Author Archives: Richard Irwin

The Latest Homeland Security Funding “Deal” Hurts Us All

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2018

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-805-0375

The Latest Homeland Security Funding “Deal” Hurts Us All

WASHINGTON — With the threat of another partial government shutdown looming, a bicameral congressional conference committee released a proposal late last night to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the remainder of this fiscal year. The proposal includes numerous harmful provisions: $1.375 billion for more border militarization and surveillance, a 12 percent increase in the number of people in immigration jails, and no restrictions to rein in a long track record of abuse and overspending by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Lawmakers are expected to vote before the end of this week in order to avert another shutdown.

Avideh Moussavian, legislative director at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“President Trump has now repeatedly presented members of Congress and the country with a false choice between paychecks for nearly a million federal workers and the public’s access to basic services or a blank check for his administration to inflict harm on our immigrant and border communities. It’s clear that there are no real winners in this scenario and that Democrats need to stand up to this extortionist style of governing.

“In immigration law, details matter. Unfortunately, negotiators seem to have overlooked the details that would devastate immigrant communities by increasing the number of jail beds for immigrants and essentially handing ICE and CBP — two agencies known for their disregard for compassion or the Constitution — free rein to further terrorize immigrant communities.

“Our nation’s economy and millions of families were devastated when President Trump threw our country into the longest government shutdown in history, and too many families are still suffering the consequences. For immigrant families, this funding proposal will only compound their suffering  by rewarding ICE and CBP with more resources to terrorize, cage, deport, and deny due process to more people who are longstanding members of our communities or have come here seeking safety and a better future. Elected leaders in Congress, especially those who call themselves champions of immigrant communities and good governance, must hold these agencies accountable.

“Voters across the country rejected the politics of hate and fear last November. They sent a clear message demanding accountability, transparency, and good governance. Nowhere is this change more sorely needed  than within the Department of Homeland Security. We will continue working to hold these agencies accountable and toward a more humane and just immigration system.”

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Barr Will Continue Sessions’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda in Justice Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 13, 2019

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375

Barr Will Continue Sessions’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda in Justice Department

WASHINGTON — Following a series of hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved the nomination of William Barr to be U.S. attorney general. The full Senate vote to confirm him is expected today, despite warnings and outcry from several prominent civil rights and social justice groups.

Avideh Moussavian, legislative director at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Jeff Sessions’s tenure as U.S. attorney general is a stain on this country’s moral record. During his time in office, our government callously terminated the path to U.S. citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people who have lived here for most of their lives, stole children from their parents at the border and detained them indefinitely, made it nearly impossible for people fearing for their lives to exercise their legal right to apply for asylum, and preached hatred and fear over justice and dignity.

“William Barr, his likely successor, has made it clear that he not only condones Sessions’s shameful legacy of demonizing and cruelly targeting low-income immigrants and people of color in this country, but he will work to further it.

“Barr’s testimony offered in plain view what is clear from his prior public statements and his record at the Justice Department: His views of justice are deeply rooted in racism, a reckless disregard for facts and honesty, and a willingness to squander the rights of those not afforded the financial or social privileges to stand up to an unfair justice system. He has expressed support for Trump’s border wall and Muslim ban, for punishing localities and states that reject a mass deportation agenda, and for weaponizing the 2020 census to target immigrants as well as cast doubt on the constitutional right of birthright citizenship.

“We need a sharp course correction, not a promise of more of the same. Those serving in our country’s highest offices — and especially those tasked with overseeing our justice system — must demonstrate a commitment to preserving the civil rights, justice, and dignity of all who call this country home.”

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Don’t Be Fooled: Funding for ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Is Funding for Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda (The Torch)

Don’t Be Fooled: Funding for ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Is Funding for Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Jessie Hahn, NILC Labor & Employment Policy Attorney
FEBRUARY 8, 2019

While the public may think that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) focuses primarily on national security and transnational crime, HSI is also responsible for certain immigration enforcement functions inside the U.S. (known as “interior enforcement”), including enforcement of immigration laws as they apply to worksites (“worksite enforcement“). In October 2017, the former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, vowed to increase worksite enforcement activities “4 to 5 times,” and in January 2018, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen doubled down by promising to ramp up worksite raids.

As a result, HSI has resumed engaging in highly militarized and coercive large-scale worksite immigration raids. In fact, over the spring and summer of 2018, it conducted several high-profile operations in Florida, Tennessee, Iowa, two locations in Ohio, Nebraska, Minnesota, Texas, and Arkansas.

