Daily Dispatch 5/24/2019

Trump wants immigrants and sponsors to repay government assistance

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Daily Dispatch

May 24, 2019

Trump’s efforts to make life miserable for people seeking a new life in the United States is increasingly focused on those who migrated to the U.S. through official, “legal” means. Since his administration’s efforts to recraft the “public charge” rule last October – a new rule under which people here with a green card that received any government assistance could face removal proceedings – to the proposal of Housing and Urban Development last month to evict people from public housing if any member of that household was undocumented, Trump is engaging an all out war to target low-income immigrants. Yesterday, Trump announced that his administration issued a memorandum requiring that immigrants or their sponsors pay back any government assistance they may have received:

President Donald Trump took another step Thursday to crack down on legal immigration, instructing agencies to enforce a 23-year-old law that requires sponsors of green card holders to reimburse the government for welfare benefits.

Trump approved a memorandum Thursday to enforce a pair of provisions signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the White House said. The move comes as Trump has sought to overhaul legal immigration despite congressional resistance.

U.S. President Donald Trump visits the US-Mexico border in Calexico California, U.S., April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The announcement came with a justification – one we’ve heard before – that 58 percent of non-citizen headed households have accessed public assistance “in some form.” The source of this statistic is most likely a National Academy of the Sciences report that found that 58 percent of immigrant households with children had used “any welfare.” Importantly, included in this definition of welfare is food assistance programs like free lunch and breakfast programs at public schools. The same study showed that “native” households accessed housing and cash assistance programs at higher rates than immigrants. The percent of immigrant households where someone had accessed Medicaid was 50 percent, but a number that fluctuates dramatically state to state.  A fact check of an earlier similar claim by Trump included this:

University of California, Davis Law School Dean and immigration expert Kevin Johnson said immigrants cannot be over consuming public benefits because they are not eligible to receive the benefits in the first place.

“To say that the general rate of use by immigrants of public benefits is anywhere close to 50 percent is an exaggeration and just isn’t supported by the evidence,” he said.

Ultimately, the numbers ignore income levels and the fact that many immigrant headed households have citizen members of that household, often the children.

But the point, for Trump, is not to be accurate. Remember this is the man who last year Tweeted:

Not a single statistic in this tweet is accurate. The $3,874 number came from a report about a refugee family (legal!) receiving a one time cash assistance payment (not monthly) to help with resettlement – IN CANADA! Average social security checks in the U.S. are over $1,400 a month – not that this was the point of the tweet.

Trump is working from a very old playbook – associate immigrants with crime and welfare, project the idea that they are granted some kind of preferential treatment over U.S. citizens and blame all of this on the Democratic Party. This is warmed over “southern strategy” style race baiting. The goal is to create resentment and give those in the twitter-verse, social media and watching Fox News a target for that resentment. Which is to say, accuracy has nothing to do with it. 

As the election proceeds, Trump will continue to beat the drum of “deserving” and “undeserving” immigrants issue statements that confuse documented and undocumented immigration to cast a shadow over everyone in this country that is not a U.S. citizen. Fight for policies that animate this bigotry in an effort to keep the debate going and put the Democrats on the defensive should they push back at all.

Of course, it is not 1968. Demographic trends are not on the GOP’s side. This is the racist swan song of a dying order. But, for now, enough people are willing to dance to this tune that real damage to our country and the lives of millions of people is being done.

Fight back.

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Daily Dispatch 5/23/2019

ICE arrests DACA recipient – then her family

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Daily Dispatch

May 23, 2019

Paula Hincapie-Rendon (center, white dress) surrounded by staff and alumni of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and members of Voces de la Frontera, an activist group from Milwaukee, outside of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Chicago field office, May 8, 2019. Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

On May 8, Paula Hincapie-Rendon was arrested by ICE agents while driving her daughter to school. In 2004, Hincapie-Rendon’s family fled from violence in Colombia. Their asylum claim was denied in 2009, and a deportation order was issued. In 2015, Hincapie-Rendon was granted protection from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), a status that was renewed in 2017. DACA protects some people from removal proceedings if they arrived in the U.S. as children. Hincapie-Rendon should not have been arrested. But what happened next suggests that her arrest was a pretext to get to her parents. From the Chicago Sun-Times

Hincapie-Rendon asked if she could take her daughter back to the house and leave her with her parents. The agents obliged, with one caveat — they would be driving her car while she sat in their van, handcuffed.

