Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Report Finds Widespread Instances Of Federal Immigration Agents Breaking Into Homes Without Legal Authority

A new report came out last week confirming what FCNL has been saying for a long time: Sweeping ICE raids violate constitutional rights. Check out the press release below, or read the whole report HERE.

    New York, NY -- July 22, 2009 -- Today the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University released the first public study of the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s home raid operations, finding that immigration agents have engaged in widespread constitutional violations during such operations. Constitution on ICE: A Report on Immigration Home Raid Operations documents the prevalence of these constitutional violations – violations involving immigration agents forcing their way into private residences during pre-dawn hours, without warrants or other legal authority, and seizing residents without legal basis, in a pattern suggestive of racial profiling.

    In 2006, as previously uncovered by the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic, ICE vastly expanded its use of home raids as a strategy purportedly aimed at arresting and deporting high priority targets who pose some threat to society. ICE’s home raids generally involve heavily armed seven-person teams of ICE agents making predawn tactical entries into private residences. The Report finds:

    • Despite the purported focus of ICE home raid operations, the report concludes that the large majority (approximately two-thirds) of people arrested during home raids are not dangerous targets but rather are mere civil immigration violators who are in the wrong place at the wrong time -- people who have, for example, overstayed their visas.
    • While ICE has publicly and repeatedly admitted that it does not obtain judicial warrants for its home raid operations, the report finds a pattern of ICE agents physically pushing and breaking their way into private homes in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
    • Once inside, the study finds a pattern of ICE agents abandoning their purported focus on high priority targets and instead illegally seizing residents without legal authority – in an apparent effort to meet inflated arrest expectations.
    • Finally, the data reveals that Latino residents are disproportionately likely to be arrested without any articulated basis during ICE home raid operations. Indeed, approximately 90% of the collateral arrest records reviewed, where ICE officers did not note any basis for seizing and questioning the individual, were of Latino men and women – though Latinos represented only 66% of target arrests.

    “This report reveals an alarming pattern of federal immigration officials breaking into people’s homes and bedrooms in the pre-dawn hours in flagrant violation of the Constitution. The government’s heavy handed tactics are a monumental waste of public resources resulting primarily in the arrest of hard working immigrants who pose no danger at all to society,” explained Peter L. Markowitz, Director of Cardozo’s Immigration Justice Clinic and co-author of the report.

    Through two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, the authors of this report obtained significant samples of ICE arrest records from home raid operations in New York and New Jersey. The report relies on an analysis of these arrest records together with national data regarding immigration suppression motions and individual accounts of ICE home raids from across the country. In addition, the report relies upon the observations of political and law enforcement leaders who have a unique vantage point from which to view ICE misconduct during home raid operations in their local jurisdictions. Based on this evidence, the report concludes that “there is an established pattern of misconduct by ICE agents in the New York and New Jersey Field Offices” and “the evidence suggests that such pattern may be a widespread national phenomenon.”

    This report was prepared under the guidance of an advisory panel, chaired by Nassau County, New York, Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey, and comprised of law enforcement leaders and scholars from across the United States. The advisory panel played a critical role in reviewing the report’s findings and in developing specific policy proposals to ensure that ICE officers comply with constitutional requirements when conducting home raids. “This report reflects precisely the types of misconduct we have seen during immigration home raid operations in Nassau County. If any local law enforcement agency in the nation were involved in these types of widespread constitutional violations it would prompt a federal investigation. Federal immigration agents simply need to play by the same rules as every other law enforcement officer in the United States,” says Commissioner Mulvey.

    The report concludes that the pattern of misconduct during ICE home raid operations stems from a variety of factors including: a flawed 2006 performance policy; the inability of suppression motions or civil lawsuits to serve as a meaningful deterrent to ICE misconduct; and serious management and oversight failures by ICE supervisors. In order to correct course and to improve the ability of ICE to carry out its mission, the report proposes several policy recommendations aimed at:

    • Setting appropriate limits on the use of home raids
    • Revising ICE’s warrant & consent practices
    • Improving supervision and training of ICE home raid teams
    • Minimizing harm to local community policing efforts
    • Minimizing the intrusion to non-targets encountered during ICE home raids
    • Improving accountability for ICE agents and supervisors involved in illegal home raids.