Worksite raids are a violent and widely condemned enforcement tactic that tear parents away from unsuspecting children, cause profound psychological harm, destabilize local communities, and generally undermine all workers’ job-related rights. While HSI has attempted to legitimize its use of worksite raids by claiming they are criminal investigations, the vast majority of the workers detained are administratively arrested on civil immigration violations, and in most cases the employers are not criminally charged. By using worksite raids to target large numbers of workers for arrest and deportation while failing to prosecute the employers who hired them and profited from their labor, HSI’s new worksite enforcement practices mirror the larger strategy of the Trump administration — abusing executive powers to demonize and scapegoat immigrants while quietly pursuing policies that line the pockets of business interests.

 

During the spring and summer of 2018, disturbing patterns emerged in HSI’s conduct of its worksite raids. Multiple news reports described that while helicopters circled overhead and local law enforcement blocked nearby roads, HSI agents stormed worksites as heavily armed guards secured all exits. In the utter chaos that ensued, unsuspecting workers were subjected to excessive force, intimidated by police dogs, thrown to the ground, assaulted, had guns pointed at their heads, and were subjected to racist and degrading comments from HSI agents. In Ohio, plainclothes HSI agents initially lured a group of workers into a breakroom using boxes of donuts before surrounding them and arresting them. In multiple raids, HSI agents racially profiled workers, separating workers by skin tone and rounding up brown-skinned workers without asking for identification or immigration status information — which resulted in false arrests of U.S. citizens who were then held unlawfully, in some cases for hours.

Predictably, such enforcement brings deep trauma to those directly impacted by it and also terrifies the larger immigrant community. After a devastating raid in Tennessee, the ripple effects spread across the region, with neighbors scrambling to care for children who had been left stranded without parents for hours and families sleeping in churches for days out of fear of ICE coming to their homes. The day after the raid, 550 children failed to show up to local schools. This kind of immigration enforcement has a profoundly destabilizing effect on the well-being of the children whose parents are unexpectedly torn from them, causing severe anxiety and depression, poor sleeping and eating habits, inability to focus in school, and constant fear of separation from other family members.

While HSI has engaged in criminal investigations of employers since its formation, the use of large-scale worksite raids to target workers for arrest and deportation was discontinued after 2008 due to the widely documented harms and the havoc these operations cause. In public statements, HSI has attempted to justify its latest ramping up of worksite enforcement as necessary to “build another layer of border security” and “reduce the continuum of crime that illegal labor facilitates.” In reality, HSI is making the decision to engage in the most aggressive, violent form of enforcement it can take at worksites because the real purpose of the raids is to target workers for deportation while creating a media spectacle designed to intimidate immigrant communities into “self-deporting.”

 

If HSI were serious about curbing unlawful hiring and employment, it would meaningfully hold employers accountable instead of focusing its enforcement firepower on workers. Yet in the majority of recent raids, employers have not been charged criminally — in fact, 2018 saw the lowest number of federal indictments and convictions of managers for unlawful hiring offenses in the last ten years. In addition, of the 779 criminal worksite arrests that HSI did make in 2018, 85 percent were workers and 15 percent were employers. As the graph above shows, while there has been an increase in the number of employers charged criminally in the worksite enforcement context, far greater resources have been expended in criminally charging workers — and most of those charges were detected after taking the workers into custody and fingerprinting them (see examples from the raids in TennesseeSandusky, Ohio; and Canton, Ohio).

HSI also alleges that its investigations help combat the exploitation of workers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. HSI’s worksite enforcement activities force immigrant workers into the margins and damage communities, making workers more fearful of deportation and more vulnerable to gross exploitation by employers. When HSI’s own investigation of the Tennessee employer turned up wage and hour and safety violations on the job, it did not refer those violations to the proper authorities (who opened investigations only after the employees filed complaints).

ICE has been sued repeatedly for constitutional violations committed during home raids and by this point should be well aware of the constitutional rights and protections that everyone in the U.S. has. There is no legitimate reason for Congress to increase funding for HSI’s abusive worksite raids. Currently, HSI has approximately 6,000 enforcement officers and 6,000 special agents. But it wants to add an additional 10,000 officers and agents, which would significantly increase its capacity to harm families and communities across the country.