“My daughter was crying so loud in the back seat, scared and confused,” she said.

Once at the house, agents found Hincapie-Rendon’s dad, Carlos Hincapie, leaving for work. They arrested him on the spot. Agents then went into the house and arrested Hincapie-Rendon’s mom, Betty Rendon, a Lutheran minister who was set to start her doctorate at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in June. Agents also arrested Hincapie’s cousin, who was staying with the family.

The agents drove the family to ICE’s field office in the Loop. The agency released Hincapie-Rendon that same afternoon under an order of supervision… Hincapie-Rendon’s parents and her dad’s cousin were taken to an ICE facility in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. They are now being held at the Pulaski County Jail in Ullin, Illinois, and face deportation to Colombia.

You can read the full story here.

Detention reaches an all time high

When the Trump administration talks about the “crisis” at the border and the need for more detention beds, stories like the one above are not mentioned. And yet, nearly 37% of ICE arrests and detentions in December were people with no criminal background. (And please note those with “criminal backgrounds” are not hardened criminals – low level arrests can place someone in removal proceedings and lead to detention, even permanent residence.)

Nevertheless, the Trump administration is now detaining a daily average of more than 50,000 people a day.

From Buzzfeed:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is detaining more than 52,000 immigrants in jails around the country, officials said Monday, an apparent all-time record as the Trump administration contends with a surge of migrants at the southern border.

As of Monday, ICE was holding 52,398 migrants, of which 998 are family units, an agency official told BuzzFeed News. The number represents a significant population spike from just two weeks ago when ICE was holding more than 49,000 migrants.

Perhaps, coincidentally, GEO Group’s stock price got a bump on the Monday news of record detentions. GEO Group is the largest private prison operator contracting with ICE on detentions.

Disaster aid bill held up over Trump immigration plans

And of course, the “crisis” means Trump wants more money to detain people, which means other things cannot get done unless he gets it.

From The Hill:

Immigration’s emergence as a sticking point comes after lawmakers managed to work out several other issues. They say they’ve reached a deal on aid to Puerto Rico despite Trump’s previous criticism of the island territory, and Republicans have jettisoned harbor maintenance funding and a short-term extension of the Violence Against Women Act.

The White House’s $4.5 billion border money request included $3.3 billion for humanitarian assistance. About $1.1 billion would go toward operations such as expanding the number of detention beds and providing more investigation resources.  

Shelby told reporters Wednesday morning the debate was stuck on funding for ICE and detention beds for migrants detained along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats have agreed to include humanitarian aid as part of an agreement on the disaster package, but a previous offer didn’t include the administration’s request for more money for ICE detention beds, considered a non-starter for most of the caucus.

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Daily Dispatch 5/22/2019

Let’s End 287(g)!

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Daily Dispatch

May 22, 2019

Map of 287(g) agreements, Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Around the country, different localities have signed “287(g)” agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 287(g) agreements deputize local law enforcement to enforce immigration law. This can include inquiring about someone’s immigration status during routine traffic stops or other interactions with police, and detaining people until ICE takes custody of them.

287(g) agreements have been signed with 81 localities in 21 states. Almost all of them are set to expire on June 30, 2019. This creates an opportunity for communities around the country to mobilize to block extension of these agreements. From the Center for American Progress:

Under President Trump’s punitive immigration agenda, sweeping changes to immigration enforcement within the United States included rebooting the controversial federal-local partnership known as 287(g), through which state and local law enforcement officers act as ICE deputies. While the Trump administration did not create the 287(g) program, it views it as a critical tool in its ability to deport as many undocumented immigrants living in the United States as possible. Today, ICE has 287(g) contract agreements with 81 law enforcement agencies in 21 states, two-thirds of which were signed during the Trump administration.

The decision to collaborate through a 287(g) agreement is purely discretionary, and state and local officials can terminate these agreements at any time. Over the next month, jurisdictions must choose whether they will side with President Trump’s immigration policy by continuing their collaboration on federal immigration enforcement or protect their communities and prioritize public safety by not renewing their expiring 287(g) partnerships.

287(g) agreement cost communities a lot of money!

Not only is the 287(g) program riddled with transparency and oversight flaws, but it also threatens local economies and communities. According to previous CAP analysis of 40 participating 287(g) jurisdictions, immigrant households in these localities contributed $24.4 billion in annual tax revenue and generated $65.9 billion in spending power. Localities signing up for this voluntary program are thus doing so at the risk of losing these vital economic contributions.

