same number of undocumented immigrants in the United States as today, the average number of immigrants in detention was far lower — below 20,000.

In 2007, Congress for the first time passed a law with the 34,000 number; it has remained in place ever since. Last year, then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano objected, telling Congress, “we ought to be detaining according to our priorities, according to public-safety threats, level of offense, and the like, not an arbitrary bed number.” Her plea fell on deaf ears.

Such a rigid number cannot help but have a corrupting influence on the entire process. Imagine trying to get a fair trial in criminal court if your state legislature mandated that judges had to fill a certain number of prison cells each day. It would be impossible.

How can lawyers representing the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement do their job dispassionately — seeking incarceration only of those who truly represent a danger to society or a risk of flight — if they know their funding is dependent upon hitting a number?

Next time ICE lawyers seek to incarcerate an immigrant, the immigrant’s lawyer should ask the ICE lawyer whether their request is on the merits — or to fill a quota.

The problem is, even taking my advice won’t help most of those in the docks of our immigration courts: Fully 60% of the men and women detained by immigration judges in New York are not represented by counsel. Forced to defend themselves, their cases drag on endlessly. According to the most recent data from a think tank at Syracuse University, the average immigration case in immigration court has now been pending for 570 days without resolution.

For a free immigrant, long delays can work to their advantage. But for a detained immigrant, they can be brutal. While some immigration facilities are humane, a recent lawsuit by the ACLU alleges that many detainees face “deplorable conditions of confinement even worse than those faced by convicted prisoners.”

It is a serious problem, and a shameful injustice, but one with straightforward solution. Congress should repeal the quota. And until then, ICE lawyers and immigration judges should ignore it. Justice demands no less.

Morgenthau, former Manhattan district attorney, is of counsel to Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/immigrants-jailed-hit-number-article-1.1583488#ixzz2r9uFSIJr


Immigration Debate: What’s More Important, Border Security Or Protecting Immigrant Workers?

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Deportation, immigration bill, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

As billions of dollars of legal goods, as well as shipments of drugs and groups of undocumented immigrants continue to cross the U.S. border, immigration reform and border security have become a major topic of discussion. Photo by N. Parish Flannery @LatAmLENS

The immigration debate is under way in the United States. While several prominent Republicans are calling for more focus on border security, Democrats are pushing for a legal pathway to citizenship and a focus on the current reality of the U.S. labor market. In 1970 there were fewer than one million people in the U.S. from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Now the U.S. is home to more than 14 million people from these countries. In recent decades undocumented immigrants have shifted away from specialization in temporary jobs in agriculture in southwest border states and are settling in a diverse array of cities throughout the country and finding work in a variety of economic sectors. At the same time, in recent years drug cartel related violence has spiked in many northern Mexican cities and illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants continue to pass over the border undetected. The reform debate focuses on updating U.S. legislation to account for the current economic and geopolitical reality.

In 2013 construction, manufacturing, meatpacking, food service, and maintenance are major sectors in the U.S. economy and also important employers of immigrant laborers. In 2012 construction spending in the U.S.totaled $857 billion. Builder Jacobs Engineering reported nearly $11 billion in revenue in 2012 and is poised for strong growth in 2013. Construction and maintenance giant Fluor Corporation reported revenues of $27.6 billion in 2012. Meat producer Tyson Foods reported $33 billion in revenue in fiscal 2012. In the U.S. major businesses have a stake in promoting immigration reform as an economic priority.

Doug Oberhelman, Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, Inc, an Illinois based company that earned $65.9 billion in revenues in 2012, has emerged as a pro-reform advocate. “Providing consistent, reliable access to both high-skilled and low-skilled talent is critical to sustain our nation’s global competitiveness in many industries including healthcare, technology, manufacturing, hospitality, and tourism. We need reform that will provide opportunities for immigrants and foreign students to enter the U.S. and our workforce legally, attracting and keeping the best, the brightest, and the hard working,” heannounced during a recent public event.

In a recent blog, Univision correspondent Fernando Espuelas explains “The Senate bill is a legislative solution that will help grow our economy, create more jobs and bring 11 million people out of the shadows. The bill not only enjoys broad, bipartisan consensus in the Senate, but also has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the largest employee unions, while businesses from Silicon Valley to the industrial heartland are clamoring for an immigration system that satisfies the real-world needs of an America with aging demographics and anemic economic growth.”

