Monthly Archives: August 2014

Not Just Children at Risk on our Southern Border!-UPDATED


 

August 28, 2013:  The eyewitness accounts continue to come in from Artesia.  Click here to see a video update from Laura Lichter (former AILA National President and others) about what is happening. Additional video accounts can be seen here.


 

statue_of_liberty_with_extract_of_poem_by_emma_lazarus_fixedIn the past two months, many of my professional colleagues and fellow members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have chosen to give up time from their practices and families to travel to Artesia, New Mexico.  Many for more than a week at a time. However, Artesia is not the latest resort city slated to host an AILA conference and golf outing!  They have chosen to travel to Artesia to provide pro bono representation to women and children, including infants, and to assure that, minimally, the government provides a fair credible fear hearing to those fleeing violence and likely death in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

While, these women, children and infant detainees are legally entitled to this hearing process, they are are not entitled to an attorney at the government’s expense.  Consequently, without volunteer legal representation, these individuals are left to explain to the government why they qualify as refugees according to a legal definition they can’t read contained in a statute they don’t know exists in an environment that may has well be Mars to them.  Not only the children themselves are at risk on our border.  Our nation’s own commitment to due process equally hangs in the balance.

The threat to our basic national values is not theoretical, it is real and in practice.  Consider some of the examples shared from my colleagues:

  • Bond determination hearings in cases where the detained person has an attorney lasting an hour and half or more. (Typical bond determination hearings in Immigration Court last less than 30 minutes).
  • Only two bonds granted in cases represented by pro bono attorneys and no bond less than $25,000.  One additional bond granted in a case represented by a private attorney.  The vast majority of detainees are simply denied bonds altogether.  (The minimum Bond permitted under the Immigration and Nationality Act is $1500 and, even in cases where the person in removal proceedings may have minor convictions, an average bond before the Kansas City Immigration Court is $5000 to $7500). Of course, there is no such thing as bond agents or “10% cash allowed.”
  • Attorneys in cases where the detainee is represented, are generally not allowed to participate in the hearing in any meaningful manner other than to take notes.  (The USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual clearly details the role of the attorney to specifically permit the attorney to ask clarifying questions and to participate in creating a clear and complete record).
  • AILA attorneys are routinely harassed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for so much as attempting to access public legal reference materials and conducting detailed interviews of their detainee clients.

And the list of due process complaints goes on and one.  One can only shudder to think of what happens to the unrepresented detainees.

Accordingly, several non-profit groups, including the American Immigration Council, filed suit on August 22, 2014 in the Federal District Court for the District of Colombia bringing to light this attack on due process and abject failure of our immigration system to live up to the expectations of our American values.  The suit filed last week and can be read in its entirety by clicking below.

If you are interested in supporting the work of the attorneys providing pro bono representation to detainees in Artesia, New Mexico, please contact our office by clicking here and indicate your desire.  We will promptly follow up to get you in direct contact with them!

Download and read the entire law suit here: M.S.P.C. et al. v. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DACA Update and Things to Come?

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Earlier this week, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published its updated performance statistics for the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  The data is published through June 2014 and therefore covers almost a solid two years of data since DACA applications first could be filed in August 2012.  The performance data can be reviewed in its entirety here:

USCIS DACA Stats through to mid year 2014.

Of some note, the data reflects that nearly 581,000 DACA approvals have been issued since August 2012.  Nearly 24,000 DACA denials have been issued during the same time period.

While 581,000 may seem like a fairly large number indicating a successful program, this number actually falls significantly short of the nearly 937,000 immediately eligible individuals estimated at the announcement of the program in July 2012.  See the below analysis by Rob Paral prepared for the American Immigration Council / Immigration Policy Center.

 7.31.2012 IPC Article on Who and Where the Dreamer DA Cases Are

In the meantime, The Hill newspaper reported yesterday that Obama is facing extreme pressure from immigration reform groups to move forward on an expanded prosecutorial discretion program – one which would benefit a much broader class of individuals.  Of course, the President is also facing fierce push back from the Republicans on the right.

The Hill article quotes our own Professor Legomsky of Washington University School of Law who is back on the faculty after serving two years as Chief Counsel to USCIS then director, Mayorkas.  As Chief Counsel, Professor Legomsky was truly in the USCIS inner circle and had a significant hand in guiding the formulation of the USCIS Policy Memorandum that eventually resulted in the DACA program.