Read the full story from the Center for American Progress.

There has been resistance to 287(g) agreements almost everywhere they have been signed. In the current context, mobilizing communities to demand local officials do not re-sign agreements with ICE can be effective.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center maintains a map of 287(g) agreements – this includes current agreements and the 21 communities that have organized to suspend these agreements. See if your community is on this list and get connected to a campaign to let these agreements expire.

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Daily Dispatch 5/21/2019

ICE use of Solitary Confinement Extensive

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Daily Dispatch

May 21, 2019

Illustration from report: Rocco Fazzari for ICIJ

The Intercept and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published an extensive report on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) use of solitary confinement to punish immigrants incarcerated in ICE custody. The report was based on a review of 8,400 reported cases of immigrants placed in solitary confinement.

The U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture has strongly spoken out against the use of solitary confinement except in the most extraordinary circumstances when all other options have been tried to protect a prisoner or detainee, or if they pose a unique threat to others, and then only used on a very limited bases. The U.N. has argued that use of solitary confinement in excess of 15 days constitutes torture.

Of the 8,400 cases reviewed over half of them were in excess of 15 days. 573 in excess of 90 days, and in 32 cases people were held in solitary for over a year. From the Intercept:

In nearly a third of the cases, detainees were described as having a mental illness, which made them especially vulnerable to breakdown if locked up alone in a small cell. Records reviewed by ICIJ describe detainees in isolation mutilating their genitals, gouging their eyes, cutting their wrists, and smearing their cells with feces.

The review found that immigrants held in the agency’s isolation cells had suffered hallucinations, fits of anger, and suicidal impulses. Former detainees told ICIJ that they experienced sleeplessness, flashbacks, depression, and memory loss long after release.

“People were being brutalized,” said Ellen Gallagher, who currently holds a supervisory role in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Gallagher has tried for years to sound the alarm within her agency about a wide range of abusive uses of solitary confinement at ICE detention centers.

The impact on detainees, especially those with mental illness, is severe:

ICIJ’s analysis found at least 373 instances of detainees being placed in isolation because they were potentially suicidal — and another 200-plus cases of people already in solitary confinement moved to “suicide watch” or another form of observation, in many cases in another solitary cell.

“This is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire,” Kenneth Appelbaum, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who has examined ICE’s segregation practices as a DHS consultant, said of using solitary confinement to manage suicidal detainees. “This is a practice that exposes detainees to real psychological and physiological harm.”

Read the full report from the Intercept. To view the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists companion report, here.

Last year we wrote a report on detention policies that constitute torture and degrading treatment. Our review focuses on prolonged, indefinite detention, the use of child separation as a tactic, and the failure to provide adequate review of individual cases. By all of these standards, U.S. immigration policy enforcement constitutes violations of human rights and international law. In some cases, these practices constitute violations of U.S. law as well – particular legal standards put in place to protect those seeking asylum.

This is our country today, and importantly, it has been our country for over a decade. The use of solitary confinement, family separation and prolonged detention are practices that all predate the Trump administration. Trump’s administration has elevated the use of these dehumanizing tactics in an effort to deter future immigration, and score political points with the far-right. But he has been able to do this because of years of indifference to the situation of detainees. We can only hope the focus brought to Trump’s particular brand of cruelty will be the spark to move us to demand long-lasting change in our immigration system.

Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons Still Abused

Immigration policy is a microcosm of broader trends in our society. It casts a spotlight on abuse because the people in detention have not committed crimes. They are in “civil detention” and have limited access to fair processes. The injustice is thus striking. However, this country’s manic addiction to mass incarceration and tendency toward official cruelty as punishment have deep roots. That immigration enforcement has adopted these harsh techniques is hardly surprising. The use of solitary confinement is no exception.

Despite years of efforts at reform – that have made a difference in some states to be sure – solitary confinement is still a practice that is abused by prison authorities in the United States. On any given day there are an estimated 61,000 people held in solitary confinement. 61,000.  From an extensive report by Vox on solitary confinement:

Thousands of people — at least 61,000 on any given day and likely many thousands more than that — are in solitary confinement across the country, spending 23 hours per day in cells not much bigger than elevators. They are disproportionately young men, and disproportionately Hispanic and African American. The majority spend a few months in it, but at least a couple of thousand people have been in solitary confinement for six years or more. Some, like Woodfox, have been held for decades.