Facebook empresario Mark Zuckerburg, whose company earned $5.1 billion in revenues in 2012 and donates to both Republicans and Democrats, has emerged as a proponent for immigration reform. “This is something that we believe is really important for the future of our country — and for us to do what’s right,” he said.

The proposed bill, to be successful, will need to balance demands from business owners and economic analysts who argue for new channels for legal immigration with the concerns of voters who are worried about border security. The Senate bill calls for the deployment 20,000 border patrol agents and the construction of 700 miles of fencing, at a cost to taxpayers of around $46 billion.

Raul Labrador, a conservative Puerto Rican Republican congressman from Idaho, has voiced his opinion that “You see all the money we’re spending at the border, and the great job these men and women are doing…and they’re still not stopping all the people coming in.”

Political opponents have called Labrador’s security-focused stance a gimmick designed to derail the debate.

Fernando Mejia, immigrant rights director of the Idaho Communicty Action Network, said “Republican Congressmen are slowly but surely backing a pathway to citizenship – not Rep. Labrador’s extreme political gimmick – for good reason: Citizenship is the only real solution that lives up to our country’s values. Mr. Labrador would do well to visit his own state’s immigrant communities, acknowledge their contributions to society and the economy, and join with his Republican colleagues supporting family unity through a pathway to citizenship.”

President Barack Obama recently explained that ”[he is] absolutely confident that if that [Senate] bill was on the floor of the House, it would pass.”

“The challenge right now is not that there aren’t a majority of House members, just like a majority of Senate members, who [are] prepared to support this bill, the problem is internal Republican caucus politics,” headded.

Although a handful of Republicans continue to call for more fencing and patrolmen, some politicians in Texas wish that people involved in the immigration debate would pay more attention to their views on cross-border commerce and border security issues.

U.S. Congressman Pete Gallego, a Democrat who represents the 23rd district of Texas explained, “Those of us who live along the border want to be just as safe and secure in our beds as anyone else does, but we want a solution that works.”

“We don’t want a political solution, we want a practical solution,” he added.

For many border residents, immigration reform needs to balance security issues with economic reality.

“One of the frustrations that people along the border have is so many people who are trying to drive the debate on border policy and border security are people who don’t live on the border, who’ve never been to the border, and yet they’re trying to dictate the terms by which we do border security,” Gallegosaid.

In an excellent article for The National Journal politics writer Elahe Izadi explains that “In 2012, the Border Patrol apprehended 21,720 illegal immigrants in the Del Rio sector, the highest number in the sector since 2007 and much higher than the El Paso sector’s 9,678 apprehensions.”

According to some residents, while illegal border crossings are a fact of life, fears about cartel violence spilling over the border have been overblown in the media. Proposals for heavy militarization along the Rio Grande look overzealous to some residents. While many residents might welcome an influx of federal spending, they are skeptical of the claims about security risks.

Galllego explained, “If you’re telling me you’re going to [hire more patrolmen and] double the number of government jobs in my community and if you’re going to allow these people to contribute to the economy, they’re going to eat out at restaurants and shop at stores and buy homes—from an economic development perspective, I’m for that. But that’s not a border-security perspective.”

Texas State Representative Poncho Nevarez, a Democrat whose house abuts the Rio Grande river, said that on the national stage, politicians “use the border, they see the area as a sword and a shield in politics, but we’re human beings, we live down here.”

“We shouldn’t be pawns in this game to see who can get themselves elected because they can beat their chest more about how they secured the border,” Nevarez added.

Laura Allen, the Republican county judge in Val Verde County Texasexplained, ”Ask me when was the last time we had to shut down our bridge because violence spilled over from Mexico. It’s not happening.”

Shawn Moran, the vice president of National Border Patrol Council, a union representing Border Patrol agents explained that most “people coming here, even if they’re coming here illegally, they’re coming here to work in agriculture or construction. But there is a large group that is coming here to sell drugs or be part of criminal gangs and commit crimes. We shouldn’t overlook that in any sort of immigration reform.”

But, many observers think that security goals and economic goals can be addressed at the same time by expanding investment in infrastructure along the border. More than one billion dollars worth of goods cross the U.S.-Mexico border every day. Current infrastructure shortfalls have led long delays at many border crossings.

According to Ramsey English Cantu, the mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas “We continue to see ports of entries where people are smuggling drugs across because there isn’t the necessary infrastructure. These are the things that need to be ultimately addressed.”

Residents are especially skeptical of spending on fencing. “The fence was not a good thing,” Allen said. “We would have liked to see that money put to use for other things because, like I said, I can very easily show you where people walk around it, so why did we spend all that money?” she added.