Rather than increasing HSI’s funding, Congress should cut it and also prohibit HSI from arresting workers while conducting worksite enforcement.


For more on this topic, see www.nilc.org/hsi-backgrounder-webpage/.

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Groups File FOIA Request to Demand Transparency on Implementation of “Remain in Mexico” Policy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2019

CONTACT
NILC: Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375
Asylum Access: Lisa D’Annunzio, [email protected], 909-215-1639
Immigrant Defenders Law Center: Lindsay Toczylowski, [email protected], 213-534-7181

Groups File FOIA Request to Demand Transparency on Implementation of “Remain in Mexico” Policy

WASHINGTON — Advocacy groups are seeking information regarding the Trump administration’s recent changes to the asylum process at the southern border, which have been outlined only in vague terms so far but promise to significantly change the process as we know it. Asylum Access and Immigrant Defenders Law Center, represented by the National Immigration Law Center, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request this week to demand transparency from the U.S. and Mexican governments on the “Remain in Mexico” policy and other key changes to the asylum-seeking process recently announced by the Trump administration.

“U.S. government agencies must be held accountable for their actions. To this day, children are still in the process of being reunited with their parents, there have been multiple deaths in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody, and there has been a dearth of information about the impact and implementation of the newly introduced ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy,” said Josh Rosenthal, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “The government has a responsibility to be clear and open about how they plan to implement these new changes to the asylum-seeking process, and we will demand that it be held accountable.”

Under this drastic new policy, asylum-seekers allegedly will be forced to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are being considered by the U.S. government. Until this recent change, people seeking asylum would await their court date in the U.S., but the Trump administration has indicated that under the “Remain” policy, it will force such people to wait in Mexico until they are summoned to their court hearing. Neither the U.S. nor Mexican government has been clear about the implementation plan, although it has already gone into effect.

“Both the U.S. and Mexican governments have a responsibility to be clear and straightforward about their involvement in the implementation of new policies and regulations about seeking asylum at the southern border,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “The process of sending asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for their applications to be processed requires coordination with the Mexican government, which has acquiesced to unreasonable demands from U.S. agencies and officials. We have a right to understand the details of an agreement that is putting people’s lives at risk.”

“This is part of a broader effort to discourage people from seeking asylum and is undermining their ability to do so. This is immoral and goes against not only international law, but is in stark contrast to who we aspire to be as a nation,” said Diana Essex-Lettieri, deputy director of Asylum Access. “We believe it is critically important that the U.S. provide safe haven to those who need it. Some refugees will not be safe in Mexico, or will not be able to rebuild their lives effectively there. The U.S. must comply fully with its own obligations to provide full and fair asylum proceedings. We will continue to fight for the right to seek asylum for all refugees, including all those who seek refuge in the U.S.”

The FOIA request seeks documents related to the coordination between the U.S. and Mexican governments for the purpose of metering, waitlisting, vetting, impeding, and/or preventing asylum-seekers from accessing ports of entry at the U.S.’s southern border, as well as documents related to the processing and detention of asylum applicants who present themselves at southern border ports of entry.

The FOIA request is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/AA-ImmDef-FOIA-Request-2019-02-05.pdf.

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Marco Villada, Dreamer Once Stranded in Mexico, to Attend State of the Union Address

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 4, 2019

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

Marco Villada, Dreamer Once Stranded in Mexico, to Attend State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON — Marco Villada, a former DACA recipient whose life was turned upside down by an injustice that separated him from his husband and left him stranded in Mexico for half a year, will attend the State of the Union Address on Tuesday as a guest of Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46).

“My husband, Israel, and I are grateful for the opportunity to show decision-makers and the country that, despite attempts by some people in power to dehumanize, vilify and harm our immigrant communities, we are undeniably a part of the fabric of this country,” Villada said.

Villada, who grew up and lives in California, traveled to Mexico for a consular interview as part of the process of applying for lawful permanent residence after marrying Israel Serrato, a U.S. citizen. Once he arrived there, his application was wrongfully denied, and he was barred from reentering the U.S.

Villada and Serrato — represented by the National Immigration Law Center, Mayer Brown LLP, and the Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin — sued the Trump administration. After the legal action and broad public support, including from groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, the government reversed its decision. Marco was allowed to return home, but not before he and his husband lost their home and their savings, and missed out on precious time together.