Solitary confinement causes extreme suffering, particularly over prolonged periods of months or years. Effects include anxiety, panic, rage, paranoia, hallucinations, and, in some cases, suicide.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, deemed that prolonged solitary confinement is a form of torture, and the U.N.’s Mandela Rules dictate that it should never be used with youth and those with mental or physical disability or illness, or for anyone for more than 15 days. Méndez, who inspected prisons in many countries, wrote, “[I]t is safe to say that the United States uses solitary confinement more extensively than any other country, for longer periods, and with fewer guarantees.”

Many practices in the US criminal justice system are harsh, ineffective, even absurd, from the widespread use of money bail to detain unconvicted people to extremely long sentences and parole terms and a host of other outrages. But placing people in solitary stands out as a violation of human rights.


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Daily Dispatch 5/20/2019

Increase in the number of immigrants becoming citizens

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Daily Dispatch

May 20, 2019

Last year there was significant uptick in the number of immigrants who became citizens. The 15 percent increase is not historically huge, but likely indicates an increase as the next election cycle looms – a clear inspiration for becoming a citizen is voting.

More than 544,000 immigrants became U.S. citizens in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2018, overall a 15 percent increase from the same period a year ago, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The largest year-to-year increase occurred in the first quarter of 2018, however there was a slight decrease in the third quarter.

Most immigrants can apply for U.S. citizenship after being a permanent resident for five years, or three years after marrying a U.S. citizen. The U.S. immigration agency estimated (pdf) that there were 13.2 million permanent residents in 2015, and 9 million among them would be eligible for citizenship upon application.

Read more here.

ICE prepares to open more detention facilities

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is looking to open new detention facilities to incarcerate immigrants. Over the past three months, arrests at the border have increased significantly. Because this administration refuses to utilize the many available, cheaper and more humane options to incarceration, capacity at detention facilities is strained. So, by the logic of the corporate/government daisy chain, more detention beds are needed.

ICE is considering using existing facilities or constructing new facilities in the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco areas to house between 5,100 to 5,600 detainees, according to official documents posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The facilities would be used to house “criminal aliens and other immigrant violators,” the documents say.

The move comes as U.S. border patrol said it would consider flying migrant families from states along the border to other locations across the country.

ICE has faced significant opposition to opening new detention facilities in the past. In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union and 13 other groups issued a letter imploring ICE to halt plans to open new facilities across the country.

Full story from Time, here.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP/REX/Shutterstock (10188671d) President Donald Trump speaks as he visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in Calexico, Calif Trump, El Centro, USA – 05 Apr 2019

Rolling Stone’s takedown of Trump’s immigration strategies

Ryan Bort, at Rolling Stone, offers a critical overview of Trump’s latest immigration plan, placing it in the context of a number of half-baked ideas and cruel fantasies that are part of the inspiration for this administration’s approach. For example:

Putting his son-in-law in charge of immigration is only one element of Trump’s braindead approach to the border. On Thursday, the Post reported that the president’s obsession with the aesthetics of a potential border wall is driving up costs and giving designers headaches. According to current and former administration officials, his “frequently shifting instructions and suggestions have left engineers and aides confused, and he has repeatedly insisted on cosmetic features that serve little practical purpose. For example, he has demanded the wall — which would actually be a fence — be painted black and have spikes on top, “describing in graphic terms the potential injuries that border crossers might receive.”

Trump has also insisted the fence be as tall as possible despite warnings about inflating the cost and potential structural integrity. He has rejected the idea that the wall will take years to build and, according to the officials spoken to by the Post, “suggested that some of his friends in New York would have ideas on how to build it faster.”

You can read the full article here.

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Daily Dispatch 5/17/2019

Trump’s immigration plan

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Daily Dispatch

May 17, 2019

Yesterday Trump announced an immigration plan that was broadly focused on two themes: Border security and reform of our visa system. Video and transcript available here.

On border security, Trump’s plan calls for the construction of more wall along sections of the border. He is also calling for technological improvements at ports of entry that will allow scanning of all vehicles. A border security trust fund, would be created from fees assigned at the border, to cover the costs of these changes.

