Sessions overturns immigration court rulings


A unilateral decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions ends one of the very few remaining ways that immigration court judges could exercise discretion on deportation. While immigration battles divide Republicans in the House, the Trump administration is pushing to classify Mexico as a ‘safe third country,’ which would make Mexico responsible for asylum seekers from Central America.

Meanwhile in Washington, Republicans are splitting over immigration legislation: while those backing a discharge petition still haven’t mustered 25 signatures, the leadership is talking about deals.

In other news:

  • ICE arrests of noncriminals rises
  • Federal judge denounces ICE lies about DACA recipient
  • Force labor in for-profit prisons
  • Facebook limits ad purchases by undocumented immigrants

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Ranter-in-Chief, reprised

Trump caricature

Caricature used under Creative Commons license

“We’re taking people out of the country—you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” the president of the United States said. “These aren’t people. These are animals.” The occasion for Trump’s latest rant came as he met with anti-immigrant political leaders from California at the White House on Wednesday. California Governor Jerry Brown promptly responded::

“Trump is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of California. Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth-largest economy in the world, are not impressed.”

Other Trump comments during the meeting:

On the wall: “We have started the wall … We’re getting it up … We made a lot of progress on it.”

On U.S. immigration laws: “We have the worst laws anywhere in the world for illegal immigration” and “the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.”

On statistics: “We’re down 40% from those other standards.”

On his administration’s policy of separating migrant parents and children: ““We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law.”

On Mexico: “Mexico does nothing for us. Mexico talks, but they do nothing for us, especially at the border.”

Trump also said the Justice Department should investigate Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. He’s been denouncing Schaaf ever since she warned her city in advance of an immigration raid back in February. According to Trump, that allowed many targeted immigrants to escape. At the time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions put the number at 800. That led to the resignation of San Francisco ICE spokesperson James Schwab because he was told to repeat the lie. Schwab said:

“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” said Schwab, 38, who was hired in 2015 and resigned last week. “I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time and I quit.”

In actual news about immigration:

  • Two more House Republicans sign on to demand for a vote on immigration bills;
  • Second article in CNN’s two-part series on deaths on the border;
  • Cato Institute says John Kelly is wrong about Central American immigrants and that they really assimilate quite well. Continue reading
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Immigration solution: More prisons?

prison bars

Photo by Michael Coghlan, used under Creative Commons license

Increasing numbers of immigration arrests are pushing ICE’s plans for more immigration prisons. More migrants in detention means more difficult access to legal representation and often dismal conditions in private, for-profit prisons—like the now-shuttered private prison in Appleton, MN.

Some of those detainees are children. The latest Trump administration plan is to create detention facilities for children on military bases.

Some Democrats, led by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., propose a moratorium on construction or expansion of immigration prisons.

In other news: Attorney General Jeff Sessions expands his personal control of immigration court decisions, CityLab looks at expansive immigration police authority in the “border zones” that encompass the homes of 65 percent of all U.S. residents, and Latino USA talks to the family of a man who died after being deported. Continue reading

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When immigration policy is deliberately based on cruelty


Last week, House Republicans began signing a discharge petition that would get a vote on DACA and other immigration legislation. If only 25 Republicans sign, along with all of the Democrats, the House would get to vote. By Monday afternoon, they were still six Republicans short of the number needed. The Los Angeles Times reports that, frightened and confused by multiple court challenges and political rhetoric, some DACA recipients have not renewed. They should: right now.

At Vox, Matthew Yglesias says Trump’s immigration policy is based on deliberate, intentional cruelty. Other articles look at specific policies of separating parents and children at the border and of barring victims of domestic violence from seeking asylum.

In other news: Border Patrol fails to count deaths at border, Seniors need immigrant caregivers Continue reading

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Minnesota immigration news: private prisons, economics, doctors


Three of the weekend’s immigration stories have Minnesota focuses: proposals to reopen the private prison in Appleton and/or build new immigration prisons; the economic impacts of immigrants; and obstacles to licensing highly qualified immigrant doctors to meet Minnesota’s need for more physicians. Another story on the conflict between immigration and criminal court systems quotes Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty.

Recent Washington shenanigans include White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s denunciation of immigrants and the debunking of his statements, as well as Trump’s cabinet meeting tirade directed to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nelson.

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced legislation requiring ICE agents to document their stops and interrogations, which is not now required by law. Continue reading

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Taking children as ‘a form of state terror’


Mother’s Day is coming this Sunday, Father’s Day only a month away, so it seems fitting to talk about mothers and fathers and children. Masha Gessen describes her own terror when the Russian state threatened to take her children. She and her children came here—and now she writes in The New Yorker about the U.S. government taking away the children of migrants in “a form of state terror.” Over at Forbes, Stuart Anderson asks: Would the Justice Department have prosecuted Anne Frank’s Father? Like Anne Frank fleeing Nazis, Salvadoran and Honduran girls fleeing gang rape and terror are denied entry into the United States.

In other news:

  • Just a few days short of the tenth anniversary of Postville, ICE agents stage another workplace raid in another small Iowa town, taking away 32 people.
  • Three New Jersey siblings struggle to save home and family after their parents are deported.
  • Mothers with no criminal records sit in jail, far from their children, awaiting deportation to Albania, China, Mexico.
  • A Honduran father, a Salvadoran mother and U.S. children citizen—ending TPS could separate them all.
  • And more …

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‘Queen of the Hill’ is back. That might mean a vote on DACA.


Complicated procedural maneuvering by some House Republicans might force a vote on immigration legislation. A small number of Republicans filed a discharge petition on Wednesday, which could force a vote on immigration legislation. To succeed, the petition must be signed by at least 218 House members.