The Hill article can be downloaded here:

8.26.2014 The Hill-obama-pressed

To understand the current debate over any expanded executive action which may or may not occur this year, it is very important to realize that what is being considered is purely an exercise of the President’s discretion to decide where and where not to expend the very limited resources appropriated by the Congress to enforce the immigration law.

By the way, this discretion is actually a well established constitutionally protected prerogative of the Executive branch of the federal government rooted in the separation of powers doctrine. On many past occasions, the Supreme Court has explained that if the Executive did not have the power of prosecutorial discretion, the Congress would be too easily enabled to move from writing the law into meddling with the enforcement of the law.  The constitution unequivocally delegates the power to write laws to Congress but the power to execute the law to the Executive.

Since it is well established that there are in excess of 11 million undocumented individuals currently in the United States and the Congress only appropriates each year enough money to remove approximately 400,000 people a year (including removals of new arrivals at the boarder, not just folks already living in the interior United States), the President is left with no option but to prioritize where and how removal resources should be expended.

Importantly, this reality we find ourselves in is entirely of the Congress’ own creation by its complete failure to address comprehensive immigration reform, the blind insistence by some Congressional members that immigration law be enforced to the maximum extent possible all coupled with the Congress’ refusal to budget anywhere near the money necessary to do so.  It’s a classic example the child stomping his feet and demanding to have all the goodies but not wanting to pay for them.

Consequently, the President is left to a triage approach to immigration enforcement.  Under these conditions, it is simply common sense that the President must prioritize enforcement and focus the very limited enforcement resources available to him on the folks who pose the gravest threat to our communities such as those convicted of violent felony crimes.  Meanwhile, the undocumented immigrants technically subject to removal but who work, pay taxes, go to church, raise their children, cook our food, clean our houses, mow our yards (i.e. the VAST MAJORITY of the undocumented immigrants in our communities) will certainly end up being given a pass. Same old rule applies Congress, you get what you pay for.

The upshot to all this is that our communities will actually be better for it.

Stay tuned, Autumn will be interesting even after the elections.

US Legal Solutions is on Facebook!

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Please “Like” us and “Follow” our Facebook page: US Legal Solutions, LLC.  Then “Share” the US Legal Solutions, LLC page with all your friends!

Finally, at long last, you can find US Legal Solutions on Facebook.  Check out our office’s Facebook page by clicking here!

On our Facebook page, you will find all of our posts from this website and you will be able to comment and submit posts of your own related to immigration, immigrants in our community, immigration reform and any other related topic.

Check us out now and see who you know who has already joined the conversation!

Immigrants, Immigration Courts and Chicken Littles–all by the Numbers!

statue_of_liberty_with_extract_of_poem_by_emma_lazarus_fixed

Many folks have passionate opinions about our immigration system and how to fix it.  Usually these opinions flow from what people believe about our immigrant new Americans and how the immigration and enforcement process in this country functions or fails to function.  As in any debate, however, the old adage holds firmly true:  “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts”.  So, the facts (and in this case, the hard numbers) really do matter.

And that’s where the University of Syracuse comes in.  The University provides a great public service which is completely free (donations welcome of course) that is invaluable to ensuring an intelligent and productive immigration debate.  The service is called the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) and is a free public repository of seemingly endless government data, often obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The data pertains to a wide variety of topics, is published online and is easily accessed by the public.  You can find the TRAC database by clicking here.

One of the most interesting “reality checks” that emerges by sifting through this data can be gleaned using a particular data set tool on the TRAC site which can be found here. This particular tool analyzes data related to immigrant children in removal proceedings; by state, by whether the child in proceedings has legal counsel and by whether they actually show up for their court cases. Any person in removal proceedings (in this case a minor) who does not appear before the court as scheduled is usually ordered removed from the county in abstensia (in the person’s absence).  Thus, in abstensia orders of removal serve as a near perfect proxy for failures to appear.

Now, consider the heated rhetoric of many elected politicians shrieking that the unaccompanied minors pouring over the border, if not immediately returned home, would simply disappear into the US population and never bother to appear in immigration court as ordered.  Some Chicken Little politicians have publicly warned that as many as 90% of all unaccompanied minors in removal proceedings currently fail to appear.  This argument might seem like common sense–surely the sky must really be falling.  But again, one is entitled to their opinions, but not their own facts.  And the facts, or in this case the numbers, just don’t support the Chicken Littles.

Back to TRAC.  By utilizing the tools linked above, one can easily examine the following data sets:

2005 to present: Number of minors in removal proceedings unrepresented (pro se) whose cases were closed by an in abstensia order of removal (i.e. they failed to appear for their court case):  29% failed to appear, over 70% appeared.