Trump also repeated his claims about abuse of the asylum process by those with “meritless claims.” However, there was little of substance on asylum proceedings. As we noted yesterday, Lindsey Graham has offered legislation that would gut the asylum process. We can only assume that some of these measures would be attached to any comprehensive reform effort. Indeed, Trump encouraged passage to Graham’s “reforms” during his speech.

On the visa system Trump was more specific on goals, less specific on means.

The reforms are touted as focused on creating a “merit-based” system that would replace current preferences given to family members of U.S citizens and permanent residents. From NBC News:

The White House estimates 12 percent of people who obtain green cards and citizenship do so based on “employment and skill,” while 66 percent enter via family-based connections and 22 percent through humanitarian visas and the diversity lottery. Under the new proposal, employment and skill would increase to 57 percent, 33 percent for family-based and 10 percent for everything else.

The merit-based system proposal is centered around what would be called the “Build America” visa. It recognizes three categories: extraordinary talent, professional and specialized vocations, and exceptional students.

The plan, as announced, would be a significant overhaul of the system, one that would impact millions of people currently waiting for visas around the world. Stuart Anderson, writing for Forbes, explains:

Under the proposal, more than 4 million people waiting in family and employment-based green card backlogs would have their immigration applications eliminated, even if they have been waiting in line for years to immigrate.

“Immigrants in the green card backlog would lose their place in line and would need to apply under the new point-based system,” according to an analysis from Berry Appleman & Leiden. “The White House has said people who are currently waiting for green cards will receive additional points, but no specifics have been released.” This was confirmed by Donald Trump’s May 16, 2019, speech, in which he stated that all current family and employment-based preference categories would be eliminated and replaced by new “Build America” visas awarded by points.

Anderson concludes: The most common argument made against helping Dreamers and others without legal status is that we should welcome immigrants to America who have waited patiently to immigrate and have “played by the rules.” The irony is that over 4 million people who have waited patiently in immigration backlogs and played by the rules have just been told they have wasted their time.

Part of the plan outlined by Trump would include a civics test that must be passed prior to receiving a visa. Some reflection on this:

“This test is at best unnecessary and could screen out some very skilled, ambitious immigrants who are ready to be productive in America, whatever the test says,” said Daniel Griswold, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and co-director of its Trade and Immigration Project.

“It could be a barrier to very productive immigrants becoming a part of American society,” he said.

Griswold and others said that while the details of Trump’s proposal remain unclear, they have never heard of such a requirement at that level in the immigration process. Such exams are usually part of citizenship tests, they said.

“It’s like asking for people to apply for citizenship when they arrive,” said Theresa Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank. “It’s a big thing to ask of people from other parts of the world.”

[Note: It might be interesting to require members of Congress to take the test before voting on any legislation related to immigration.

Trump’s plan did not directly address issues impacting people already living in the United States: No mention of a legislative solution for people currently protected from removal proceedings under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or Temporary Protected Status. As is, Trump’s efforts to end these programs is tied up in federal courts. 

The Trump plan will be presented to Congress at some point. Once it has been translated into legislative language that references the specific changes to current law necessary to implement these proposals, we will have a better sense of what is at stake. Currently, Trump seems to be mostly testing the waters and his re-election campaign talking points. However, these reforms would have a dramatic long-term impact on our visa system, so we must take them seriously.

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Daily Dispatch 5/16/2019

Trump to discuss immigration plan in speech today

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Daily Dispatch

May 16, 2019

Image result for daca immigration

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump is scheduled to give a speech today in which he will unveil details of a plan on immigration crafted by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Administration officials have already released some information on the plan, which does not address the situation of undocumented immigrants within the United States at all. Rather it is a mix of border security proposals and introducing new formulas for legal entry. A summary from NPR

The plan, as described by the administration official, would prioritize merit-based immigration, limiting the number of people who could get green cards by seeking asylum or based on family ties. But it would keep immigration levels static, neither increasing or decreasing the number of people allowed to legally enter the US each year. Here are the elements of the proposal as described to reporters:

      • Securing the border: Finishing the border wall
      • Protecting American wages: Stemming the flow of low-wage labor
      • Attract and retain the best and brightest immigrants
      • Prioritize nuclear families: It would limit which family members can come to the country to children and spouses
      • Import labor for critical industries
      • Preserve humanitarian values: Keep asylum system, but limit it.

