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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.


In a crowded immigration court, seven minutes to decide a family’s future

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment
His courtroom rarely came to order, and by now the judge had decided it was a waste of time to try. Interpreters explained legalese in three languages. Adults squeezed into crowded seats while children crouched in the center aisle. A court official stood near the doorway and worried about the building’s fire code. “Por favor,” he said in halting Spanish, as another family tried to enter. “No mas.”

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.

The state of U.S. immigration

See how immigration trends have shifted over the years.

“The rocket docket” is what lawyers had begun calling this schedule, warning clients that their future could be decided in the time it took to walk to the restroom and back.

“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.”

‘Impossibly stressful’

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.”


Immigration Reform and the State of the Union

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, pathway to citizenship Leave a comment

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.

 


Top Republicans to Call for Legal Status for Some Immigrants

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

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.

GRAPHIC

Progress on an Immigration Overhaul in 5 Areas

The status of the immigration overhaul in the Senate and House.

 OPEN GRAPHIC

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.

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William Kristol, a conservative editor, opposes a Republican push on immigration. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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.


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


Republican Ideas on Immigration Could Legalize Up to 6.5 Million, Study Says

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment
By JULIA PRESTON
A Dream Action Coalition demonstration last month.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesA Dream Action Coalition demonstration last month.

Between 4.4 million and 6.5 million immigrants illegally in the United States could gain an eventual pathway to citizenship under proposals being discussed by Republicans in the House of Representatives, according to an estimate published Tuesday by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.

The estimate is based on policy ideas that have been put forward by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, a Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. Goodlatte has said he would not support legislation with a “special” or direct pathway to citizenship for 11.5 million immigrants in the country without legal papers, such as the 13-year pathway in a broad bill the Senate passed last June.

House Republicans have rejected the sweeping approach of that bill and said they would handle immigration in smaller pieces. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has said that Mr. Goodlatte is preparing principles that will guide House action on this issue this year.

 

Mr. Goodlatte has said he would instead offer a provisional legal status to illegal immigrants, then allow those who can demonstrate they are eligible to apply for permanent residency — a document known as a green card — through the existing system, based on sponsorship by a family member or an employer. Obtaining a green card is the crucial step toward American citizenship.

The foundation’s report, prepared by Stuart Anderson, its executive director, finds that even without major changes to current immigration law, 3.1 million to 4.4 million immigrants now illegally in the United States would be eligible for green cards because they are parents of American citizens. As many as 600,000 could gain green cards as spouses of citizens and legal residents, and up to 45,000 could receive green cards within two decades as low-skilled workers.

The estimate assumes the House would pass legislation creating new green cards for young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, who call themselves Dreamers. Mr. Anderson calculates that 800,000 to 1.5 million of those immigrants would gain a pathway to citizenship.

Mr. Anderson’s calculation, based on figures from the Department of Homeland Security among other sources, is the first effort to put numbers on proposals emerging from House Republicans. On a conference call Tuesday with reporters, Mr. Anderson stressed that the estimates were imprecise because no Republican has so far offered a specific legalization bill.

Under the foundation’s projection, at least two million immigrants would have to wait a long time — as much as two decades — before they could apply for naturalization. As many as five million immigrants would remain here with legal status but no prospect of becoming citizens.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that eight million illegal immigrants would gain a pathway to citizenship under the Senate bill. Many Democrats and immigrant advocates have rejected any legislation that excludes large groups of residents from citizenship.

Tamar Jacoby, a Republican who is president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a small-business organization that supports an overhaul of immigration laws, said on Tuesday that proposals for a bill with no separate path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants were gaining ground among House Republicans, as the basis for negotiations with the Senate. She said Mr. Anderson’s estimates were higher than many immigration analysts have predicted.

“The half a loaf is more substantial than many people would have thought,” she said.


