Monday, June 22, 2009

Last Week: In Our Community

We are a little behind because of Alex's trip to New Mexico, but we've done our best to catch up today. Stories below come from as far back as June 5, all the way up to news from this past weekend.

The Transitional Records Access Clearinghouse reported last week that a shortage of immigration judges has led to a 19 percent increase in backlog of pending immigration cases since 2006 and a 23 percent increase case resolution time. TRAC reports that only 4 more judges have been hired since August 2006, despite the fact that 351,477 cases were received in 2008. At the end of the fiscal year 2008, 186,342 immigration cases were still pending. A few hundred of those affected by lengthy backlogs will be relieved to hear that the new administration has decided to temporarily suspend the policy of deporting widows of U.S. citizens, at least until they tackle immigration policy on a larger scale.

Similarly, a new study conducted by Appleseed, a non-profit advocating for reform of the justice system, reports that low levels of professionalism accompanied by a lack of law clerks has indeed bogged the immigration courts down and obstructed justice for many. The study reports that a mere .0155% of immigration cases involve terrorism or national security concerns, and cases involving any type of criminal behavior amounts to 13% of all cases heard.

Of particular interest to us at FCNL and other faith-based advocacy groups across the nation: Benjamin Knoll, a graduate student at the University of Iowa has arrived at an interesting conclusion in his master's thesis. Knoll has found that the more often people say they attend worship services, the more likely they will have a liberal attitude towards immigration reform.

Also last week, America Fraternity, a Miami nonprofit, held a birthday party for 10-year-old Ronald Soza, who is suing President Barack Obama. Soza, along with 100 other U.S citizens whose parents face deportation, is asking the courts to halt the deportation of their parents until Congress overhauls America's current immigration policy.

On Wednesday, religious leaders with ties to immigrant communities met in Washington and held a prayer vigil in anticipation of President Obama's meeting on immigration scheduled for this week.

Jacqueline Stevens from 'The Nation,' reports from Arizona, where she attempts to gain entry to clandestine deportation hearings. In order to watch deportation proceedings in Eloy, Arizona, a member of the public must submit to a 2 week pre-screening background check, which is bloated with many bureaucratic steps.

Amnesty International reports on human rights abuses in detention facilities, including physical violence, deprivation of legal assistance, substandard medical care and use of restraints. Across this country, ICE houses more than 30,000 detainees each night for a myriad of reasons in substandard living conditions. A compelling case in point comes to us from Atlanta, where on June 11 activists from Georgia Detention Watch conducted a vigil for Roberto Martinez Medina, 39, who died on March 11 in a Georgia Detention Center. There was no investigation into Medina's death. ICE reported that he died of "apparent natural causes." In spite of this, ICE has plans to build a new 1,500-inmate federal immigration prison in Arizona this year. The construction of this new prison will help ICE detain almost 440,000 immigrants this year, up from 311,000 in 2008, reports the ACLU.

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services signed a contract with a Union County, NJ juvenile detention center which would house 15 undocumented immigrant minors with criminal records. The facility would provide a secure setting for the young men, ages 12-17.

The Tenneseean ran a story last week about Irving Palomo, a U.S. Citizen of Mexican descent who gained his citizenship from the little-known 'citizenship-by-derivation' clause. After 15 days where he was taken 264 miles from home against his will, Palomo was released and told to find his own way back to Nashville. Another personal story comes to us from the San Antonio Express-News, where Rama Carty, 39, a legal permanent U.S. resident in detention for a drug charge, faces deportation to Haiti, a country he has never been to. Carty was born in the Republic of Congo to Haitian parents, and was transferred to another detention center after his outspoken complaints about conditions in his detention center spurred an investigation of the facility by Amnesty International. Outside the gates of Rama Carty's detention center, one unidentified person conducts a hunger strike.

In an uplifting story of family reunification, a Sudanese family reunites in Brooklyn.

Last but not least, a 'desktop raid' in California leaves workers devastated and jobless.
Thanks for reading!

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