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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.”


Can immigration reform transform the housing market?

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

As Congress restarts conversations about the federal budget and deficit reduction, the immigration reform debate is still front and center for many. As that debate unfolds, it is important to put some hard facts on the table.  What are the costs and benefits of reform?  What impact will reform have on economic growth and wages?  How will immigration reform affect the federal budget?

A new study by the Bipartisan Policy Center Immigration Task Force found the evidence suggests that immigration reform can produce significant economic dividends for our country.

 

Unlike other efforts, this study was not a political exercise seeking to justify a pre-determined outcome.  Instead, it was a serious, scholarly attempt to understand the true economic implications of immigration reform.

The first step in any modeling exercise is to develop a “reference case” against which alternative scenarios, or “sensitivity analyses,” can be compared. This assessment chose to utilize the Senate-passed immigration bill as the “reference case,” not because we endorse it, but because it is the most recent reform package to have moved through either chamber of Congress, not because the study or its authors support the Senate bill.

Under the reference case, the study concludes that, over the next 20 years, immigration reform would cause the U.S. economy to grow an additional 4.8 percent, expand the labor force by 8.3 million people, contribute to higher average overall wages, and reduce the federal budget deficit by nearly $1.2 trillion.

Notably, the study shows that immigration reform would jump-start the housing market by increasing spending on residential construction by an average of $68 billion annually over the 20-year period. To put this $68 billion figure in perspective, as of August 2013, the annual rate of spending on residential construction was $340 billion.  So immigration reform would provide a substantial and immediate boost to investment in new single-family and multifamily homes..

During the past four decades, the contribution of housing to national GDP through both residential fixed investment and consumption of housing-related services has averaged between 17 and 19 percent.  Today, housing’s contribution stands at just 15.6 percent, largely because of a significant decline in home construction and remodeling.  This decline is a major reason why the recession and its damaging effects have lingered for so long.  Immigration reform can play a significant role in helping to restore the housing sector to its traditional position as an engine of economic growth.

A major finding of the study is that immigration reform would inject vitality into the nation’s workforce.  While enactment of reform would add an estimated 13.7 million people to the U.S. population over the next twenty years, only six percent of these individuals would be aged 65 or older.  Most would be very young compared to the rest of the U.S. population.

The addition of millions of new, younger workers would increase the ratio of workers to retirees and help our country respond to the fiscal challenges associated with an aging population.  It would also spur demand for new housing as these workers form their own households and start families.

To verify these positive results, the study also examines five alternative reform scenarios.  The first four scenarios change key assumptions in the reference case – for example, by making adjustments in the expected level of future unauthorized immigration and the utilization of family-based and employment-based green cards once immigration reform was enacted.  The fifth scenario takes the most restrictive approach by assuming that all current unauthorized immigrants would be deported and there would be no future unauthorized immigration into the United States in a post-reform setting.

Under the first four scenarios, immigration reform has a positive impact on the overall economy, including the housing market.  The fifth scenario, reflecting the most restrictive approach, would have devastating effects by, among other things, significantly reducing GDP growth and dramatically reducing residential construction spending.

The bottom line is that immigration reform can be a powerful instrument of economic revitalization.  It can inject new, much-needed demand into a housing market that has been slow to recover.  To get our economy back on track, it’s time for Congress to make passing immigration reform an immediate priority.

Brady is the president of Brady Homes and a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force and Housing Commission.  Cisneros was secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997. Martinez served in the Senate from 2005 to 2009, and was HUD secretary under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003. Cisneros and Martinez co-chair BPC’s Immigration Task Force and Housing Commission.


Boehner hire signals new hope for migrant reform

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

House Speaker John Boehner’s hiring of a former top aide to Sen. John McCain to advise him on immigration issues has renewed hopes that House Republican leaders are planning to move forward on reform legislation next year.

Boehner’s hiring of Rebecca Tallent as assistant to the speaker for policy handling immigration issues comes amid intensifying pro-reform activism on Capitol Hill as time runs out on the 2013 legislative calendar.

STORY: New activists continue fast for immigration reform

STORY: Advocates redouble efforts on immigration reform

Tallent, most recently director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., worked for McCain, R-Ariz., for years, including a stint as his chief of staff. Before that, she was an aide to then-Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., who, like McCain, was a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.

“I’ll be focusing on trying to get this sticky immigration situation worked out,” Tallent wrote in an e-mail announcing her final day at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Reform supporters and opponents alike say the move by Boehner, R-Ohio, is the clearest signal yet House GOP leaders are sincere when they say they want to act on a series of immigration-reform bills.