Juveniles – Immigration Court Deportation Proceedings — all states-pro se

2005 to present: Number of minors in removal proceedings with legal counsel whose cases were closed by an in abstensia order of removal (i.e. they failed to appear for their court case even though they had a lawyer):  4.5% failed to appear, over 95% appeared.

Juveniles – Immigration Court Deportation Proceedings–all states–with counsel

Being from the generation who grew up watching Bugs Bunny on TV, I can’t help hearing the famous rabbit TV star’s words ring in my head:  “what’s all the hubbub, bub?”

Funny thing about facts–sometimes they just won’t get with the agenda! And in this case, the facts show that an enormously high percentage of minors in removal proceedings really do show up for court.  Fair enough, nearly 30% who aren’t fortunate enough to afford a lawyer don’t go to their court date and overall slightly more than 18% don’t show up. (Set aside for the moment what this might say about the inequity of being in removal proceedings without counsel–save that for another post!) But 90% no show–no way! Myth busted!

For now, our nation’s collective conscience is fixated on the racial inequities that have been exposed by Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri–and rightfully so.  However, sooner than we may realize, our collective focus and, hopefully the Administration’s as well, will again shift to the other great human rights calamity challenging our nation–our broken immigration system.  When attentions shift back, you can bet the fever pitched Chicken Little rhetoric prophesying the sky’s fall will crescendo.  When it does, best to take a breath, look at the numbers and separate rhetoric from reality.

We certainly will! Stay tuned!

 

 

The American Immigration Council (AIC) recently released its report titled: Unauthorized Immigrants Today: A Demographic Profile.

Too often participants in the immigration debate hold strong opinions based on a completely inaccurate understanding of who the folks are who make up the population of undocumented immigrants in this country.  In fact, of particular note, the AIC’s recent report points out:

Three-fifths of unauthorized immigrants have been in the United States for more than a decade. According to estimates from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 41 percent of unauthorized immigrants in the United States as of 2012 had arrived in the United States during the 1990s, and another 18 percent during the 1980s. 42 percent of unauthorized immigrants had arrived in the United States between 2000 and 2011. (Report, page 2).

Nearly half of adult unauthorized immigrants live in households with children under the age of 18. According to Pew, 46 percent of unauthorized immigrant adults had minor children in 2010. In comparison, 38 percent of legal immigrants (including naturalized U.S. citizens) and 29 percent of U.S. natives had minor children. (Report, page 4).

Roughly 4.5 million native-born U.S.-citizen children have at least one unauthorized parent. Pew estimates that unauthorized immigrants already in the United States had approximately 5.5 million children in 2010. Roughly 1 million of those children were themselves unauthorized immigrants, while the remaining 4.5 million were native-born U.S. citizens. (Report, page 4).

The AIC report helps remind us that “The truth     .     .     .      is that unauthorized immigrants include adults and children, mothers and fathers, homeowners and people of faith, most of whom are invested in their communities”.

This report is well worth reading and sharing with others.  Read the entire Report by clicking below.

Unauthorized Immigrants Today_ A Demographic Profile _ Immigration Policy Center

or view the report directly on AIC’s site with with all addition hyper-linked resources by clicking here.

statue_of_liberty_with_extract_of_poem_by_emma_lazarus_fixedWhy do the children come?

AIC’s recent study “No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing their Homes” thoughtfully examines the question of what drives children and teenagers to risk life and limb to reach the promised land of the United States.  The article asks (and then answers), in part:

“What drives these children to flee their homes? What causes their parents to put them and their life’s savings in the hands of smugglers? What happens if they fail to reach the U.S.? Since October 2013, with funding from a Fulbright Fellowship, I have lived in El Salvador and worked toward answering these questions through my research into the causes of child migration and the effects of child deportation.”

This article is worth the read because it approaches these issues in a clear and rational manner based on sound research methodology and documented evidence — unlike much of the clatter that that passes for debate and opinion today.

I have been practicing in the field of immigration law for more than 15 years.  I can honestly say that when it comes to well researched and documented authority on all issues immigration, there is no equal the American Immigration Council (“AIC”).  AIC’s “Immigration Policy Center”, which is headed by Mary Giovagnoli, consistently produces thoughtful and well-researched studies, articles and essays on the topic and has been a consistent voice of reason in the immigration debate nationwide.