    “If the government were engaged in these types of systematic and widespread constitutional violations toward any other group in society, there would be a national outcry. Because these abuses have targeted the most vulnerable segments of our population they have gone largely unnoticed. Each and every one of us ought to be outraged and has an obligation to hold our government accountable. In light of the findings in this report, we call on the administration to bring an immediate end to its current home raid operations – an ineffective, wasteful and unjust response to immigration,” explained Cardozo Law Student Jaya Vasandani, a co-author of the report.

    The full text of the report is available for download here.

    The Immigration Justice Clinic is a new program of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University. The clinic provides vital quality legal representation for indigent immigrants facing deportation and represents immigrant community-based organizations on litigation and advocacy projects while providing students with an invaluable hands-on lawyering experience.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Goodbye, FCNL! Reflections from our Junior Intern Alex Hull

For the last 6 weeks, Alex Hull from Kenyon College has been helping me here at the office. He has been amazing--making hundreds of calls, putting together packets, accompanying me on lobby visits, learning his way through my alphabet soup Washington-speak, and updating you all on a weekly basis through the blogroll. I asked him to reflect on his time at FCNL. This is what he said:

My time at FCNL is sadly at an end. I’ve finished my phone calls, sent out the last of the potluck packets, and coolly navigated my first solo lobby visit. As the dust settles on my six week jaunt on the hill, I thought I’d share a few of my reflections.

I’ve learned to speak rudimentary Washington-ese (HR2709, grasstops, ICE, E-verify), mastered both copy machines, and fostered an appetite for late night C-SPAN. I’ve learned the ins and outs of our immigration system, which, by the way, is unbelievably dysfunctional in every way, and I’ve gotten a taste of how and why this government serves its people. I’ve learned that the Metro system is never to be trusted and that Washington is literally the hottest place on the planet.

Time and time again, I’ve found myself marveling at the anxious scheduler who lurks behind every member of Congress, constantly whispering into his/her member’s ear about the latest political developments on the hill. They are the epitome of 21st century efficiency and accountability. At the same time, tangible political progress is achieved at a snail’s pace in Washington. The health care debate will rage on into the fall, and as a result, the immigration debate will surely be put on hold. Somewhat paradoxically, things move really slowly and really quickly here in Washington. It is a city both in and out of touch with the rest of America.

Into this paradoxical city I entered, determined to learn as much as possible and make a real difference. My assigned task at FCNL was to set up potluck dinners across the nation in support of immigration reform. First my supervisor Alex and I designed a packet of planning materials, complete with film screening options, ways to contact members of Congress, colorful flyers and letter-writing templates. It really is a veritable immigration activism super-packet, if I say so myself. Then I dedicated my last two weeks to the phones, calling people across this nation and begging them to look at my packet and plan a potluck of their own. I called people from Maine to Oregon, and ended up sending about 55 packets out to interested parties. I was honestly really surprised at the number of people who were willing to consider hosting a dinner. It’s a big undertaking—planning and executing a dinner, and for such a nebulous cause at that. But this cause is an important one—our actions are vital and our voices need to be heard. There is heartbreak and dehumanization in every town across this nation, and it’s because our immigration system is broken, but not beyond repair. We must hold ourselves to be responsible for the way our government treats the least of its people. It is our duty as people of faith who walk humbly with God to protect those who need protection, and call out for those who cannot call out for themselves.

We must be the text on that scheduler’s blackberry. We must be the whisper in that member’s ear. Only when we are everywhere, in everyone’s ear, will we be heard.

I want to extend my deepest thanks to all of those who worked with me at FCNL this summer. Each one of you welcomed me into your workplace with a daily smile and a wave. For a terrified intern, it made all the difference. A special thanks goes to my supervisor Alex Douglas who was helpful, kind, and patient, day in and day out.