“Marco and Israel are pillars of our community here in Los Angeles, and their struggle demonstrated what we all know to be true: that our current immigration policies hurt all of us,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Thousands were inspired by their fight to be reunited, and thousands more cheered when Marco was allowed to come back home. We were so proud to stand with them in their fight to be reunited as a family, and we know they will carry their message of dignity all the way to Washington.”

Villada will be among more than a dozen guests at the State of the Union impacted by the Trump administration’s xenophobic and anti-immigrant policies. They include Shaima Swileh, a Yemeni mother who nearly missed her sick child’s last days due Trump’s Muslim ban. Swileh was granted an elusive waiver, but only after enormous public pressure. Her husband Ali Hassan, a U.S. citizen, will also attend the State of the Union.

Dreamers, people with TPS, refugees, and mothers impacted by President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy will also be present to give voice to the millions who have been impacted by Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

“We hope our experience offers hope to all those who are feeling the toll of our unjust immigration policies and the current political climate,” Serrato said. “Our communities are strong and resilient. And, as our story shows, even when there’s a lot of hurt, there can be a happy ending.”

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Redacted National Vetting Center Implementation Plan Raises More Concerns Than It Answers (The Torch)

Redacted National Vetting Center Implementation Plan Raises More Concerns Than It Answers

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Joan Friedland
JANUARY 31, 2019

The Trump administration recently released a redacted version of its implementation plan (dated August 2018 but not released until December 2018) for a newly created National Vetting Center (NVC). The NVC project was first announced by presidential proclamation (NSPM-9) in February 2018. While it raised immediate concerns, the implementation plan and a December 11, 2018, privacy impact assessment (PIA) only confirm why this should worry immigrants and citizens.

As we’ve reported previously, the administration has been determined to implement a “continuous vetting strategy, framework and process” as a way to screen non–U.S. citizens at all stages of the immigration process, including after they become U.S. citizens. This extreme vetting strategy is part of a larger Trump agenda to criminalize, surveil, and police immigrants and communities of color. The NVC represents one element of that strategy.

 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) describes the NVC as “designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. Government vetting programs in order to better identify individuals who may pose a threat to national security, border security, homeland security, or public safety, consistent with law and policy.” The PIA calls the NVC a “process and technology” and describes its primary purpose as “[c]reating, maintaining, and facilitating” the vetting process. NVC’s first phase of operations will focus on vetting of individuals applying to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in order to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

According to the implementation plan and the PIA, the NVC won’t store or retain information or make decisions on whether to grant or deny an immigration application, but instead will simply make recommendations to government agencies that make the ultimate decision on whether to grant or deny an immigration benefit or target a person for immigration enforcement. But that description misstates the NVC’s impact, since the recommendation may be relied upon heavily by the agencies.

Here are some reasons we should be concerned about the NVC:

• No transparency about NVC’s plans for the future. DHS is secretive about where this program is going. While the NVC may focus for the moment on ESTA screening, its Phase Two plans are substantially redacted in the implementation plan. And even that redacted plan was released months after it was written. That makes us concerned that Phase Two — whatever it might be — will be revealed only after it is well under way, just as Phase One was. This is yet another glaring example of how DHS lacks transparency about these new programs, as shown by its under-the-radar creation of an enormous database called Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART).

• No redress within the NVC. According to the PIA, the NVC will not have a redress system and doesn’t feel it owes one to the public, even though the information it collects and shares will be relied on by final decisionmakers. That means that affected individuals are left only with whatever redress procedures exist within DHS or other agencies but will not know the source of information relied upon by the NVC in making a recommendation. And since only citizens and lawful permanent residents are, in accordance with Trump administration policy, covered by Privacy Act protections, they will have no way to request that bad information be corrected.

• No standards or limits. According to the PIA, the NVC “will not use commercial sources or publicly available data as part of the vetting process” and will not “conduct electronic searches, queries, or analyses to discover or locate a predictive pattern or an anomaly.” But these self-imposed limits could easily evaporate in the future. The U.S. State Department has made collection and evaluation of information available on social media a critical part of deciding whether or not to issue visas, and DHS has made clear its intent to monitor and use individuals’ social media and Internet activity for enforcement. DHS would like to use algorithms and computational methods in analyzing and using the vast quantities of information it is able to gather, backing off of that only because of limits in software technology.

• No independent monitoring or audits. All monitoring and auditing of the NVC’s activities are internal. As a result, no independent body is authorized to examine how the NVC is really operating.