Download the full article here: No Childhood Here Why Central American Children are fleeing their homes–AIC

Check out AIC by clicking here or just visit the US Legal Solutions, LLC Facebook page by clicking here and be sure to “Follow” our page to receive more articles and updates from AIC!

While nativists gripe, newly arrived immigrants integrate!

As the humanitarian challenge at our southern border peaks (for now), those of us who have consistently called for reform of our broken immigration system have become accustomed to hearing those “enforce the law folks” gripe!  However, reality marches on and, in the finest tradition of the American immigrant, our newly arrived kids are taking their places in our community and schools.  A sure sign of this is the below story published in The Hill newspaper yesterday detailing how the federal Department of Education is preparing public school districts across the country to enroll undocumented immigrant children, including our newly arrived unaccompanied minors who are not detained.

Read the entire story here: Obama prepares schools for migrant kids _ TheHill

See the video broadcast by clicking here

In the 2002 Homeland Security Act, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security and reorganized the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) into the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”), Customs and Boarder Patrol (“CBP”) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). Congress also created a consumer advocacy “watchdog” office called the CIS Ombudsman’s Office. CIS Ombudsman does not report to the Director of USCIS but directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security and is authorized and directed to submit an Annual Report to Congress detailing current issues and concerns in USCIS operations.

On June 27, 2014, the CIS Ombudsman’s Annual Report was delivered to Congress and contained concerning findings related to a number of aspects of USCIS operations including the current state of the H-2B seasonal worker visa program. The 2014 Annual Report found, on pages 26 to 27, particular concerns that impact the H-2B program including the following:

The H-2 Temporary Worker Programs

The Ombudsman received an increase in requests for case assistance, most submitted by small and medium-sized businesses petitioning for multiple workers, with some requesting 100 or more foreign nationals to fill their temporary labor needs.

Stakeholders report receiving RFEs for petitions that were approved in prior years for the same employer with identical temporary need and in the same sector.

In May, June, and July 2014, the Ombudsman hosted an interagency meeting with DOS and the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor to review the entire H-2 process and begin to address these concerns.

FY 2014 data shows an H-2B RFE rate of 35% at the Vermont Service Center and 7% at the California Service Center.

You  can read the entire Annual Report by clicking on the link here:

2014 Office of the CIS Ombudsman’s Annual Report to Congress

statue_of_liberty_with_extract_of_poem_by_emma_lazarus_fixedThe Chicago Council on Global Affairs Publishes New Report Documenting the Value of our Immigrant Community!

Ron Paral is one of the most respected researchers on the impact of immigrants and immigration in the United States.  He recently authored another report sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs entitled “Growing the Heartland: How Immigrants Offset Population Decline and an Aging Workforce in Midwest Metropolitan Areas”.

In summary, Mr. Paral’s report concludes:

The metropolitan areas of Midwestern states are experiencing slow rates of growth and even declining populations. The arrival of immigrants over the past decade has helped to reverse these trends. The number of native-born persons in Midwestern metro areas grew by only 3.3 percent between 2000 and 2010; the number of immigrants in those metro areas rose by 27 percent. As a result, immigration accounts for 38.4 percent of all metro area growth in the Midwest. The demographic effect of immigration is especially important among persons 35 to 44 years of age. This group is critical because they are in their prime working and taxpaying years. Among Midwestern metro areas, the number of native born in this group fell by 1.4 million between 2000 and 2010. The arrival of more than a quarter of a million immigrants aged 35 to 44 has been critical to staving off more dramatic decline.

Immigrants play a key role in the Midwest economy because the Midwest’s Baby Boomers are moving into retirement and the native-born population as a whole is aging. Immigrants are predominantly young adults, and they help to fill precisely the age groups that are in decline among US-born persons.

This report follows up on his important 2009 essay also published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs entitled: “Mexican Immigration in the Midwest Meaning and Implications”.

To read both of these papers in their entirety, click on the links below:

 Growing the Heartland

Mexican Immigration in the Midwest: Meaning and Implications

 

St. Louis STEPS UP to the Challenge of the Humanitarian Disaster at our Southern Boarder!

statue_of_liberty_with_extract_of_poem_by_emma_lazarus_fixedAs the Vice President of the governing board of Catholic Charities Community Services (Soon to be St. Francis Community Services) which oversees a number of programs including Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry (CLAM), I am very proud today to receive the announcement that The City of St. Louis and Catholic Charities will not remain quiet on the sidelines as we witness the humanitarian disaster unfold at our Southern border. Continue reading