Archive for the ‘Border Enforcement’ Category.

Block the Money, Block the Wall

The Trump Administration has developed an immigration-related agenda that rejects long held American values, our country’s commitment to due process, and what our economy needs to keep America working. His first Executive Orders related to immigration have one important theme in common:  to be implemented, they require money. Our system of government requires that the President ask for funding from Congress.

Yes, the President has a Republican majority in the House and Senate right now, so maybe he believes getting that money will be a cinch. It won’t be. The President’s asks: of building a border wall, increasing the number of  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to build a deportation force, and increasing the number of beds in detention facilities that benefit private prison companies, are unnecessary and will require supplemental funding that carries a price tag of $3 billion.

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Reactions to the President’s Joint Address to Congress

Several members of AILA’s Executive Committee share their reactions to President Trump’s Joint Address to Congress on February 28, 2017:

“We agree that we have to restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders, and especially to the agencies responsible for enforcing that law. The record of disregard for basic rights by officials of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including warrantless searches and seizures of Americans, demonstrates the urgent need for oversight of enforcement at our borders by Congress and the courts.” Bill Stock

“We should not forget our Nation’s founding principles; we must remain a beacon of hope for the most vulnerable and lead by example, providing a viable and secure system for those seeking to flee persecution and violence.” Annaluisa Padilla

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Is ICE Making Us Safer or Less Secure?

What is the mission of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? Its website states:

ICE’s mission is to protect America from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threaten national security and public safety. This mission is executed through the enforcement of more than 400 federal statutes and focuses on smart immigration enforcement, preventing terrorism and combating the illegal movement of people and goods.

In the past week, ICE has aggressively ramped up its enforcement efforts, sending shockwaves across the nation, as many ponder just how far ICE will go to execute the practically limitless deportation priorities laid out in President Trump’s January 25 Executive Order. The order casts a net so massive that ICE could easily shatter the record of people deported under President Obama. Trump’s actions have instilled fear and anxiety across immigrant communities, and has even spawned scam artists posing as ICE agents and demanding that immigrants pay up to avoid deportation.

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Standing Firm Against Discrimination

The past 100+ hours have certainly been the most tumultuous we as immigration practitioners have seen in a long while. I could write another article or blog post about how many concerns we as lawyers have with the Executive Orders (EO) or how they were abruptly rolled out but that just keeps us stuck in the mud.

Rather, I was impressed by the response of immigration lawyers, corporations, schools, communities and the immigrants themselves.  The call to action was swift and resistance was organized. Once it went public with protests, restraining orders and airport assistance, the press and politicians took notice. Communities came together to support the families of those affected and corporations and schools spoke out in support of their employees and their employees’ families who were directly impacted by long holds, refusals to board airplanes, and outright bullying to give up their green cards.

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Change in Policy for Cuban Immigrants

I started working in the nonprofit sector in 2008, where I witnessed and helped a slow trickle develop into a healthy stream of Cubans on the West Coast needing representation. They refer to me as “la Chinita.” The Cubans, just like any other immigrant community, disseminate news amongst each other rapidly, both true and false. So, when President Obama announced the immediate elimination of the parole policy for Cubans, my phone and email inbox seemed to burst into flames with inquiries from concerned Cubans already in the United States awaiting their green cards, and from other attorneys that know of my large pool of Cuban clients.

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We Cannot Turn Away from Mesa Verde

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies force hundreds of asylum seekers into detention in the Central Valley, one of the most rural parts of California. In March 2015, ICE contracted with GEO Group, a private prison company, to re-open the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, California. Although ICE contracts with other jails throughout the state for bed space to house a limited number of immigrant detainees, Mesa Verde is a former prison that is now an immigrant-only detention center holding 400 individuals at any given time, the majority of them asylum-seekers. Mesa Verde is five hours away from the San Francisco immigration court, which has jurisdiction over all of the detainees’ cases. According to the San Francisco Immigration Court Administrator, the detained immigration court docket in San Francisco has nearly doubled since the opening of Mesa Verde.