In her article for The National Journal Izadi explains “Between 2006 and 2009, the federal government allocated $2.4 billion for construction of 670 miles of pedestrian and vehicular fences, with costs ranging between $400,000 and $15.1 million per mile.”

But, according to border patrol rep Moran, “no fence is going to stop people who are determined to get into this country. You can’t have a fence with gaps if you want it to be effective.”

Many residents in border towns feel that a security-focused approach to immigration ignores their cultural and economic ties with cities across the border in Mexico.

“If we take this militia approach to our border, what kind of message are we sending to our sister country? I don’t like that message,” Allen explained.

“Would we do that on the border with Canada? I really don’t feel like we would,” she said.


Deportations Drop as Obama Pushes for New Immigration Law

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Deportation, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment
By Michael C. Bender December 17, 2013

The Obama administration has cut back on deporting undocumented immigrants, with forced departures on track to drop more than 10 percent, the first annual decline in more than a decade.

In his first term, President Barack Obama highlighted record deportations to show he was getting tough on immigration enforcement, which Republicans and even some Democrats have demanded as a condition for overhauling existing laws.

The last fiscal year was different. The government deported 343,020 people in the U.S. illegally from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 7, 2013, the most recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement data show. If that pace continued through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, removals would reach a six-year low.

The drop, which comes as Obama faces growing criticism from Hispanics over deportations, is a result of a new policy of focusing limited enforcement resources “on public safety, national security and border security,” ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said. “ICE has been vocal about the shift in our immigration-enforcement strategy,” she said. “Our removal numbers illustrate this.”

Legislation to revamp the U.S. immigration system is stalled because of resistance from Republicans in the House of Representatives. Republican lawmakers opposed to changes backed by both Obama and former President George W. Bush, including offering a path to citizenship to the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants, have demanded tougher enforcement before considering new legislation.

Pushing Back

Yet as deportations climbed to a record 409,900 in fiscal 2012, Obama has faced pushback from the Democratic Party’s Hispanic backers, who helped provide his victory margin in two elections. There have also been protests from immigration activists, most recently at a speech he gave last month in San Francisco.

“He’s going to continue to be confronted,” Representative Luis Gutierrez said of Obama, a fellow Illinois Democrat. “You can’t say you’re going to protect the undocumented and give them a pathway to citizenship, and then deport them in unprecedented numbers.”

Even with the recent decline, about 1.93 million people have been deported during Obama’s five years in office. That approaches Bush’s eight-year total and is almost as many as in the 108 years between the administrations of Presidents Benjamin Harrison, when Department of Homeland Security records begin, and Bill Clinton.

Contractors Benefit

What’s more, a decline in deportations doesn’t necessarily mean fewer people will be locked up.

In 2009, a Democratic-controlled Congress set a minimum on how many undocumented immigrants should be detained each day pending hearings. It’s now 34,000, up from about 20,000 in 2005.

Even a broad immigration bill approved by the Senate this year — which creates a road to citizenship for undocumented workers — would “increase the prison population by about 14,000 inmates annually by 2018” due to more spending on enforcement, a congressional cost-estimate projected.

That may have a positive effect on companies that the government increasingly relies on to detain those being held for deportation hearings, if it becomes law, said Kevin Campbell, who tracks private prison companies for Avondale Partners, a Nashville-based financial-services company.

“You think about immigration reform and you intuitively think that means less people prosecuted for immigration offenses, but it seems like it will be just the opposite,” Campbell said.

Policy Changes

The surge in deportations has benefited companies such as Boca Raton, Florida-based GEO Group Inc. (GEO:US), which runs prisons in five countries. ICE accounted for 17 percent of the company’s $1.48 billion in revenue (GEO:US) last year, up from 11 percent of $1.04 billion in revenue in 2008, according to company filings (GEO:US).

Campbell and ICE officials said the drop in deportations stems from changes the administration started making in 2011.

In a departure from Bush’s policies, which emphasized raids on businesses suspected of hiring undocumented immigrants, then-ICE Director John Morton said deportations should focus on “national security, public safety and border security.”

Morton discouraged agents from detaining young immigrants, crime victims and “individuals pursuing legitimate civil rights complaints.”

This “prosecutorial discretion” accounted for 16,300 immigration court cases being closed in 2013, according to data compiled for Bloomberg by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. That’s up from 9,700 last year.

