Articles Tagged with Immigration

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A Texas federal judge hearing a lawsuit that challenges an immigration executive order by the Obama administration announced this week that he would postpone a decision ordering government lawyers to attend an ethics course from taking effect until August 22.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen had ordered the Justice Department lawyers last month to take ethics training after concluding that they had misled him on the question if the White House had begun executing one of the measures in the immigration initiative.

After President Obama first announced an executive order granting deportation relief to millions of immigrants in 2014, a coalition of 26 Republican-controlled states—led by Texas—filed a lawsuit against the federal government to block the program.

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The American Immigration Council, a nonprofit research and legal organization, recently filed a lawsuit demanding United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide information on their actions over the two years since records revealed the agency had taken “no action” in 97 percent of cases where agents committed acts of abuse. The organization calls on the Customs and Border Protection to respond to a long overdue request under the Freedom of Information Act filed in October 2015. The nonprofit also named the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency’s operations, as a co-defendant.

The lawsuit demands access to documents related to complaints filed against Customs and Border against dating back to 2012, as well as information on the procedures used by the agency to investigate and resolve these issues.

A previous FOIA request gave the Immigration Council information on more than 800 abuse complaints against Border Patrol agents filed between 2009 and 2012. With the data in hand, the organization was able to publish a 2014 report titled, “No Action Taken: Lack of CBP Accountability in Responding to Complaints of Abuse.”

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After Texas and more than two dozen Republican-controlled states blocked an executive action by the Obama administration providing immigration relief to millions of undocumented immigrants who are also parents of naturalized citizens and permanent residents, the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the case in two weeks time. In the meantime, 43 Senate Republicans have filed an amicus brief in an effort to support the states responsible for challenging the White House.

The brief was filed on April 4, Monday, supporting 27 states, their governors and attorney generals, all of whom are protesting the President’s executive action called the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), first announced in November 2014. The Supreme Court picked up the case, now known as United States v. Texas, after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sustained a preliminary injunction against the proposed DAPA program.

Understanding DAPA

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On April 1, 2016, California State Senator Ricardo Lara, in collaboration with co-sponsors, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), unveiled landmark immigration legislation designed to stop local governments from being complicit in the detention of undocumented immigrants for profit through the signing and renewal of contracts with private prison companies. SB 1289, or “The Dignity not Detention Act,” was conceived to protect detained immigrants in California, and represents one of few attempts to curtail the disturbing expansion of the prison-industrial complex in the United States.

In an interview with the LA Times, Lara said, “The Dignity not Detention Act takes a stand against the mass incarceration of immigrants in detention facilities and inhumane immigration detention conditions. Our state and local governments should not be complicit in this awful practice of profiting off of human suffering.”

The Prison-Industrial Complex

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Houston currently has only 6 federal judges on the bench for the entire city, a shortage that has contributed to a burgeoning immigration case backlog that has since quintupled from 2010, swelling by more than 460 percent in just 6 years, or about 6400 to more than 36000 pending cases this year.

According to a study by Human Rights First, if no more immigration judges are added, Houston could see its case backlog double once more in less than 3 years. The study also notes that in 6 years time, the number of pending immigration cases across the United States could exceed 1 million, over 200% than the current number.

What Does the Backlog Mean?

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A group of refugee children filed a lawsuit against immigration officials, claiming their applications under the Special Immigrant Juvenile (SJI) status system were illegally denied based on the claim that they were no longer children, despite Texas Family Code saying otherwise.

Citing the Administrative Procedure Act, Deepak Budhathoki et al. took legal action against Jeh Johnson, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Leon Rodgriguez, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and Mario R. Ortiz, director of the San Antonio USCIS field office.

Part of Effort to Crack Down on Child Immigrants

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House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Tuesday that Congress was slated to vote on whether to file an amicus brief against President Obama’s 2014 immigration reform program, which offers executive amnesty to more than 4 million immigrants in the country.

The House will vote on whether to file an amicus brief in Supreme Court opposing the president’s executive amnesty,” the speaker told reporters on Capitol Hill, adding, “This is a very extraordinary step. In fact it’s never been done before, but this executive amnesty is a direct attack on the Congress’ Article 1 powers under our Constitution.”

Ryan reminded reporters the “President is not permitted to write law. Only Congress is.”

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently warned officials in Sedgwick County, Kansas that their attempts to block undocumented immigrants from accessing the WIC program could lead to them losing federal grant money for their health department. USDA officials are requesting the county to stop any efforts to ask health clinic clients about their citizenship or immigration status.

In October last year, the Sedgwick County Commission requested the Kansas State Government to prevent undocumented immigrants from accessing the benefits of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional program, even if it currently has no eligibility requirement around immigrant status.

Furthermore, commissioners ordered county staff that same month to create a new form to be filled out by everyone who uses the county health department. The form contains questions about people’s immigration status.

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The US Supreme Court has ruled that “Foreign policy and related matters such as immigration are one of the few enumerated powers the federal government has.” This may lead people to believe that only federal law applies to immigration, but that isn’t always the case.

Texas Deputy Attorney General Brantley Starr told a House State Affairs committee that they do have options to enforce the State’s will in some areas.

“You have the ability to create state-level offenses that have an immigration element to them as long as they are sufficiently unique,” he said, citing House Bill 11 as an example, which is the Legislature’s 2015 omnibus border security bill.

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A sheriff in Texas is facing a lawsuit today, filed by 16 immigrant plaintiffs who claim they were detained in police custody for unconstitutionally long periods. It addresses Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment issues.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez faced criticism from Governor Greg Abbott on the same day the lawsuit was filed – the Republican Governor warned Valdez that she should back down from her recently changed policy on federal immigration detention requests, saying in a public letter that he would penalize the county over it. Valdez said in her September announcement that the county jail would no longer hold immigrants believed to be in the US illegally and suspected of minor crimes – policies that are generally called “sanctuary city” laws.

This is something Governor Valdez addressed in his letter to Valdez, saying the state of Texas could pass laws against these “sanctuary cities” that shield residents from federal immigration authorities, but also that he could find other ways to penalize Dallas County.

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