Families of 9/11 Victims Would Get Permanent Status Under Bill

The House Committee on the Judiciary approved a piece of legislation today that would grant permanent status to the spouses and children of undocumented immigrants killed in the 9/11 Twin Tower attack.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Immigration Prosecutions Returning to Bush-era Standards Under Obama

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has recently compiled some Department of Justice data that shows that immigration prosecutions for April 2009 have returned to Bush-era standards. The month of April saw 9,307 prosecutions, an 8.5% increase from March. Prosecutions are also up 146.7% from 2004 levels.

Prosecutions have risen every month since President Obama was inaugurated in Janurary of this year.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

Immigration-related news from June 15 to June 20. Enjoy!

Some Senators used amendments to the Senate Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2010 to show just how strong they could be on immigration, in anticipation of this fall's upcoming immigration debate that is sure to polarize members into enforcement and path to legalization camps. Republican Senators Vitter, Sessions, Grassley and DeMint all introduced enforcement-heavy amendments to the bill.

Here's a great overview of what we expect to see when the immigration debate heats up this fall. Includes advantages and disadvantages of the E-verify system, and where the major players will line up when the debate hits the floors of Senate and House this fall. For info on the REAL ID debate, this article has it all. Here's another article with details on the employee identification debate.

Julia Harumi Mass from the Sacramento Bee writes an impassioned plea for comprehensive immigration reform here.

A new decision by the Obama Administration makes it easier for foreign women who are victims of domestic abuse to gain asylum in the United States. This comes after 8 years of stasis from the Bush Administration, where immigration courts were theatres of inaction on the subject of battered women seeking refugee status.

On a related note, Department of Homeland Security has moved to expand the 287(g) program, which enlists local law enforcement to root out undocumented immigrants in counties across the U.S. Although the program has re-prioritized by making criminals migrants their most important targets and by providing nationwide oversight rules, the program may be bad news for victims of domestic abuse, who will be more reticent to report their grievances for fear of being deported or detained. The New York Daily News' Albor Ruiz weighs in on the 287(g) debate here. The ACLU opines on the 287(g) program here.

ICE reports here that deportations in Washington, Oregon and Alaska have jumped 10% in the last year, partly due to the Obama Administration's focus on deporting those immigrants with criminal records. Same thing in Maryland. A more personal deportation hearing about a Jamaican immigrant who was finally granted a hearing after 5 and half years in detention.

In Dobbs Ferry, NY, The Children's Village provides a home for undocumented minors. Jose's story is particularly worth reading.

In other detention news, a swine flu outbreak has required 72 detainess to be quarantined, causing many to miss important hearings, even if they might not be officially confirmed to have the virus.

A troubling new decision from the Supreme Court came down June 15, when the court unanimously decided against Manoj Nijhawan, who had been convicted of money laundering over $10,000. The new decision makes it easier for immigration officials to deport individuals based on information based on information not specificially determined by a judge or jury as grounds for a criminal conviction, thereby reducing the objective and consistent standards by which immigrant criminals can be deported.

Caddo Mills, TX considers letting Emerald Correctional Facilities build a 500 to 1,000 bed correctional facility.

Last but not least, the Sheriff Joe Arpaio charade continues here.

That's all folks. Thanks for reading.

Including Immigrants in Health Care Reform Makes Economic Sense, says Immigration Impact

As I scanned immigration blogs this morning to catch up on last week's news, I found this fantastic blog post put up by Immigration Impact on immigrants and health care.

Given that health care reform is at the front of both Congress' and the nation's mind, I thought I'd share it with you.

    Photo by waynemah.

    Soon after the health care debate began in Washington, Congress immediately started running into immigration potholes. For the most part, the health care conversation centers around plans to insure as many Americans as possible. Experts, Members of Congress and the Administration generally agree that it is less costly in the long-run to include as many people as possible. However, it gets trickier when they begin considering that approximately 12% of the U.S. population is foreign-born. While most in Washington have completely written off the possibility of including undocumented immigrants in any kind of coverage plan, Congress continues to be perplexed over legal permanent residents—our citizens-in-waiting. Yet loads of good data present a compelling argument for why it makes more sense to be inclusive:

    * Immigrants are working and paying taxes.