“This is a sign that Speaker Boehner is very serious about doing something on immigration,” said John J. “Jack” Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California and an expert on how Congress works. “The big question is: What does that something consist of?”

McCain was a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that wrote the comprehensive bill that passed the Senate in June. In her role at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Tallent voiced support for McCain’s approach to reform, but also reflected a sophisticated understanding of the internal House GOP dynamics at play.

Boehner has said the House won’t take up the Senate’s sweeping package, which balanced a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11million undocumented immigrants who have settled in the country with a massive investment in border security and new visa programs for future foreign workers.

Boehner and other top House Republicans have expressed a preference to break up the immigration issue and address the various aspects, such as potential legalization for the young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers,” one at a time rather than in one far-reaching piece of legislation.

The speaker has said individual bills must win support of a majority of House Republicans. That poses a challenge because a faction of House Republicans view attempts to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants as “amnesty” for lawbreakers.

Keeping conversation alive

Activists attempting to build support for immigration reform with their “Fast for Families” continued to pick up steam Tuesday.

Eight new fasters, including Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, relieved the group of four activists who for 22 days had been fasting on the National Mall to call attention to the moral implications of inaction on immigration reform. The original group, which included Cristian Avila of Arizona, previously attracted visits from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

“This fast has literally kept the conversation about immigration reform alive,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners and one of the new fasters. “Across the street is one kind of power (in the U.S. Capitol). In this tent is another.”

Another group of 40 activists from Arizona also was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, praying outside Boehner’s home, holding a vigil outside his office and singing Christmas carols.

“The speaker remains hopeful that we can enact step-by-step, common-sense immigration reforms — the kind of reforms the American people understand and support,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Tuesday in a statement e-mailed toThe Arizona Republic. “Becky Tallent, a well-known expert in this field of public policy, is a great addition to our team and that effort.”

‘A slap in the face’

Boehner’s hiring of Tallent, an Arizona native, drew praise from reform supporters but also put “amnesty” opponents on alert because of her long association with McCain and her record of supporting immigration reform. Many reform foes had been quietly confident that House action on immigration was unlikely in 2014, a year expected to be dominated by congressional midterm-election politics.

As a former McCain and Kolbe staff member, Tallent brings “strong Republican credentials” but also can work with all sides on the complex immigration issue, said Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist who served as national Hispanic co-chair for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and who knows Tallent well.

“Becky has an exemplary reputation: She is smart, she is hardworking, she is effective, and she is a serious person who seeks pragmatic solutions,” Navarro said. “It tells me that Boehner genuinely wants to get something done. … It’s a very smart move by Boehner.”

One reform critic called the Tallent hire “a slap in the face” to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and an indication that Boehner is planning “an end run around the Judiciary Committee,” which has oversight over immigration issues.

“It confirms what we always knew: that the Republican leadership in the House is pro-amnesty, but they just don’t know how to get it past their members,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-reform Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. “I assume the point is for her to try to cook up a way to get a majority of the Republican caucus to vote for something.”

But Pitney said that it is common for a House speaker to devote a staff member to a big policy topic, and Steel confirmed that Tallent is filling an existing position.

“On the vast majority of issues, speakers defer to the committee system, but they do take certain issues to heart and put a leadership stamp on some positions,” Pitney said.

If Tallent’s role is to help the House GOP find consensus on immigration issues, it is appropriate that she work out of the speaker’s office, he added.

“If you are concerned about building a majority within the entire conference, you don’t do that simply within a committee,” Pitney said. “That’s really the role of leadership. This is a sign that Boehner is hoping he can get something to the floor.”

A window for action

Other observers called Boehner’s decision to add Tallent to his staff, even at this late date, a positive sign for immigration reform’s prospects. Some believe there remains a window for action in early to mid-2014, before Capitol Hill is paralyzed by election-year partisanship.

“It’s a signal that despite the fact that Speaker Boehner really hasn’t been able to move his caucus forward all year, that he’s not giving up,” said Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science and Latino/Chicano studies at the University of California-Irvine.

Pro-reform activists are not giving up, either, at trying to persuade Boehner and other House Republicans to act.

Maria Castro, a 20-year-old Phoenix resident whose mother is in the United States without authorization, was part of a group of five Arizonans who recited the rosary on the sidewalk outside Boehner’s home on Tuesday morning. She said Boehner came out and waved. Later, the activists caught up to Boehner but were unable to engage him in a serious conversation, she said.