Eight Immigration Wins In 2013

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

Despite a landmark comprehensive immigration reform bill that cleared the Senate in June, a corresponding bill that addresses the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States has yet to come to a vote in the House. In fact, the only immigration-related bill that House members brought to a floor vote was a measure to pave the way for deporting undocumented immigrants between the ages of 16 and 31. But although the year ended without a victory on the greatest potential avenue for reform through a bill in Congress, the immigration reform movement achieved other crucial victories in 2013. Here are eight:
drivers license

1. Driver’s licenses and state tuition: In 2012, only three states granted driver’s licenses to the undocumented. Now, 11 states — California, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont, Colorado, and Connecticut — and the District of Columbia have passed legislation that allows the undocumented to legally drive. Studies show that giving driver’s licenses to unlicensed drivers, a category that includes many undocumented immigrants, would vastly improve public safety because drivers would have to pass a test before they obtain a license and buy auto insurance. This year, Colorado, Minnesota, and Oregon also passed laws that permit in-state tuition for undocumented students.

2. Key anti-immigrant research discredited: The Heritage Foundation published a report in April that reform opponents hoped to use against the Senate bill. The paper, which argued that immigration reform would be a $6.3 trillion burden on the economy, was immediately slammed by Republicans, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, American Action Forum, and the libertarian CATO Institute for its dishonest methodology. Soon after, co-author Jason Richwine resigned from Heritage over his controversial Harvard University thesis that argued Hispanics are less intelligent. A report that once was the opponents’ powerful weapon during debates on reform was now seen as widely discredited.
hb56

3. Local and state anti-immigrant laws blocked: In Arizona, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals upheld a district court’s preliminary injunction on a key provision of the state’s controversial anti-immigrant law which would have made it illegal to give rides or provide shelter to undocumented immigrants. The opinion called the statute “incomprehensible to a person of ordinary intelligence and is therefore void for vagueness.”
Alabama passed the nation’s strictest immigration law in 2011, modeled after ALEC’s “No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act.” Key provisions of HB 56 designed to encourage racial profiling and make immigrants’ daily lives difficult to impossible, have been permanently blocked. The final legal settlement this fall with the Justice Department, civil rights groups, and plaintiffs prevents the worst of the law, which barred school enrollment, business, and daily interaction with undocumented immigrants.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down a Texas town’s ordinance that prohibited landlords from renting to undocumented residents. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia also ruled that anti-immigration city ordinances in Hazleton, PA infringed on federal immigration policies and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals similarly issued decisions against an anti-immigration South Carolina law that would have among other violations of federal immigration policies, criminalized undocumented immigrants seeking “shelter.”
October 8 Rally Pictures 142

4. Obama used administrative measures to ease restrictions on undocumented immigrants: One year after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was implemented, at least 455,455 undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 got a taste of what it would feel like to have legal status, when they were granted work authorization and temporary relief from deportation. The President also issued a few “prosecutorial discretion” memos, advising federal immigration officials to avoid deporting people who are parents of U.S. citizens or if they are immediate family members of military personnel. Still, neither the work authorization nor the temporary deportation reprieve is permanent and many immigrants who would otherwise qualify for discretion are still flagged for deportation.
5. CA and CT limited deportations of non-violent immigrants: The TRUST Act rebukes federal policy by limiting local law enforcement’s compliance in screening and detaining undocumented nonviolent immigrants. The new law in California, a state with 2.45 million undocumented immigrants, should ease community fears of reporting crime because of deportation threats.

6. Republicans joined the call for citizenship: Within the span of one week in November, three House Republicans — Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and David Valadao (R-CA) — signed onto a comprehensive immigration bill introduced by House Democrats. They pressed House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to allow the bill to come to a vote on the House floor before the end of the Congressional year. That plan never transpired, but Boehner’s choice to hire Rebecca Tallent to lead immigration efforts renewed hope that House Republican would act on the issue in 2014.

7. People are limiting their use of the term “illegal immigrant”: A Pew research study released in June found that the use of the phrase “illegal alien” declined in 2013 and that the term “undocumented immigrant” rose (especially among immigrant advocates). Not coincidentally, immigration advocates have campaigned hard to make people understand that the phrase is derogatory because “no human is illegal.” Newspapers like the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times have all limited their use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.” And after a college conservative group was set to hold a “Catch An Illegal Immigrant” game on the University of Texas at Austin campus, the event sparked a protest held by hundreds of solidarity activists and the actress America Ferrera.
nuns on bus

8. Majority of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a citizenship provision: The final g”immigration win” involves the strong backing of the American public. A November 2013 poll found that 63 percent of American voters support allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens as long as they meet certain requirements (like paying back taxes and fines, learning English, and passing a background check). Even voters living in 17 key Congressional districts represented by House Republicans opposed to immigration reform similarly support reform legislation when the details of the bill are fleshed out.