    * It’s better for all of us if everyone we come into contact with has preventive health care, and it’s better if people are treated early rather than wait until expensive health care is needed down the line.

    * Immigrant want to pay into the system and help offset other costs .

    * Immigrants are generally younger and healthier and use less health care and cost less than U.S. citizens.

    An important function of health insurance is to pool risks and use premiums collected from the healthy to pay for the medical care of those who need it. It is common sense that the more people who pay into the health care system, the more the risk—and thus the costs—are spread out over the entire population. Especially now as the U.S. population ages, more money will be spent on health care for the elderly. The more people paying into the system, the more those costs are spread out.

    Furthermore, the more people are receiving regular health care, particularly preventive care services, public health improves. It’s also very expensive when people do not receive regular health care and wait until they are very sick to receive care. The Center for Science in the Public Interest concluded that comprehensive prevention programs are the most economical way to maximize health and minimize health care costs.

    Contrary to critics, immigrants make up a small but significant portion of our population and are not responsible for the health care crisis. The fact is that U.S. citizens make up the majority of the uninsured while legal and undocumented immigrants account for less than one-quarter of the nonelderly uninsured. It is true, however, that noncitizens are far less likely than citizens to have health insurance, mainly because they work in industries that don’t provide health care or they are not eligible for government-sponsored health care. While undocumented immigrants are not eligible for anything, legal permanent residents—those we’ve admitted into the country on a permanent basis who work, pay taxes, serve in the military, become U.S. citizens—are ineligible for most federal assistance programs for at least 5 years.

    Many people also mistakenly believe that immigrants use vast amounts of expensive health care, but this is not borne out by the facts. In reality, immigrants tend to be younger than the rest of the American population. They arrive in the United States during their prime working years, and tend to be healthier than the aging U.S. population. According to a July 2009 article in the American Journal of Public Health, immigrants are much less likely than U.S.-born adults to report being in fair or poor health. They are less likely to have chronic health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, or emphysema or to have an activity limitation.

    As a result, immigrants do not impose a disproportionate financial burden on the U.S. health care system. Health care costs for the average immigrant in America are 55% lower than health care costs for the average U.S.-born person. Another study found that, in 2005, average annual per capita health care expenditures for noncitizens were $1,797—versus $3,702 for U.S. citizens. According to a July 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health, immigrants use less medical care, and less expensive care (one-half to two-thirds less than U.S.-born citizens), even when they have health insurance.

    Nor do immigrants have high levels of emergency room usage. According to the non-partisan Kaiser Commission, noncitizens are less likely than citizens to use the emergency room. In 2006, 20% of U.S.-citizen adults and 22% of U.S.-citizen children had visited the emergency room within the past year. In contrast, 13% of noncitizen adults and 12% of noncitizen children had used emergency room care.

    When health care costs are distributed across a broader pool of people, the overall costs for everyone goes down. By including immigrants, who are generally younger and healthier than U.S. citizens, we can lower overall costs because immigrants will pay in, take less out, and receive less-expensive preventive care. Refusing to accept people who want to pay into the system doesn’t make sense. Immigrants are the not the cause of the health care crisis, but they can be part of the solution.

Advocates Issue Statement Condemning Obama Administration's Expansion of 287(g) Program

Following up on my last post, a group of advocates have issued a statement condemning the Obama administration's expansion of the 287(g) program:


    July 17, 2009

    Media Contacts:

    Adela de la Torre, Communication Specialist, National Immigration Law Center, 213.674.2832 (office), 213.400.7822 (cell)

    Andrea Black, Coordinator, Detention Watch Network, 202-393-1044 ext. 227 (office), 520-240-3726 (cell)

    Judith Greene, Director, Justice Strategies, 718-857-3316, jgreene@justicestrategies.net

    Civil rights and community groups across the country denounce Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano’s plans to expand the highly criticized 287(g) program to eleven new jurisdictions around the country. The program, authorized in 1996 and widely implemented under the Bush Administration, relinquishes, with no meaningful oversight, immigration enforcement power to local law enforcement and corrections agencies.