The plan does not include any provision for Dreamers, young people brought into the country as children, who currently have protection from deportation proceedings and can get work permits – provided they register with DHS. Trump has tried to end the Obama program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that provides these protections. The future of DACA is currently tied up in court actions. Creating a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers has been a primary concern of Democrats. They have been working on a bill in the House, but that is tied up in disagreements over qualifications for protection.

Trump’s plan seems geared toward securing Republican support around this particular set of ideas, and may be best read as an election strategy more than a legislative proposal. Because Trump’s plan does not reduce legal immigration levels, it is already facing criticism from the hardliners. Absent some proposal to extend DACA through legislation, the Democrats won’t join on board. So, in its current form, the plan is not likely to go far.

If interested in watching Trump’s address in the Rose Garden today, it can be viewed here at 2:30 EST.

Image result for Lindsey Graham Immigration

Meanwhile Lindsey Graham…

…has introduced legislation to revamp the asylum process. From CNN:

The legislation would change the system in three substantial ways: It would require migrants seeking asylum to apply at a consulate or embassy in their home country or in Mexico, instead of at the southern border; it would increase the amount of time that migrant children could stay in custody from 20 days to 100 days; and make it easier for officials to deport unaccompanied minors to Central America.

The measure also calls for 500 new immigration judges to chip away at the massive immigration court backlog.

There are a lot of problems with this plans. First, it is worth noting that the Trump administration ended a program set up by the Obama administration to allow people to apply for asylum at embassies in Central America last year. The program was not very effective in the sense that it took a very long time to process claims, but it did offer a way for people to seek asylum before making the trip to the United States border. Increasing the amount of time that children can be held to 100 days is an end around the Flores Settlement Agreement and won’t work. The administration is already trying to establish new rules to get around the 20 day limit – these will be reviewed by the judge responsible for administering the Flores Settlement, and is not likely to be approved. Adding new immigration judges is not an inherently bad idea – but immigration judges operate under the Department of Justice, not the Federal Courts, and thus the Attorney General will oversee this process with little oversight. That is not good news for immigrants.

Graham’s bill is not likely to go far. But provisions could get bundled with other elements of Trump’s plan if that plan ever makes into actual legislation. For now though, immigration remains the vehicle for political grandstanding. Workable solutions seem a distant prospect.

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Daily Dispatch 5/15/019

State and local edition

Adelanto cuts ties with ICE detention facility

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Daily Dispatch

May 15, 2019

Adelanto, California is home to a large detention facility run by the GEO Group – the largest private prison company contracting with Immigration and Custom Enforcement to incarcerate immigrants. Last month the city-manager announced that the city would end its agreement with ICE to manage the facility. What might look like a local victory to cut ties with a detention facility is, under the surface, an apparent move by the GEO Group to escape local and state oversight. Liz Martinez of Freedom for Immigrants and others expressed their concerns in a report in the Guardian yesterday:

Martinez and other critics fear Geo is manipulating local officials and hoping to directly contract with Ice. Without a local government involved in the contract, the company could sidestep a new, strict state law that restricts and regulates the private prison industry…

“If you’ve got a communication string just between Ice and a private facility, there’s obviously going to be a lot less transparency, which leads to less accountability,” said Phil Torrey, managing attorney of Harvard University’s immigration and refugee program. Torrey also noted that without the city involved in the contract, Ice and Geo would not have to comply with several disclosures required by federal and state law.

The decision emerged from an agreement between the city manager, Jessie Flores and ICE CEO, George Zoley, with no input from the city council or public comment. There was an effort to reopen discussion of the decision by the city council in late April, but the city’s attorney indicated that neither ICE or GEO group was willing to revisit the decision. GEO is likely looking to expand the facility – and the city could push back by refusing to issue land use permits. This looks like the next battle.

“We demand a just and proper [facility] closure that ensures everyone is released and has access to legal representation,” said Martinez of Freedom for Immigrants. “The city of Adelanto can’t simply wash their hands of this. They have an obligation to answer to the community and to intervene and prevent any future permitting of an expansion.”

Read the full story here.

Georgia shutters Immigration Review Panel

The state of Georgia’s legislature created the Immigration Enforcement Review Panel in 2011 as part of a package of anti-immigration laws. The purpose of the panel, officially at least, was to hear complaints from individuals concerning the failure to enforce state immigration laws. The eight person panel, however, never achieved anything and simply became a platform for grandstanding. During its first six years the panel heard 20 complaints, all but one from the same person D.A. King, “the well-known anti-illegal immigration activist.”