Shortly after opening the detention center, ICE began transferring recently arrived asylum seekers there from the border. These asylum seekers are from countries throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America and speak dozens of languages, including Spanish, English, French, and Haitian Creole.

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Hostile Jurisdictions

shutterstock_372661681U.S. immigration lawyers, members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), practice in every state in the union and other countries besides. We fight for clients no matter where they are, to the best of our abilities. However, we are currently wrestling with an elephant of a problem – hostile immigration court jurisdictions – best illustrated by the fact that the Atlanta immigration court consistently produces grant rates of relief far lower than the national average.  When you know that your client has virtually no chance of obtaining relief in your city and also know that if they were simply located in a different city they would have a better than two-thirds chance of relief, it can be disheartening, to say the least. Thus, there is an understandable reluctance among many attorneys to practice removal defense in Atlanta, one of the worst of our nation’s “hostile jurisdictions,” where no amount of time and effort can overcome a deck stacked firmly against the defense.

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Building a Force of Zealous, Creative Refugee and Asylum Advocates

shutterstock_432808786According to UNHCR’s 2015 Global Trends Report, one out of every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum due to wars, conflict, and persecution that are not ending, but being met with impunity by governments and the international community.  No surprise then that we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the number of refugees, internally displaced people, and asylum-seekers.  In 2014 alone, 13.9 million people became newly displaced – four times the number of the previous year.  As UNHCR reports, “Worldwide there were 19.5 million refugees, 38.2 million were displaced inside their own countries, and 1.8 million people were awaiting the outcome of claims for asylum).”  These numbers, all increases from 2013, tell us that more people than at any other time in history have had to flee their homes to seek safety and freedom elsewhere.  Unable to turn to their own governments for protection, these refugees must depend on the compassion and humanity of foreign governments as they seek safety and freedom.

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Baby Steps Toward Transparency

shutterstock_8491309Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took another small step toward transparency – issuing a Request for Quote (RFQ) for 108 body-worn cameras and 12 vehicle-mounted cameras. It probably seems strange to get even a little bit excited about the announcement of a bureaucratic process, but in the case of CBP transparency, every step, even baby steps, are important after years of push-back and blockades in the fight for body-worn cameras. Despite the ever-growing evidence that body-worn cameras benefit all parties, CBP has failed to implement the use of these cameras throughout the field.

In a statement, CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said, “CBP is committed to expanding the use of cameras to increase transparency, accountability, and officer and agent safety. The body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras from this purchase will be tested by agents and officers in the field. What we learn from this initial deployment to several operational environments will help CBP refine requirements that will lead to a larger procurement in the near future.”

Last November, CBP announced its intention to conduct more testing and evaluation rather than actually implement a program to employ the use of body-worn cameras. As I said back in November, it is beyond belief that, given all that we know about the power of video to shine a light on the actions of law enforcement agents and officers, as well as those who are involved in encounters with agents and officers, CBP is still dragging its heels on this initiative. As the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, CBP should lead the way toward transparency and set the standard, rather than keep things hidden away in the desert, bushes, canyons, and riverbanks.

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When Pictures Are Worth More than a Thousand Words

vtcc000019a_1I had heard stories about Border Patrol’s mistreatment of immigrants. When I volunteered in Artesia, New Mexico, and Dilley, Texas, the mothers and children there told me what a horrible experience they’d had in Border Patrol custody. Over the years, I’d become familiar with the term hieleras, or iceboxes, shorthand for the freezing cold and filthy Border Patrol facilities, in addition to the perreras, or dog pounds.

But now, thanks to a lawsuit filed on behalf of immigrants by the American Immigration Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others, the entire nation is seeing for themselves the horrors that have long-been described. Adults and children held in extremely close quarters with only a thin mylar blanket for cover. Diapers being changed on top of the same unsanitary blanket that covered a mother and her child for hours. No showers. No privacy. And empty rooms nearby that could have alleviated the crowded conditions.

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