“We told him, ‘We’ve been praying for you,'” Castro said. “And he said, ‘Oh, I know.’ That was the only response we got out of him.”

Contributing: Gannett Washington Bureau reporter Erin Kelly


Immigration reform Fasters begin “National Days to Act, Fast and Pray”

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

By: Maria Camila Bernal

After more than three weeks of fasting, immigration activists in Washington D.C. will be joined by many around the nation as they begin the “National Days to Act, Fast and Pray,” three days of no food in hopes that Congress brings an immigration reform bill to a vote.

Three people, Eliseo Medina of Service Employees International Union; Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota and Dae Joong Yoon of National Korean American & Education Association, have been fasting near the U.S. Capitol and vowed to fast until they can no longer sustain.

A fourth faster, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, committed to a 40-day fast.

But beginning Sunday, activists hope the fasting goes beyond Washington D.C. in order to “create a moral force that will convince Congress that the time to act is now,” Medina, a veteran of the farmworker rights protests of the 1960s, said.

The group’s goal is to get the attention of House Speaker John Boehner and urge him to call a vote on immigration reform by year’s end.

Ben Monterroso, Mi Familia Vota’s Executive Director, said his organization will have various solidarity events and actions throughout the country on Dec. 1-3. Events have been organized in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

“We will not stop our efforts until this moral crisis that breaks apart families finally ends and our country has an immigration system that works for citizens, aspiring Americans and their families,” Monterroso said.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited the group fasting in Washington D.C. Friday, reiterating that there is still time this year for the House to pass legislation, The Associated Press reported.

Previous visitors have included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and feminist Gloria Steinem.

Sunday marks the 20th day of fasting for the group in the National Mall.

“Understanding the struggle that my family and other families in my community face, I have the moral responsibility to do everything in my hands to make a change. If that means my body, my body it is. Anything less would mean I have failed my community, and that is a luxury I don’t have,” said Avila, Mi Familia Vota’s Arizona Coordinator.


White House won’t rule out future executive action on immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

By Justin Sink

The White House on Tuesday would not categorically rule out future executive actions to address immigration, while continuing to maintain “there is not” anything the president could do in lieu of congressional action on comprehensive reform.

“I don’t want to speculate about what sort of actions the president might or might not take,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

Obama has come under pressure from immigration activists, who have challenged the president to act unilaterally now that a comprehensive immigration bill appears stalled in the House. The president was heckled twice during events in San Francisco on Monday while discussing immigration reform, with protesters each time demanding an end to deportations via executive order.

In 2012, the Obama administration announced it would stop deporting some illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children, assuming they met certain criteria.

But the White House has maintained that path is not feasible for the nation’s entire immigrant population, arguing, as Obama did Monday, that the issue must be addressed legislatively.

“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so,” Obama told one of the hecklers who interrupted his speech at the Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center. “But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws.”

But while the White House has ruled out a sweeping halt to deportations, it is unclear whether Obama could use his executive authority, which includes the ability to grant temporary work permits, to help some of those here illegally.

Still, Earnest stressed that the White House believed congressional action was the only way to fully address the issue.

“We have been very clear that the problem that the president is trying to solve here is one that can only be solved with the Congress, and that problem is an immigration system that everybody acknowledges is broken,” he said.


Will politics kill possibility of immigration reform?

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

Farmworkers pick beans in a field, Nov. 18, in Florida City, Fla. One group that is likely to benefit quickly from any immigration reform effort by Congress or the Obama administration are agriculture workers.

Written by
Matthew I. Hirsch

 

As the recent budget impasse came to a close, the President made news by announcing he was prepared to restart efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Whether or not this “can and should get done by the end of this year,” as the President said, is uncertain. House leadership has indicated it will not take up the Senate’s wide-ranging bill during this legislative session and might start next year with a piecemeal strategy, which does not provoke the anti-amnesty crowd.

One of the core principles of CIR is legalization of the undocumented. What are the economic benefits of legalizing the undocumented? A UCLA study looked at the 1986 legalization and found that legalized immigrants earn higher wages, move into higher-paying occupations, invest more in education, open bank accounts, build and buy homes and start businesses. Projecting forward, that study found that CIR would add $1.5 trillion in U.S. GDP over 10 years. More specifically, the report found that, in the first three years, the higher earning power of legalized workers would yield increased personal income of more than $30 billion, $5 billion in new federal taxes and enough new spending to support 750,000 new jobs.