U.S. citizens ditch passports in record numbers

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, pathway to citizenship Leave a comment

If the recent quarter’s pace continues, 2013 will become a landmark year for saying goodbye to America, tax-wise.

By Lynnley Browning

Mahmood Karzai

Mahmood Karzai, no longer a U.S. citizen.

FORTUNE — Americans are ditching their U.S. passports in record numbers, a sign of growing frustration with a system that taxes U.S. citizens on their global wealth whether they live in Montana or Mongolia.

The latest bold-faced names to relinquish their U.S. citizenship include Mahmood Karzai, a brother of Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, according to federal data released Wednesday. Also on the list, published quarterly by the Internal Revenue Service, is Isabel Getty, the daughter of jet-setting socialite Pia Getty and Getty oil heir Christopher Getty.

In total, more than 670 U.S. passport holders gave up their citizenship — and with it, their U.S. tax bills — in the first three months of this year. That is the most in any quarter since the I.R.S. began publishing figures in 1998. And it is nearly three-quarters of the total number for all of 2012, a year in which the wealthy songwriter-socialite Denise Rich (christened “Lady Gatsby” by Yachtingmagazine) and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin joined more than 932 other Americans in tossing their passports.

If the recent quarter’s pace continues, 2013 will become a landmark year for saying goodbye to America, tax-wise.

MORE: Offshore account holders win a victory in government tax case

“It’s the cumulative effect of the I.R.S. ‘jihad’ against foreign bank accounts,” said Phil Hodgen, an international tax lawyer in Pasadena, Calif. He said growing numbers of Middle Eastern investors were ordering their dual-citizen children to dump their U.S. passports if they wanted to inherit family-owned companies without onerous U.S. estate taxes.

While dumping citizenship may seem unpatriotic or smack of tax avoidance to some critics, tax lawyers blame the byzantine complexity of American tax regulations.

The rules “are confusing, complex, and so complicated that even Americans with good intentions can easily find themselves running afoul of the law,” said Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor who was involved in the government’s offshore banking probe and is now in private practice in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “This very well may explain why we are seeing a record number of Americans renouncing their United States citizenship.”

The trend has swelled amid a widening crackdown by the U.S. Justice Department on offshore private banking services sold by Swiss and Swiss-style banks to wealthy Americans in recent years. Nearly a dozen foreign banks, include Israel’s Bank Leumi, HSBC, Credit Suisse (CS), Julius Baer and Swiss cantonal, or regional, banks are under criminal scrutiny; last year, Wegelin & Co, Switzerland’s oldest bank, was indicted and put out of business. More than four dozen wealthy Americans and their foreign bankers have been indicted or charged in recent years.

More than 39,000 Americans have come forward in recent years to declare their secret accounts to the I.R.S. in exchange for reduced fines and penalties, but officials suspect that is a fraction of the total number of people either deliberately hiding or unwittingly not reporting their foreign accounts. I.R.S. data for 2012 shows just over two million tax returns filed in 2012 by overseas Americans, compared with an estimated six million Americans living or working abroad. Only a fraction of Americans with foreign bank accounts are also filing required disclosures known as Fbars, according to federal data.

MORE: Cracks in objections to Internet sales taxes

Expatriations first picked up pace in 2010, when more than 1,530 Americans dumped their passports. Sparking that uptick, tax lawyers say, was a deal by UBS (UBS), the Swiss bank giant, the year before to disclose more than 4,000 American client names to the I.R.S. and pay a record $780 million for selling offshore services that violated U.S. tax laws.

In January, Karzai told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Free Afghanistan that “the reason I gave up my U.S. passport and citizenship is that I have been working in Afghanistan for the past 12 years,” according to a transcript. He added that “I might become politically active, therefore I decided to give up my [U.S.] passport.” Karzai could not immediately be reached for comment.