    Since its inception the program has drawn sharp criticism from federal officials, law enforcement, advocates and local community groups. A February 2009 report by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research firm, found widespread use of pretextual traffic stops, racially motivated questioning, and unconstitutional searches and seizures by local law enforcement agencies granted 287(g) powers. Justice Strategies recommended the program be suspended. "We found evidence that growth of the 287(g) program has been driven more by racial animus than by concerns about public safety. The expansion of this deeply flawed program cannot be justified before a thorough test of corrective actions shows solid proof that they have been effective," reports Judy Greene, Director of Justice Strategies. A March 2009 Government Accountability Agency (GAO) report, criticized DHS for insufficient oversight of the controversial program.

    Also in March, the United States Department of Justice launched an investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, to determine whether Arpaio is using his 287(g) power to target Latinos and Spanish-speaking people. In Davidson County, Tennessee, the Sheriff’s Office has used its 287(g) power to apprehend undocumented immigrants driving to work, standing at day labor sites, or while fishing off piers. One pregnant woman---charged with driving without a license---was forced to give birth while shackled to her bed during labor. Preliminary data indicate that in some jurisdictions the majority of individuals arrested under 287(g) are accused of public nuisance or traffic offenses: driving without a seatbelt, driving without a license, broken taillights, and similar offences. Such a pattern of arrests suggest that local sheriff’s deputies are improperly using their 287(g) powers to rid their counties of immigrants, by making pretextual arrests that are then used to forcefully deport people. “We need only look at the example of Maricopa County to understand the devastating effects the increased 287(g) program will have on our communities,” said Chris Newman, Legal Programs Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “The Obama administration must recognize that the 287(g) program is predatory and ripe for corruption and profiling that will harm community stability and safety for everyone.”

    The Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Major Chiefs Association have expressed concerns that deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce civil federal immigration law undermine the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities, overburdens cities’ already reduced resources, and leaves cities vulnerable to civil liability claims. “When victims and witnesses of crime are afraid to contact police for fear of being jailed or deported, public safety suffers,” said Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center.

    Napolitano’s July 10 announcement that DHS has granted 11 new jurisdictions 287(g) powers stunned advocates who had been expecting a major overhaul of – or end to – this failed program. “DHS is fully aware that the abusive misuse of the 287(g) program by its current slate of agencies has rendered it not only ineffective, but dangerous to community safety. It is surprising Napolitano did not simply shut this program down. Expanding this failed program is not in line with the reform the administration has promised,” said Andrea Black, Coordinator of the Detention Watch Network.

    Signatory Organizations:

    A Better Way Foundation, New Haven, CT

    All of Us or None, San Francisco, CA

    Border Action Network, Tucson, AZ

    Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, NY

    Center for Media Justice, Oakland, CA

    Detention Watch Network, Washington, DC

    Families for Freedom, New York, NY

    Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami, FL

    Grassroots Leadership, Austin, Texas

    Homies Unidos, Los Angeles, CA

    Immigrant Defense Project, New York, NY

    Immigrant Justice Network

    Immigration Law Clinic, UC Davis School of Law, Davis, CA

    Immigrant Legal Resource Center, San Francisco, CA

    Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY

    Justice Strategies, New York, NY

    Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco, CA

    Main Street Project, Minneapolis, MN

    Media Action Grassroots Network, Oakland, CA

    National Day Laborer Organizing Network

    National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, CA

    National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Boston, MA

    Partnership for Safety and Justice, Portland, Oregon

    Project Rethink

    Southern Center for Human Rights, Atlanta, GA

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Details on the New 287(g) MOA

So as we reported last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a new memorandum of agreement that redefines how the 287(g) program will be run. Today, I finally got some specs on the new MOA.

287(g) is a program that was authorized in 1996 legislation, but didn't come into existence until the Bush years. In essence, the program allows local police enforcement to act as federal immigration agents.