• No limits on information-sharing. The implementation plan and the PIA are either silent or at best vague about how information will be shared outside of DHS, leaving individuals subject to the wide-open information-sharing processes of the different adjudicating agencies.

Advocates should continue to monitor the NVC and its operations closely. But that will be challenging, given the program’s secrecy and reliance on internal monitoring processes. Without aggressive oversight by Congress and demands for transparency, the NVC risks becoming yet another way for DHS to keep the American public in the dark.


Joan Friedland is a NILC consultant and the primary author of our report “Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web: Basic Information for Advocates about Databases and Information-Sharing Among Federal, State, and Local Agencies.” She formerly was a managing attorney at NILC.

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More Spending on Border Will Secure Only More Suffering (The Torch)

More Spending on Border Will Secure Only More Suffering

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Holly Straut-Eppsteiner
JANUARY 30, 2019

After a catastrophic and unprecedented government shutdown, lawmakers are convening this week to negotiate a border security plan amid persistent threats from the president that he might shut the government down again three weeks from now. The hysteria surrounding President Trump’s demands for a wall and increased funding for border security gives the illusion that the U.S.-Mexico border remains a lawless expanse that migrants are free to cross. In fact, since the 1990s, the U.S.-Mexico border has become increasingly fortified with both physical and political infrastructure that has made migration more difficult and dangerous. Border militarization has come at a significant cost for both U.S. taxpayers and border-crossers seeking safety and opportunity in the United States.

Annual appropriations for interior and border enforcement have increased tremendously in recent years, and federal spending on enforcement has totaled $263 billion since 1986. With it, the government has built nearly 700 hundred miles of physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and hired tens of thousands of interior and border enforcement agents. Between fiscal years 2003 and 2016, the number of Border Patrol agents doubled and the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents working in ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations tripled. Since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in 2003, the budget for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has grown from $5.9 billion to more than $14 billion in 2018. Appropriations for CBP for 2018 included $1.57 billion for “physical barriers and associated technology along the Southwest border.”

When we set aside hyperbole and examine the data, it becomes clear how unnecessary even more border spending really is. As shown in the graph below, Border Patrol staffing (the blue line indicated by numbers on the left axis) skyrocketed as apprehensions (orange line, numbers on the right axis) tumbled since the mid-2000s. In fact, contrary to the misinformation frequently put out by the Trump administration, the undocumented population has decreased in recent years. Net migration from Mexico, the largest source of migrants to the U.S., has decreased since 2010. Undocumented migration from Mexico is now near zero. Net Mexican migration is, in fact, negative, meaning more people are returning to Mexico than entering the U.S.

 

Migration scholars have found that as the border has become more militarized, making travel back and forth more dangerous and difficult, migrants have increasingly opted to settle permanently in the U.S. Rather than maintaining families in their countries of origin and supporting them through U.S.-based jobs, migrants have developed strong social ties in their U.S. communities and are raising U.S. citizen children.

When these settled migrants are deported, their ties to the U.S. are so strong that deterrence policies at the border — even detention — are ineffective: People with homes and families in the U.S. are significantly likely to plan to cross again despite interactions with border enforcement.

The costs of border militarization, however wasteful, are more than financial. There are also human costs. Migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border do so at great risk, facing hazards, including drowning, dehydration, hypothermia, exposure, and assault. “Deterrence” programs such as DHS’s “lateral repatriation” ATEP, which deports migrants to places far from where they were initially detained, are largely ineffective even as they make crossing more dangerous.

The Trump administration has sought to ramp up spending on border “security” in response to refugees from violence and persecution in Central America applying for asylum at the border. Seeking asylum is a legal right. Moreover, supporting people’s right to seek refuge is part of the fabric of U.S. immigration policy.

Yet the Trump administration has designed policies intended to deter people from seeking asylum at the southern border, policies that include separating families, limiting the number of asylum claims processed per day and, most recently, requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico. As a result, people are trying to cross in more remote desert areas, like rural southern New Mexico. The risks of such crossings have been made all too clear by the recent tragic deaths of two migrant children.

The International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project tracks deaths along global migratory routes. Since 2014, it has recorded 1,468 deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border. Only one month into 2019, 12 deaths have already been recorded there. Surely there are better ways to spend $5 billion than to continue building border security infrastructure that is not only wasteful but that inevitably will lead to greater human suffering.