About 58 percent of deportations in 2013 were of “criminals,” ICE data show. In 2008, it was 31 percent.

More Exemptions

The list of exemptions has continued to grow.

In June 2012, five months before his re-election, Obama exempted from deportation certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security halted deportations for families of U.S. military members because of the “stress and anxiety” that possible forced removals puts on those in the Armed Services.

The change has provoked administration critics.

“These are policies that severely restrict ICE agents from arresting and charging illegal aliens,” said Jessica Vaughn, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which opposes increased immigration.

Beyond Limits

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said during a Dec. 3 hearing that the changes “push executive power beyond all limits.”

“President Obama is the first president since Richard Nixon to ignore a duly enacted law simply because he disagrees with it,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said she wants to “see action from the president” to halt deportations.

“If somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation,” Pelosi said in an interview with Telemundo, according to a transcript provided by her office.

The president isn’t ignoring the law, White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.

“We have to enforce the law,” he said. “There is prosecutorial discretion, and that is applied. The focus is on those who’ve committed felonies.”

That approach, he said, is “not a replacement for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Do More

Advocates for the Senate bill want Obama to do more. This month, 29 House Democrats, including Gutierrez, signed a letter calling on Obama to suspend deportations.

That has backing from the AFL-CIO. The federation of labor unions with 13 million members spent at least $6.4 million supporting Obama in his 2012 re-election campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“The president has the authority and the ability to ease this crisis,” said Ana Avendano, director of immigration and community action at the AFL-CIO.

Obama was interrupted at an immigration rally on Nov. 25 in San Francisco when Ju Hong, a college student standing on the riser behind him, yelled that the president has “power to stop deportations for all.”

“Actually, I don’t,” Obama replied. “If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws.”

Stalled Legislation

The bill that the Senate passed in June with bipartisan support has stalled in the House, where Republican Speaker John Boehner said on Nov. 13 that he has “no intention” of considering it.

That doesn’t mean attempts to change the law are dead. Boehner said he prefers passing parts of the legislation separately, and Obama has said he’s willing to support that approach.

Boehner this month hired Rebecca Tallent, who as the Bipartisan Policy Center’s director of immigration policy helped on immigration bills as a staff member for Senator John McCain and former Representative Jim Kolbe. The two Republicans supported easing immigration laws.

With an average of about 1,000 deportations a day this year, that means more than 165,000 immigrants have been removed from the country since the Senate bill passed.

“We just want the chance to be able to work,” said Rebeca Nolasco, a 21-year-old who received deferred action and whose mother, Diana Ramos, is in an Arizona detention center facing deportation. “It doesn’t harm anyone.”


An Immigration Blueprint

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Deportation, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

April 16, 2013
By  (The New York Times)

 

Huge news from the scorched desert of immigration reform: germination!

At last there is a bill, the product of a bipartisan group of senators who have been working on it for months, that promises at least the hope of citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. It is complicated, full of mechanisms and formulas meant to tackle border security, the allocation of visas, methods of employment verification and the much-debated citizenship path.

Twitter analysts spent all day Tuesday parsing just the 17-page outline that was unveiled ahead of the actual bill. There will be much to chew on in coming weeks, but it is worth a moment to marvel at the bill’s mere existence, and at the delicate balancing of competing interests that coaxed this broad set of compromises into being.

Without, however, celebrating too much too soon. The first part of the bill is a dreary reassertion of the doctrine that an insufficiently militarized border is the source of all our immigration problems — as if inefficiencies in the labor market and the ill effects of unjust laws can be fixed with more drones and fences. It throws $6.5 billion over 10 years at the southern border, and envisions the creation of a commission of border governors telling the Homeland Security Department how to spend more billions on “manpower, technology and infrastructure.”

Though foolishly costly, this border fixation will be tolerable as long as it is not fatal to the heart and soul of the bill: legalization for 11 million. The bill includes arbitrary benchmarks, or triggers, that have to be achieved before legalization kicks in. These cannot be allowed to justify delay in getting immigrants right with the law.

Here is where things get interesting. The bill gets around the “amnesty” stalemate by turning the undocumented into Registered Provisional Immigrants — not citizens or green-card holders, but not illegal, either. They will wait in that anteroom for a decade at least before they can get green cards. But they will also work, and travel freely. The importance of legalizing them, erasing the crippling fear of deportation, cannot be overstated.

That said, a decade-plus path is too long and expensive. The fees and penalties stack up: $500 to apply for the first six years of legal status, $500 to renew, then a $1,000 fine. If the goal is to get people on the books and the economy moving, then shackling them for years to fees and debt makes no sense.