The 287(g) program during the Bush years was coated in problems...from blatant racial profiling, to having no oversight, to actually reducing the police's ability to fight crime. A GAO report issued back in March stated that:
  1. The program lacks key internal controls
  2. The program objectives have not been laid out or documented in program-related materials
  3. Oversight on how (and when) to use immigration authority has been inconsistent
  4. The structure of ICE's supervision of 287(g) programs has not been developed or defined
  5. Consistent data collection, documentation, and reporting requirements have not been defined
  6. Performance meters used to evaluate program progress are virtually non-existent
Many groups have spoken out against the program, including FCNL, but also the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

The new memorandum issued by the Obama Administration seems to be addressing some of these core concerns. For instance, in the prior MOA, priorities for arrest and detention were not addressed; the new MOA has outlined priorities that are divided into three levels of importance. Even at the lowest level, immigrants picked up in the 287(g) program must have been convicted of other criminal offenses (which, fyi, most immigration violations are not).

The new MOA also strictly binds all personnel to ALL federal civil rights laws, regulations, and guidance relating to non-discrimination. There is a new process for addressing complaints and ensuring that the program's operation plans have full oversight.

So overall, the new MOA is better than the old one. But I am still concerned that the program is being expanded rather than contracted. Moreover, the new memorandum does not call into question the fundamental nature of a 287(g) agreement. Should local law enforcement be enforcing immigration law?

I think the answer is no.

Rep. Polis Speaks to Colleagues about Immigrant Detention

Today, Congressman Jared Polis gave a one-minute floor speech on immigrant detention and the need for humane and comprehensive immigration reform.

He gave a compelling speech about his own visit to an immigrant detention center in Colorado over the Independence Day weekend. He said that he met teenagers, torture victims, asylum seekers, and others who were picked up on minor offenses.

Polis stated that this treatment towards immigrants goes against the United States values and urged his colleagues to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Check it out:

New Yorker Article on Sheriff Joe Arpaio

This week's issue of the New Yorker ran a great article on Sheriff Joe Arpaio, vigilante extraordinaire. It's a candid interview that gets you up close and personal with the Arizona sheriff who's made it his goal in life to root out undocumented migrants in his jurisdiction and make their lives a living hell by any means necessary.

Now, the link above is merely an abstract, and you have to have an online subscription to the New Yorker to be able to read the full article, but I do encourage anyone who's interested to borrow this week's issue from a friend or find it at a newsstand if you aren't registered online. Definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Last Week: In Our Community

Immigration news and updates from Monday July 6 through Tuesday July 14.

Last week saw a number of developments regarding immigration reform. I'll try and recap them here as well as cover the usual array of national news.

Sen. Charles Schumer of NY announced plans that he will introduce an immigration reform bill by Labor Day of this year. This follows another recent announcement of his 7 principles of immigration reform that he says will guide his bill. FCNL deeply appreciates Sen. Schumer's commitment to introducing and passing comprehensive immigration reform. However, we remain concerned about the primary focus on enforcement.

On Wednesday of last week, the Council on Foreign Relations issued a new report on US immigration policy urging the passage of comprehensive immigration reform for economic, foreign policy, and national security reasons. While we were pleased to see important provisions included in the report (such as upholding family reunification, supporting a path to legal status, alternatives to detention), we were also concerned about the report's advocacy of using the flawed E-Verify system or a biometric identification system, employer sancions, increasing the number of Border Patrol agents, and expanding 287(g) agreements. We also were concerned about the emphasis on getting immigrants into the military.

In other news, the New York Times is reporting that "surging caseloads and a chronic lack of resources" is taking a toll on the nation's immigration judges. In a study conducted by Georgetown University, immigration judges from accross the United States left comments stating that they were overwhelmed and disheartened by the "volume of cases with insufficient time for careful review, a shortage of law clerks and language interpreters, and failing computers and equipment for recording hearings."