The UCLA study was consistent with an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, which found that enacting CIR would reduce the federal deficit and “boost the economy.” According to the CBO study, after netting out costs, bringing the undocumented into the workforce would increase the economy by $700 billion and decrease deficits by $200 billion over the next decade. The CBO study also concluded legalization and a temporary worker program would increase the size of the labor force, provide long-term increases in average wages, boost capital investment and raise productivity.

But immigration reform proposals are not limited to legalizing the undocumented. They include provisions which would provide seasonal help for the region’s agricultural economy. To meet labor needs, mushroom producers, chicken farms and other agricultural producers in the region have historically relied on an immigrant workforce of dubious status. Enactment of CIR would obviate the need to hire undocumented workers by providing an improved system for meeting the labor needs of agricultural producers.

The region also has a large number of world-class universities which attract top students from all over the world. If enacted, CIR would mean these high-demand college graduates could find employment in our area, instead of taking their high-value degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to other, more welcoming countries.

Our area also has seasonal resorts. The Senate’s bill addresses perennial labor shortages in these areas by providing something missing from today’s immigration law – the “W” visa for temporary workers. Such a visa would provide a market-tested means of bringing screened, seasonal workers to fill temporary jobs, thereby helping business owners to meet their peak-season needs.

We are also a region that wants to grow its high-tech sector. Immigration reform increases visas for highly-educated innovators and entrepreneurs. Despite statistics which show the benefits of attracting foreign high-tech workers and entrepreneurs, today’s laws squelch innovation and deter investment from foreign shores. If passed, a new immigration law could stimulate investment and help our region to build out its entrepreneurial infrastructure.

The Senate’s CIR proposal also addresses concerns about future-flow, criminal aliens and abusive labor practices. It deals harshly with employers who hire the undocumented, increases the number of border agents and immigration judges, provides for enhanced enforcement, detention and removal of aliens involved with gangs, illegal drugs, and sexual violence, and cracks down on smugglers.

The time has come for comprehensive immigration reform. The White House is advocating for it. The Senate has managed to pass a bill. And in the Republican-led House, there are members crossing the aisle to support CIR. Polls show the American public supports immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. But, most important of all for politicians, CIR would offer substantial and demonstrable benefits to the voting public, and just might help them achieve their most prized goal – re-election.
 


Judges Must Warn About Deportation, New York Appeals Court Rules

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

New York judges must warn immigrant defendants that they face deportation if they plead guilty to a felony, the state’s highest court ruled on Tuesday.

In a 5-to-2 decision, the Court of Appeals overturned its 1995 ruling that deportation is a “collateral consequence” of a guilty plea, and so judges need not warn foreign defendants it might happen.

Writing for the majority, Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam said that times had changed since the mid-1990s, when about 37,000 noncitizens were deported after criminal convictions.

That number stood at 188,000 in 2011, Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote, and, with stricter enforcement of immigration laws, deportation has become “an automatic consequence of a guilty plea for most noncitizen defendants.” She said defendants who took plea bargains often found themselves stripped of their jobs, cut off from their family in the United States and returned to a country they hardly remembered.

The majority concluded “that deportation constitutes such a substantial and unique consequence of a plea that it must be mentioned by the trial court to defendant as a matter of fundamental fairness,” Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote.

More than 20 states already require judges to issue such warnings, and in the 1990s the New York State Legislature put a similar requirement in the criminal procedure law. But failing to give the warning carried no consequence, and judges sometimes skip it, defense lawyers said.

“Courts should be doing this already but in practice they are not,” said Rosemary Herbert, a lawyer for Richard Diaz, one of the three defendants in the case. “This decision is putting some teeth in that requirement.”

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Judges Victoria Graffeo, Susan P. Read and Jenny Rivera joined Judge Abdus-Salaam in the majority. Judges Robert S. Smith and Eugene F. Pigott Jr. dissented.

In 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Padilla v. Kentucky that defense lawyers have a duty to tell clients they face deportation before they offer a guilty plea.

The Court of Appeals decision this week came in response to three criminal cases in which judges failed to tell defendants about their likely deportation.

Mr. Diaz, a legal United States resident from the Dominican Republic, was arrested in October 2006 with another man in the back of a taxicab in Upper Manhattan after the police found a two-pound brick of cocaine on the car’s floor during a traffic stop.