Karzai is a shareholder of the scandal-plagued Kabul Bank, Afghanistan’s largest bank that nearly collapsed due to fraud, according to global media reports in March. Getty, a student at New York University, according to her Facebook page, could not be immediately reached, and emails to her mother, a filmmaker in London, were not immediately returned.

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the IRS began reporting this information in 2008. It began reporting it in 1998.


Immigration Problems Only Get Worse

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

By Peter Muller

As the first session of the 113th Congress winds to a close, it is clear the House of Representatives will not vote on immigration legislation before 2014. But the practical need to fix our broken immigration system remains, the political imperative for reform is stronger than ever, and a window of opportunity exists for Congress to finalize a reform package next year.

One year ago the results of the 2012 election prompted leaders in both major political parties to take a fresh look at immigration reform.

President Obama and the Democrats discovered a renewed commitment to the issue in part because Hispanic and Asian-American voters made up a significant portion of the Democratic electorate, and immigration reform was high on their agenda. At the same time, Republicans attributed Mitt Romney’s loss in part to his failure to attract minority voters and viewed immigration reform as an opportunity to build support with that constituency.

Electoral results in 2013 have produced similar evidence that immigration reform can be a potent factor in elections.  Republican Gov. Chris Christie, an immigration reform backer, was overwhelmingly reelected in New Jersey and carried nearly half the Hispanic vote in his state. But Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who was viewed as an opponent of immigration reform, lost his race for governor of Virginia in part because he failed to attract a significant percentage of the Latino vote.

Meanwhile, a poll jointly released this fall by the Partnership for a New American EconomyRepublicans for Immigration Reform, and Compete America shows that 71 percent of the American people favor immigration reform, and 54 percent say they are less likely to support a candidate who opposes reform.

While we have seen significant progress this year toward immigration reform, including passage of a comprehensive bill in the Senate, it has yet to get across the finish line.

And while we wait for reform our immigration problems only get worse.

The last major overhaul of U.S. immigration system occurred in 1986, and the laws enacted then have failed to pass the test of time. The number of people living here without documentation has grown, employers have struggled to find the workforce necessary to perform both lower- and higher-skilled jobs, and the American people lack confidence that our borders are secure.

Meanwhile, in the high-skilled arena, our ability to compete in the global marketplace is compromised. The information-technology industry struggles to find enough qualified U.S. workers to fill the key jobs necessary for continued innovation. Employees who obtain temporary visas must wait years before they can get a green card to allow them to live and work here permanently. Employers are already preparing for an expected H-1B visa lottery in April that will distribute too few visas to meet demand.

The challenge for Congress is clear: Address these problems now or maintain a broken system that fails to meet the needs of anyone.

In June, the Senate passed legislation that would make holistic reforms to the immigration systemfrom legal visas to illegal entry to enhanced border security measures—with the votes of two-thirds of the senators.

Intel and other employers of high-skilled workers strongly supported the legislation because it addressed our three key needs: to hire foreign-born workers when we can’t find qualified U.S. workers; access to additional visas to make those talented employees long-term members of our company and our country; and to build the pipeline of U.S. workers with specialized skills through additional funding for STEM education.

The strong support for the bill in the Senate was encouraging, but it didn’t mask legitimate concerns many people, particularly in the House of Representatives, have about parts of the legislation. The House pledged to pursue a different path toward reform and consider a series of piecemeal bills addressing discreet problems with the system. Five individual bills have been reported out of committees in the House, but none has yet to reach the House floor.

But that doesn’t mean immigration reform is dead. House Speaker John Boehner recently hired a senior staffer to coordinate immigration policy. Rank-and-file Republican House members are increasingly expressing their view that they are ready to tackle immigration reform. And the president has expressed a willingness to work with Republicans on a piecemeal approach to reform. Even the recent budget agreement points to the possibility of bipartisan efforts moving forward.

The politics of immigration reform are always challenging, and rarely are people from different sides of the issue ready to come together to address the problem. This is one of those times. However, for the hope of immigration reform to be achieved, the House of Representatives must be ready to act when members return from their holiday break.


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.”


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