An NY Times editorial also announced disappointment at President Obama's decision to expand the 287(g) program, which allows local law enforcement to act as federal immigration agents. The Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to improve the program's oversight as the program has been plagued by "reports of racial profiling and abuse." But this decision by the administration comes as a disappointment of many, including many police chiefs and sheriffs.

The federal government is also paying $880,000 to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by he family of Roxanna Brown, a 620 year old woman who died at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. The detention center officials have acknowledged that there was no overnight medical oversight on the night that she died. According to AP, "the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle agreed to the settlement in exchange for dismissal of all claims."

Yet another report came out about the practice of shackling pregnant immigrant women held in detention as they give birth.

So a mixture of the good and the bad. I think all these news and reports show us that we are moving foward. But we need to continue to work to hold members of Congress to their values of justice and equality.

Monday, July 13, 2009

HIV Ban Repeal

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has just published proposed regulations that will soon eliminate the HIV travel and immigration ban once and for all. Once finalized, the regulations will remove HIV from the list of “communicable diseases of public health significance.” Once HIV is removed from this list, the HIV ban, which has lasted over two decades will finally come to an end.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

News From The Hill

Mixed news regarding immigration last week. While the Senate adopted amendments to the Department of Homeland Security funding bill that would expand the use of E-Verify and extend the border wall, the Obama Administration announced that it would rescind the ineffective No-Match rule requiring the Social Security Administration to notify employers that employee's social security numbers did not match. However, the Administration also announced that DHS would require E-Verify for all federal contractors and subcontractors. Finally, the Council on Foreign Relations adds its voice to the call for sweeping immigration reform.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A New 287(g) Program

Following a review of the 287(g) program, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will revamp the program according to new U.S. Immigration Control and Enforcement priorities.

Top on ICE's new priority list is removing undocumented immigrants with criminal records from neighborhoods, provided that those criminals be prosecuted on the original crimes that required them to be taken into custody. Additionally, 11 new local law enforcement agencies have signed with the program, promoting more consistency and oversight in immigration law enforcement throughout the nation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Senate Approves More Fencing Along Southern Border

Today, the Senate voted to require 700 miles of actual fencing be built along the southern border, rather than permit stretches of "virtual fencing" made up of vehicle barriers and high-tech equipment.

The border fence is extremely problematic and violates dozens of environmental and religious rights laws, as well as can cost as much as $5 million per mile.

Let's hope that this provision is stripped out in conference. But as the Associated Press noted, this provision demonstrates "the extent to which spending bills can serve as vehicles for policy debates."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Last Week: In Our Community

Hi Folks,
Not too much news this week as Congress wasn't in session, but I think we've got enough to keep you busy for at least a half hour.

Here's an alarming new trend that may have some of us scratching our heads. As our economy continues to sputter, immigrants have begun to ask for "reverse remittances" from their families back home. Immigrants struggling to find jobs in a contracting economy are actually wiring money from their countries of origin as they scrounge for enough money just to return home.

Justice Denny Chin's quest to hold the new administration accountable for establishing legally enforceable standards for the detention system continues. As of yet, Chin has still not received a response from the Department of Homeland Security. Each week, we find more articles telling of abuse in detention centers, and the press is beginning to take notice. Here's a more personal article from the New York Times about detention center abuses.

In Utah, Derek Monson from the Sutherland Institute writes a great article about the state's new anti-immigration law, SB81. According to Monson, the law imprudently increases government influence in citizens' lives.

In Florida, several big-city police chiefs urged Congress on Wednesday to draft a new policy that improves public safety by bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows. Also in Florida, St. Lucie County joined eight other Florida counties and about 60 nationwide in a new program to help prevent illegal immigrants convicted of serious offenses from being released back into society.

A new study finds that many immigration judges adjudicating cases of asylum seekers are suffering from significant symptoms of secondary traumatic stress and job burnout, which, according to the researchers, may shape their judicial decision-making processes.

Our last story comes from the nexus between the War on Drugs on our southern border and Mexican immigration. The Obama administration is developing plans to seek up to 1,500 National Guard volunteers to step up the military's counter-drug efforts along the Mexican border, senior administration officials said Monday.

That's all for now.