He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in return for a two-and-a-half-year sentence, but as soon as he was released, Immigration and Customs Enforcement moved to deport him.

Because a trial judge in Manhattan never warned Mr. Diaz of the deportation, the Court of Appeals ruled that he had a right to move to withdraw his guilty plea. The majority said the motion would not be granted automatically, though, as is done with other violations of due process. Instead Mr. Diaz, and other defendants like him, must show that if he had been warned, he would have insisted on going to trial.

On this point, Judges Lippman and Rivera dissented, arguing that similar pleas in the absence of a warning should be reversed automatically.

Lawyers for the three defendants in the case — Mr. Diaz, Juan Jose Peque and Michael Thomas — said the decision was a sea change. “The decision certainly makes clear that judges from now going forward must warn, and it opens up an avenue for defendants who are already convicted and haven’t been warned to appeal,” said Lynn W. L. Fahey, who represented Mr. Thomas


Six Republicans Ask for Immigration Views of DHS Nominee

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment
Six Republicans want immigration views of DHS nominee Jeh Johnson
By: Seung Min Kim
November 18, 2013 05:50 PM EST
Six key Senate Republicans are demanding more information about Department of Homeland Security nominee Jeh Johnson and his views on immigration, arguing that they need to know more before they confirm him.

The letter from six Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans outlines 29 questions — many of them with multiple parts — asking for Johnson’s perspectives on a wide array of immigration issues.

President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead DHS is a former lawyer for the Pentagon, and his views on immigration are little known. At his confirmation hearing last week, Johnson said he backs “common-sense immigration reform” which would include a “clear path to earned citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, but the GOP senators are clearly eager to know more.

(Also on POLITICO: DHS nominee likely to clear hurdles)

“Our committee has primary responsibility over immigration matters, and we believe it necessary to know any nominee’s position on immigration policies before we can consent to the confirmation of a Secretary to head this very critical department,” the senators wrote in theletter, obtained by POLITICO from a Republican source.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), whose panel is overseeing Johnson’s nomination, said Monday that he hopes to hold a vote on the confirmation on Wednesday.

Most of the questions focus directly on Johnson’s views of immigration, such as what types of immigrants living in the country illegally should be eligible for immigration benefits, such as legal status. It also asks Johnson whether — if he is confirmed — he will continue an Obama administrative directive that defers deportations for certain young undocumented immigrants.

(Also on POLITICO: Senate panel to consider DHS nomination)

Others deal with general oversight issues at DHS, and ask Johnson to pledge to work with Congress on those issues.

The letter was signed by six Judiciary panel Republicans — Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, John Cornyn of Texas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Orrin Hatch of Utah. All except for Hatch voted against the Gang of Eight immigration bill that cleared the committee in May and passed the full chamber in June.

The two Republicans who did not sign the letter are Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who as members of the Gang of Eight co-wrote the bill. The letter was first reported on by the Daily Caller.

Another Senate Republican, John McCain of Arizona, has placed a hold on Johnson’s nomination until the DHS nominee releases more information about border security and how to boost control of the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

© 2013 POLITICO LLC

Immigrants Closely Tied to Military Get Reprieve

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

By: Julia Preston

The Obama administration issued a new policy on Friday that will allow immigrants in the United States illegally who are close relatives of active military troops and veterans to stay and move toward becoming permanent residents.

The long-awaited memorandum, coming after three years of deliberations by Department of Homeland Security officials, was an effort to untangle knots in immigration law that left many soldiers worried that their immigrant family members could be deported while they were deployed.

The administration applied the policy broadly, extending it to all active-duty members of the armed forces, to reservists including the National Guard, and to all veterans. Their spouses, children and parents will be eligible for a “parole in place,” a term that means they will be authorized to remain in the United States and many can proceed with applications for legal residency.

“This is an enormous step forward for military families and military readiness,” said Margaret D. Stock, a lawyer at Cascadia Cross-Border Law in Anchorage, who is a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel. “These problems had been a complete nightmare for many military people to deal with.”

The shift comes as legislation to grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants has stalled in Congress, with Republican leaders in the House saying this week that they would not hold immigration votes this year or enter negotiations over a broad bill that the Senate passed in June. Obama administration officials said the new rules were based on existing statutes, and did not create any new legal status that would require action by Congress.

“In order to reduce the uncertainty our active-duty and retired military personnel face because of the immigration status of their family members, we have decided to clarify existing policies,” said Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

Immigrants without papers generally have to leave the country to collect visas they applied for through marriage to an American citizen or some other family tie. But, in a notorious Catch-22, once those immigrants leave they are barred from returning for years. Under the new policy, those immigrants who are in military families will not have to leave to complete their visa applications.