The means of ejection from the legalization path, too, cannot be arbitrary and unjust — people should not be disqualified for minor crimes or failure to meet unfair work requirements. It should not take superhuman strength and rectitude, plus luck and lots of money, for an immigrant to march the 10 years to a green card.

Then there is the mere two years set aside for taking legalization applications, which is crazy: you cannot fit 11 million people through a window that small. The coming debate will be fierce. Lobbyists for business say there are far too few temporary worker visas. Advocates for families will lament the loss of visas for siblings and adult children. Environmentalists will not like giving Homeland Security unfettered access to all federal borderlands.

While there is a lot to worry about, our quick read of a fresh bill finds other encouraging things besides the opening of the pathway. It includes a good version of the Dream Act, to help young people who were brought here illegally as children speedily become citizens. It allows, amazingly, some deportees to re-enter the country to join their spouses and young children.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 will not win prizes for brevity or eloquence. But it exists; it is a starting point, something to be nurtured and improved. It will be judged by how it unlocks the potential of the immigration system, now choked by inefficiency and illegality, with companies that scoff at the law and employees who work outside it. The system has gears that fail to mesh — business with labor, parents with children, the promise of America with the people who would fulfill it. Time to start repairs.

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U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Border Enforcement, citizenship, Deportation, Immigration Law Leave a comment

U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone
Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration
by Walter Ewing

Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003, its immigration-enforcement agencies—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—have been officially devoted to the protection of U.S. national security and the prevention of terrorist attacks. However, the bulk of the work done by CBP and ICE on a day-to-day basis involves apprehending and deporting non-violent immigrants who have only committed immigration offenses such as unlawful entry or re-entry into the United States. The highly punitive treatment of these immigration offenders serves no national-security purpose and is not an effective deterrent.
These are among the findings of a new report released by the University of Arizona’s Center for Latin American Studies. The report, In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security, is based on data from the Migrant Border Crossing Study. During 2010, 2011, and 2012, a team of researchers from the United States and Mexico conducted survey interviews with 1,113 recent deportees about their experiences crossing the border, being apprehended by U.S. authorities, and being repatriated to Mexico. The surveys yield new insight into the conduct and consequences of U.S. immigration-enforcement programs.
The report highlights the pointlessly inhumane treatment of non-violent immigration offenders in a number of U.S. enforcement programs. But one in particular is Operation Streamline, which is basically a mass trial for border-crossers that convicts between 40 and 80 people per hearing for “illegal entry”—a misdemeanor offense. A group lawyer is provided for defendants, but limited time and the challenge of representing scores of defendants at once have raised concerns about the quality of legal counsel. The ineffectiveness of legal counsel in this setting is apparent from the survey interviews. When asked “What did your lawyer tell you about your rights?” recent deportees answered as follows:
40% said they were instructed to sign the form admitting guilt and not fight the charges against them.
40% were informed that they have legal rights.
7% were told nothing or could not understand what was said to them.
2% were asked to report any abuses against them.
1% were checked for their actual legal status.
No one mentioned the prospect of being paroled while waiting for resolution of an immigration case.
As the report emphasizes, a first offense for unlawful entry carries a maximum six-month sentence. But those who are convicted have a criminal record based solely on an immigration offense that will exclude them from legal residence or entry. If they are apprehended again, they will be charged with a felony for illegal re-entry and sentenced to a maximum two-year sentence. However, upon asking recent deportees what they understood about their sentence, only 71% mentioned that they would face some amount of jail time if they returned to the United States.
Operation Streamline accounts for much of the increase in deportations of “criminal aliens” in recent years, simply because of the rise in immigration offenders whose activities were previously considered administrative offenses. Criminal prosecutions for illegal entry increased from 3,900 cases to 43,700 between Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 and FY 2010. During the same period prosecutions for illegal re-entry increased from 7,900 to 35,800. Roughly 48% of all immigration prosecutions now come from illegal entry and 44% from illegal re-entry.
And yet, despite the harsh consequences, many of the people ensnared by Operation Streamline and other immigration-enforcement programs continue trying to return to the United States because that is where their homes are. As the New York Times noted in a recent discussion of the report:
“…about 60 percent of the respondents said they planned to try crossing the border again in the near future. The reasons were clear: of the 1,113 recently deported migrants who were interviewed at ports of entry and in shelters in six border communities in Mexico, roughly 300 of them had children under the age of 18 who were American citizens.”
The report concludes that border security cannot be achieved by programs that punish non-violent immigration offenders. The authors call for a reexamination of why we as a nation allocate so many resources to imposing criminal sentences and punishments on people with no previous criminal history or who have committed only minor legal infractions. Moreover, we must make distinctions among different categories of criminal offenses and provide relief for people who have criminal histories purely because of immigration violations. Otherwise, we are needlessly destroying the lives and families of people who call the United States home.


Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Deportation, DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

 

Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

By Michael O’Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News

February 7, 2013, 8:44 am NBCNews.com

A bipartisan group of senators formally unveiled an immigration reform framework that they hope the Senate could

pass “in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion” by late spring or early summer.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday on Capitol Hill, five of the eight members of a bipartisan working group

announced the contours of their agreement, which would shore up America’s borders and provide an eventual path to

citizenship for undocumented workers.

“We still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan grouping is a major breakthrough,” New York Sen. Charles

Schumer, a Democratic member of the group of eight, said Monday afternoon.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, set an ambitious goal of translating the statement of principles released

Sunday evening by the senators into legislation by March. He said the Senate would try to approve the legislation for

consideration in the House by the end of spring, or early summer.

The major development involves the pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers that would be established

under the Senate plan. Conservatives have resisted similar proposals — even when they were proposed by President

George W. Bush — and labeled them as “amnesty” for individuals who entered the United States illegally.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that Americans “have been too content for too long” to allow many undocumented

workers to provide basic services “while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”

“It is not beneficial to this country to have these people here, hidden in the shadows,” added McCain, whose own

experience on the issue of immigration provides an instructive example of why immigration reform has been so

elusive for Congress.

McCain had long been one of the most vocal advocates of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, but

tempered his opinions in recent years amid conservative scrutiny. As he was fighting off a conservative primary

challenger in 2010, McCain appeared in a television ad saying it was time to “build the danged fence” — a reference

to the proposed fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is favored by a number of Republicans.

The senators’ announcement on Monday comes a day before President Barack Obama was set to make a major

policy address on Tuesday in Nevada on the topic of immigration. While Obama had not been expected to outline

any formal legislation during his remarks, lawmakers from both parties will carefully parse the president’s words for

their impact on the immigration debate. Schumer said that he had spoken to the president about the Senate

framework, and that the president was “delighted” by it.

Obama himself had vowed to achieve comprehensive immigration reform during his first term, but his efforts were

stymied. That failure invited a degree of consternation from the Latino community during last year’s presidential

campaign, even though Obama had taken executive action to halt the deportation of individuals who were illegally

brought to the United States as children.

(That order, made by Obama last summer, sought to effectively enact much of the DREAM Act, a piece of

legislation that failed in the Senate as recently as 2010, when some Republicans who’d previously supported the law

flipped, and voted against it.)

Indeed, the success of this push in the Senate may well hinge on Republicans’ willingness to go along with a plan

that gives undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, an influential House

Republican, already labeled the Senate framework as “amnesty” in a statement on Monday.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/28/16741007-senators-hope-to-approve-bipartisan-immigration-reform-within-Page 2 of 2 07/02/2013 09:44 AM

House GOP leaders were otherwise mum on Monday toward the Senate proposal, though top Republicans have

previously expressed a preference for tackling immigration in a piecemeal manner.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the eight-member group and a favorite of conservatives, has worked to

gather conservative support for the proposal. He said at Monday’s press conference that while no one is happy about

the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally, “We have an obligation and need to address

the reality that we face.”

The other factor weighing upon Republicans involves their poor performance among Hispanic voters — a bloc that is

growing in importance in a variety of key battleground states — during last fall’s election.

“The Republican Party is losing support of our Hispanic citizens,” McCain said Monday in a nod toward a variable

that could convince more GOP lawmakers to support this bipartisan proposal. But, McCain noted, “We’re not going

to get everybody onboard.”

In the meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledged to “do everything in [his] power as the

majority leader to get a bill across the finish line.”


Napolitano says 200K illegal immigrants have applied for deferred deportation

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Deportation, Immigration Law Leave a comment
By Jordy Yager – 10/24/12 05:15 PM ET

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Wednesday that more than 3,000 young illegal immigrants are applying for deferred deportation every day under the administration’s new immigration policy.

About 200,000 young people in the country illegally have applied to defer their deportation for at least two years and get a temporary work permit since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began accepting applications under the new rules two months ago, according to Napolitano.

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