Holly Straut-Eppsteiner is NILC’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and research program manager.

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President Trump Accepts Short-Term Bill to Reopen Government Without Border Wall Funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 25, 2019

CONTACT
[email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-805-0375

President Trump Accepts Short-Term Bill to Reopen Government Without Border Wall Funding

WASHINGTON — More than one month into a White House–driven government shutdown — by far the longest in U.S. history — President Trump announced today that he would finally agree to a bill to temporarily reopen the government and pay government workers. This temporary agreement between the White House and congressional leaders will finally reopen the government for three more weeks while Trump continues his exploitative demands for a racist border wall.

Avideh Moussavian, legislative director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Careening from crisis to crisis is no way for our leaders to govern. We already waste tens of billions of dollars detaining and deporting immigrant families. We don’t need more money for Trump’s vanity projects or to address fictional scare tactics dreamed up by Stephen Miller.

“The major damage — to federal workers, our economy, access to essential services, and our nation’s stability — of the Trump-inflicted shutdown is temporarily over. In today’s announcement, Trump repeated his ultimatum to invoke a legally dubious ‘national emergency’ to build a wall, making it clear that Trump continues to prioritize threats over good-faith negotiations and that he does not value the well-being of federal workers or those who rely on their service. Trump hasn’t opened a negotiation process, he’s perpetuated a hostage situation.

“It has been clear from day one that Trump is committed to inflicting harm on immigrant communities, and this past month he showed the country just how far he’s willing to go to get what he wants. Elected leaders in Congress must stand up to and stop enabling these fear-mongering and dangerous tactics. Our legislative branch has the power of the purse, not Trump. We call on Congress to look at what’s in the best interest of the nation, rather than looking to appease the political whims of the White House. And we remind our members of Congress and our communities that when we remain committed to our values, we are stronger.”

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Trump-McConnell Bill Is an Anti-Immigrant Wish List (The Torch)

Trump-McConnell Bill Is an Anti-Immigrant Wish List

It would gut asylum laws and make it harder for people with DACA and TPS to keep protections

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Avideh Moussavian, Patrick O’Shea, and Holly Straut-Eppsteiner
JANUARY 23, 2019

For over a month, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have remained at the helm of what is by far the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Both Trump and McConnell are responsible for holding the paychecks of approximately 800,000 workers hostage to Trump’s demands to build a racist wall, hurting the livelihoods of federal workers and cutting off critical services for families and poorer communities across the country.

Tomorrow, the Senate is set to vote on the “compromise” White House-McConnell bill that is nothing more than a ransom note to American taxpayers and Democrats in Congress. As federal employees face missing their second paycheck, the White House and McConnell have shown once again their callous disregard for American workers and their ruthless desire to radically reshape our immigration system by gutting protections for asylum-seekers, vulnerable immigrant youth, and people with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or TPS (temporary protected status).

Some of the many disturbing poison pills in the bill are that it:

  • Adds $5.7 billion for a border wall and a slush fund
  • Adds 750 Border Patrol and 2,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to police and jail immigrants
  • Bans asylum for Central American minors who are seeking safety in the U.S., by preventing them from applying for asylum at the border and forcing them to wait for a process that will take nearly a year to get underway and will be restricted so that only 15,000 children per year can be granted asylum — and without the chance to see an immigration judge or have their case reviewed
  • Guts trafficking protections for unaccompanied children
  • Offers no permanent solution for people with DACA or TPS
  • Makes it harder for people with DACA or TPS to maintain protection from deportation
  • Explicitly excludes African, Muslim, and South Asian populations with protections under TPS and DED (deferred enforced departure). The bill extends only a one-time, 3-year protection to TPS-holders from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti — leaving out DED-holders from Liberia and TPS-holders from Guinea, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
  • Imposes harsh penalties on people with DACA by forcing them to pay back tax credits they were permitted by law to receive and excludes DACA recipients who are not wealthy

The DACA provisions in Trump’s proposal reflect his administration’s hostility to the program, which he chose to kill in September 2017. The Trump-McConnell bill’s offer for a one-time, three-year extension of temporary protection from deportation and work authorization is limited only to current DACA-holders — leaving out those who are otherwise eligible or could become eligible. This extension is meaningless: people with DACA are already able to renew their DACA under a nationwide injunction blocking Trump’s attempt to end the program. And, since the Supreme Court has decided not to take up any of the current DACA court cases during this term, people who currently have DACA will continue to be able to renew their two-year protections from deportation at least through the end of this year.