Faced with the legal quandary, many service members chose not to apply for papers for immigrant spouses and relatives, often keeping their immigration status secret. As a result, there is no way of knowing how many immigrants will be affected by the new policy, but it could be tens of thousands.

Immigrants involved will have work permits and will have to renew their documents yearly.

Several Hispanic organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, hailed the policy, noting that many Hispanics serve in the armed forces. In addition to American citizens, permanent residents and some other legal immigrants are eligible to serve in the military.

But many immigrant groups immediately called on President Obama to extend the reprieve to more foreigners here illegally.

“The administration’s action clearly shows that the president can use his power to stop the pain in our communities and grant relief to our families,” said Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, a youth organization.


John Boehner: House GOP Still Figuring Out ‘How We’re Going To Move Ahead’ On Immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted on Wednesday that even though House Republicans have moved slowly on immigration reform, they’re still planning to work on it — but not by combining their efforts with the already-passed Senate bill.

“The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House,” Boehner said at a press conference. “And frankly, I’ll make clear: We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

The bipartisan Senate bill passed in June in a 68-32 vote, but was immediately shot down by Boehner, who said he would not hold a vote on anything without majority GOP support. But that was months ago, and long after House Republicans leaders committed to working on immigration reform this year. Bills approved by the House Judiciary Committee, which deals with immigration issues, haven’t gone for votes, either.

Democrats and advocates argue that the Senate bill could pass if it went for a vote — most Democratic members and three GOP members support a bill based on the legislation — but so far, it doesn’t seem likely that the measure will get the chance.

GOP Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reform advocates last week that there is no time to hold votes on immigration this year. Boehner said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is working with Republicans and Democrats “on a set of principles that will help guide us as we deal with this issue.” Boehner did not, however, give a straight answer when asked whether there would be votes this year.

“As we develop the principles, we’ll figure out how we’re going to move ahead,” he said.

Asked whether House Republicans are moving slowly on immigration reform because they want to focus on Obamacare, Boehner insisted that was not the strategy.

“This is about trying to do this in a way that the American people and our members can absorb,” he said. “There are hundreds of issues involved in dealing with immigration reform. And we’ve got to deal with these in a common-sense way, where our members understand what we’re doing and their constituents understand.”

Boehner said he is still committed to working on immigration reform.

“Let’s understand something: I want us to deal with this issue,” he said. “But I want to deal with it in a common-sense, step-by-step way.”

Young immigration reform advocates approached Boehner earlier Wednesday as he was eating breakfast to tell their families’ stories and ask whether he plans to act on immigration.

“I’m trying to find some way to get this thing done,” he said, according to video the group posted to YouTube. “But it’s not easy — not going to be an easy path forward. But I’ve made it clear since the day after the election that it’s time to get this done.”

Democrats criticized House Republicans at a hearing on Wednesday for saying they want to work on immigration reform but declining to hold votes.

“If House Republicans oppose comprehensive immigration reform but support a piecemeal approach to fix our broken immigration system, show us,” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said at a Judiciary Committee hearing. “Do something. … I believe we are closer today than we have ever been before. But now is not the time for more talk, talk, talk. Now is the time for action.”

UPDATE: 2:33 p.m. — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to Boehner’s comments during a press briefing later Wednesday, saying that there is still time for the House to act if it wants to.

“I think it could happen this year,” he said. “Obviously, the House is the obstacle or the opportunity, and we, as I said, believe that if there were the will in the House to act quickly and decisively on comprehensive immigration reform, it could be achieved and it would receive a broad bipartisan vote in the affirmative.”

He made a small dig, however, at Boehner’s mention of efforts now being made to craft principles on immigration reform.

“I think that’s a welcome step, but it seems a little bit late in the game to be developing principles on this substantial issue and priority for American businesses, for labor, for faith communities, for law enforcement communities,” he said.

Carney added that it would be a good step for the House to hold a vote on the House Democrats’ immigration reform bill.

“What the House could do this week was take up its own comprehensive immigration reform bill,” he said. “There’s one that the House Democrats have put on the table that reflects the president’s principles, reflects the principles put forward in the bipartisan Senate bill, and that we strongly believe would pass the House with a substantial majority, including votes from both parties if the speaker were to bring it to the floor for a vote.”


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