The panel got into trouble during the last gubernatorial election:

Its demise was hastened last year by then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a candidate for governor who filed a complaint shortly before the GOP primary alleging that the city of Decatur was creating sanctuaries for criminals.The city’s officials accused Cagle of trying to use the board to pander to conservatives with a baseless claim, noting that the Republican quickly invoked his fight against the liberal bastion of Decatur in digital ads and stump speeches. Cagle failed to show up at a hearing on the complaint, and at another meeting weeks later, a board member challenged a Decatur attorney to “talk to me out in the hall” in a bizarre and testy confrontation.

The review panel was sued by the city of Decatur and lost, forced to pay the city’s attorney’s fees. The panel had become so unpopular, that even the staunchly anti-immigrant governor Brian Kemp signed off on legislation to shut it down.

Read the full story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

051019 ICE jails Louisiana map

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Advocate

Louisiana’s prison population is shrinking – but immigrant incarceration is growing

The state of Louisiana has doubled its capacity to detain immigrants under new contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in recent months. Already the site of the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Jena, which is run by the GEO Group and holds 1,200 people, several Louisiana sherif departments have entered into agreements with ICE to detain immigrants. This comes as Louisiana’s incarceration rate, the highest in the country several years ago, has been falling following major reform legislation in 2017.

“It seemed that Louisiana was ready to move away from its dependence on mass incarceration through its efforts at justice reinvestment,” said Jamila Johnson, a senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s disheartening to see that it continues to rely heavily on it through its switch to the mass incarceration of civil detainees.”

This year, ICE began using River Correctional Center (500 beds), Jackson Parish Correctional Center (1,000 beds) and Richwood Correctional Center (1,000 beds) to house detainees, said Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman.

Johnson said these efforts began in September after the agency contracted with Bossier Medium Security Facility in Bossier Parish to house up to 240 detainees.

Read the full story here.

For more information, check out:
Adelanto cuts ties to troubled ICE detention center — and removes a layer of oversight
With Unanimous Approval, Georgia Shuts Down Immigration ‘Kangaroo Court’
As fewer inmates fill Louisiana jails, wardens turn to immigration officials to fill bunks, budgets

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Daily Dispatch 5/14/2019

Spotlight on local action: Father Roy Snipes

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Daily Dispatch

May 14, 2019

As the sun begins to rise, Father Roy Snipes opens a sunrise Mass at La Lomita chapel near Mission. Snipes began holding Mass each Friday at 6:55 a.m. last fall to ask for divine intervention for those seeking asylum. “When we come out here in the morning and you see the sun begin to peak up and you hear the birds chirping, it’s a special experience that brings you back to our roots in this land,” said Snipes.  
(Ryan Michalesko/Staff Photographer/Dallas Morning News)

The Dallas Morning News ran a nice profile of Father Roy Snipes, a Catholic priest, who has led the battle against the construction of the wall in Mission, Texas. If built as planned, the wall would cut off his small church, La Lomita, from the community. His and others’ efforts led Congress to include a ban on building a barrier around the church in a last minute budget deal this February. The victory is not certain, and Father Roy continues to speak out against the national mood on immigration:

The situation remains precarious. With this emergency, [Trump] can still take funds from somewhere else to build his wall,” said Snipes. “We are the world’s richest, most powerful and smartest [sic] people on earth, so we should be able to come out with something better than a damn wall. We need to remember our humanity, our decency and humility as a country and as a people.

Read the full profile here.

Immigration and Crime

From the first days of the presidential campaign Trump has peppered his stump speeches with claims that immigrants bring crime. He has never let up. While it is true that some immigrants commit crime, there is no evidence that increased immigration generally leads to more violent crime. None. No where. Last year a large study conducted by the Marshall Project, in collaboration with several universities, investigated the link between immigration and violent crime and concluded:

According to data from the study, a large majority of the areas have many more immigrants today than they did in 1980 and fewer violent crimes. The Marshall Project extended the study’s data up to 2016, showing that crime fell more often than it rose even as immigrant populations grew almost across the board.

In 136 metro areas, almost 70 percent of those studied, the immigrant population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell. The number of areas where crime and immigration both increased was much lower — 54 areas, slightly more than a quarter of the total. The 10 places with the largest increases in immigrants all had lower levels of crime in 2016 than in 1980.