However, the Trump-McConnell bill would more than double the DACA renewal fee, from $500 to $1,000, which would almost certainly reduce renewal retention for a program that an overwhelming majority of Americans support. DACA recipients need permanent solutions to their perpetual state of limbo — but this bill provides none.

Because of Trump administration policies, people with TPS are also in a state of limbo, because the administration has attempted to phase out TPS protections by allowing them to expire. Legal challenges have left the future of TPS up to the courts. Again, here the Trump-McConnell bill makes a weak offer to provide a one-time, three-year renewal only for TPS-holders from four countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti). It completely fails to assist TPS-holders from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. The bill also heads off future opportunities for individuals to receive relief through TPS by requiring that applicants already have legal status in the United States to qualify for protections.

Another insidious aspect of the Trump-McConnell bill’s provisions is that it aims to ensure that the U.S. opens its doors only to the wealthy. The bill would require that individuals with DACA and TPS maintain an income at 125 percent of the federal poverty level or be enrolled in school. For a family of four, that is an income threshold of $32,188. Even with two full-time workers in a household, families earning low wages (the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25) would not qualify. Such requirements reflect the administration’s continued efforts to disenfranchise low-income families.

The Trump-McConnell bill provides no solutions for immigrants and asylum-seekers and, in fact, creates greater risks for these communities. It also fails to provide relief for the suffering of federal workers and families across the country who rely on federal programs. Rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development has been frozen and low-income renters and seniors across the country may soon face eviction. States will begin exhausting their TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funding by the beginning of February. People who rely on SNAP (food stamps) to feed their families could have to wait 45 or 50 days to receive benefits. The shutdown has stretched on so long that even federal courts may start sending home staff as early as January 25 as their funding begins to be affected.

Americans have made it clear that they do not want to build a border wall and do not feel that it should be a priority for Congress. So why are Trump and McConnell intentionally depriving people of their livelihoods and their government? If this bill is any indication, the blatantly disingenuous DACA- and TPS-related overtures (and other similar provisions included to entice Democrats) are simply a Trojan horse meant to give cover to their uncompromising anti-immigrant agenda.

If the president and Senate majority leader were serious about ending this shutdown, they would give up these unreasonable and politicking demands for a cynical and dangerous boondoggle and reopen our government. Full stop.


Avideh Moussavian is NILC’s legislative director for advocacy; Patrick O’Shea is NILC’s research and narrative strategist; and Holly Straut-Eppsteiner is NILC’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and research program manager.


6:33 PM Pacific time: This article was updated in the following way: The bulleted item that begins “Imposes harsh penalties on people with DACA” was added.

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Supreme Court Declines to Take Up DACA Cases This Term

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 22, 2019

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

Supreme Court Declines to Take Up DACA Cases This Term

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to rush a review of legal challenges to the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, this spring. The Court will meet again on February 15 to discuss the possibility of hearing the cases later this year.

For now, three federal district courts’ orders allowing DACA recipients to submit renewal applications remain in effect. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen, the first lawsuit that challenged the termination of DACA, on Friday, Jan. 25.

Batalla Vidal
was brought by six New York DACA recipients and Make the Road New York. They are represented by the National Immigration Law Center, Make the Road New York, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The Supreme Court’s decision not to engage Trump’s attempt to sidestep the judicial process and use the courts to do his dirty work is welcome news for DACA recipients, their families, employers, and the country as a whole. The Court’s rejection of the Trump administration’s political games means that DACA recipients can continue to submit renewal applications as several legal challenges to President Trump’s cruel and reckless termination of DACA move forward.

“By all accounts, DACA has been hugely successful and transformative for immigrant youth who simply aspire to be recognized by the country they have called home since they were children. We at the National Immigration Law Center remain committed to vigorously defend DACA alongside the many courageous young people and organizations — including our plaintiffs Martín Batalla Vidal, Antonio Alarcon, Eliana Fernandez, Carolina Fung Feng, Mariano Mondragon, Carlos Vargas, and Make the Road New York — who are fighting back against Trump’s cruel, reckless, and race-driven attack on immigrants.

“We will continue fighting on all fronts: in the courts, Congress, and at the state and local levels so that DACA recipients can remain with their loved ones, thrive, and contribute to their adopted country.”

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