Faced with actual evidence, true believers changed the argument: immigration may not lead to increased crime overall, but “illegal” immigration does lead to more violent crime.

Nope. Not true either. A new study by the Marshall Project that focused solely on the impact of undocumented migration similarly found no connection between undocumented immigration and increases in violent crime rates. The Marshall Project is not alone in these findings:

The results of the analysis resemble those of other studies on the relationship between undocumented immigration and crime. Last year, a report by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, found that unauthorized immigrants in Texas committed fewer crimes than their native-born counterparts. A state-level analysis in Criminology, an academic journal, found that undocumented immigration did not increase violent crime and was in fact associated with slight decreases in it. Another Cato study found that unauthorized immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated.

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Daily Dispatch 5/13/2019

Net immigration is down…so why all the fuss?

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Daily Dispatch

May 13, 2019

While the Donald and others preen about a crisis of “illegal” immigration, the reality is that immigration numbers are down – across the board. The recent spike in arrests at the border might seem like an exception – but two months is not yet a trend – and despite the panic exhibited by the GOP, even this spike is not that high by historical standards. Indeed, far from exceptional, it tracks with historical seasonal patterns where border crossing is higher in the spring. The crisis at the border is the disgraceful way people are being treated – not the number coming in.

That said, the U.S. Census Bureau released a detailed, county by county, map documenting migration patterns across the United States. The map breaks down “net immigration,” i.e. the number of immigrants who move into the United States, minus the number of people leaving the United States to move abroad. For the nation as a whole, net international immigration is down for last year: 978,826 people for 2017-2018 compared to 1,111,283 people in 2016-2017.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the country is unaffected. Geographically, 90% of the U.S. has seen either negative net immigration, no change, or an increase of 0-2 people per 1,000 residents. The parts of the country that have seen an increase tend to be larger cities; the state with the biggest growth rate being Florida.

There are exceptions. One is Beadle County, South Dakota which has the highest rate of growth at 26.8 net new immigrants per 1,000 residents (though the total number of new folk was just 499). The driving force there is meat packing. Dakota Provisions packs 200 million pounds of turkey a year in the county seat of Huron. Beadle County has also developed a reputation for being (relatively) welcoming of new folk, especially Karen refugees from Myanmar. According to an estimate from a few years ago, Karen immigrants held 1 out of 9 jobs in Huron, and the county was looking for ways to encourage more immigration while making their transition within the community easier.

Another outlier is Colifax County in Nebraska with a growth rate of 16.9 net new immigrants per 1,000 residents (193 total). Unlike Beadle County, however, Colifax is less officially welcoming. Nearby Fremont, for example, passed a city ordinance in 2016 banning the “harboring” or employing of undocumented immigrants. Last year, the city of Scribner in Colifax also considered an ordinance to ban the renting of housing to undocumented immigrants. Like Beadle County, the draw is meat packing. Costco is building a huge chicken processing facility in the area, and both the construction and the long-term employment are expected to bring immigrants into the community. Some of the nervousness from city officials is thus driven in part by anticipated impacts of new development. Nebraska overall has relatively low levels of net immigration. In some parts of the state net immigration is negative.

Donald Trump stands with Border Patrol agents and others after his visit to a U.S. Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, on January 10, 2019. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump stands with Border Patrol agents and others after his visit to a U.S. Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, on January 10, 2019. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) 

One lesson, or at least reasonable hypothesis, is that Trump’s rhetoric seems to have the most impact in places the least touched by actual immigration. Communities that have seen large influxes of immigration in recent years, even small towns, have responded in different ways. In Jefferson County, Iowa, for example, net immigration has grown 11.9 per 1,000 residents – also placing it in the top ten. Jefferson County responded to the increase by becoming a Sanctuary County. So, as much as it is tempting to read Trump’s immigration policy through the red-blue line, the social impact of immigration is far more nuanced. Communities where immigration is increasing are, by and large, more welcoming even in “red states.” Of course, there are exceptions. However, this does suggest that there is ample room for Democrats and others to craft a far more nuanced message regarding immigration, one that is positive and seeks a humane response.

For more information, check out:
5 Facts about Illegal Immigration in the U.S. (Pew Research Center)
What Immigration Crisis? The U.S. Isn’t Being Swamped (Bloomberg)
Falling Illegal Immigration Numbers Confirm No Border Crisis (Forbes)

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)