If the discharge petition succeeds, then Queen of the Hill takes effect. This arcane-sounding rule would require a vote on four separate immigration measures. The piece of legislation that has a majority and the most votes would win and go on to the Senate.

In other news:

  • DHS has floated a proposal to remove most protections from migrant children, and to make it harder for unaccompanied minors to ask for asylum.
  • An updated report on immigration detention costs shows an average cost of $208 per day to keep a migrant in jail while their case drags on versus an average of $6 a day for alternatives to detention.
  • Newly-disclosed U.S. Embassy cables urged the Trump administration not to end TPS, saying people would not be safe if returned to countries such as Honduras and El Salvador.
  • And much more

Queen of the Hill

Group of House Republicans trying to force vote on immigration legislation (NPR, 5/9/18)

The long-shot legislative maneuver, known as a discharge petition, requires that they persuade at least 218 House members to sign a petition to overrule House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders and compel votes on at least four immigration bills.

“The discharge petition was filed Wednesday morning with seven signatures. The number more than doubled to 17 by midafternoon. Sponsors said they expect all 193 Democrats will eventually join them — meaning the effort could be fewer than 10 votes short of success.” 

Paul Ryan is facing an immigration challenge±from his own party’s moderates (Vox, 5/9/18)

On Wednesday, five House Republicans — Reps. Jeff Denham (CA), Carlos Curbelo (FL), Will Hurd (TX), David Valadao (CA), and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL) — introduced a discharge petition to force Speaker Paul Ryan to take up a series of immigration bills under an obscure provision called the “queen of the hill” rule. It’s probably not a coincidence that they’re some of the House’s most vulnerable Republicans in the November midterm elections (except for Diaz-Balart, a longtime Republican immigration reformer).

House Republicans who support a permanent solution for DACA recipients now face the choice of taking a stand and protecting their caucus’s vulnerability in one direction or remaining silent in the fear of protecting their party from right-wing anger — and themselves from retaliation by House leadership. The fate of DACA recipients might depend on which choice they make.

And in other news

DHS proposal would change rules for minors in immigration detention (Washington Post, 5/9/18)

They want to remove many existing child-welfare protection for all children, and make it more difficult for unaccompanied minors to apply for asylum.

“The Trump administration is attempting to rewrite the rules for detaining immigrant children apprehended at the border, seeking greater flexibility on everything from their snack times to their asylum applications in the United States, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Washington Post.

“The draft regulations signal that the Trump administration is considering detaining families for longer periods and subjecting unaccompanied minors to increased scrutiny that could make it easier to deport them.”.

The math of immigration detention, 2018 update: Costs continue to multiply  (National Immigration Forum, 5/9/18) Immigration detention beds cost an average of $208 per day, a total in FY 2018 of “$3.076 billion on DHS Custody Operations, or $8.43 million per day on immigrant detention.”

“Detention of non-dangerous immigrants is a budget item ripe for cost savings. Such savings can be achieved by deprioritizing the detention of immigrants without criminal records and moving those immigrants into alternatives to detention (ATD) programs. ATDs have proved to be effective, with immigrants appearing for their final hearings more than 95 percent of the time when participating in “full service” ATD programs that feature case management.

“ATDs can cost as little as 70 cents to $17 per person per daywith an average ATD contract costing between $5 and $6 per person per day.”

U.S. embassy cables warned against expelling 300,000 immigrants. Trump officials did it anyway. (Washington Post, 5/8/18)

“The cables’ contents, which have not been previously disclosed, reveal career diplomats’ strong opposition to terminating the immigrants’ provisional residency, known as temporary protected status (TPS), and the possible deportation of hundreds of thousands of people to some of the poorest and most violent places in the Americas.

“Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dismissed the advice and joined other administration officials in pressuring leaders at the Department of Homeland Security to strip the immigrants of their protections, according to current and former administration officials whose accounts were consistent with Senate Democrats’ findings.”

‘Sanctuary cities’ are working in the Trump era, but at a surprising cost (Pew Charitable Trusts, 5/8/18) As ICE targets sanctuary cities, fear grows.

“In a cramped study, she told the church pastor, the Rev. Bruce Lewandowski, what had happened. Feeling ill, she had come home early from her overnight job cleaning offices and found a relative sexually abusing her handicapped daughter. She had gathered up the child and her other children and brought them to the church.

“Why didn’t you call 911? You have to call 911,” the pastor told her. The woman, he recalled later, broke down. “If I tell the police, they’ll arrest me, too,” she said. As an unauthorized immigrant, she was terrified of talking to the police….” 

Controversial immigration jail policy could end as Mecklenburg sheriff concedes race (Charlotte Observer, 5/8/18) The incumbent sheriff favored 287g policies; the primary winner said he would end the program.

“Carmichael has supported the program, which involves screening everyone arrested in the county to see whether they are here illegally. Under the program, an arrest can send people without documentation into deportation proceedings — whether they’ve been charged with a violent crime or a minor offense.

“Fewer than 60 jurisdictions in the United States participate in 287(g), which has been used in Mecklenburg County since 2006. More than 15,000 people have been processed for deportation after an arrest in Mecklenburg County since the program began.”

Real People, Real Stories

‘When is Daddy coming home?’ Families still separated a month after massive ICE raid (NBC, 5/8/18)

“Every day for the last month, Aneth’s 3-year-old daughter has asked her the same question: “When is Daddy coming home?” She searches every room in the house for him and wonders why he wasn’t there for her birthday. Aneth cannot bring herself to tell her youngest child that her father was detained by immigration authorities in what advocates say was the biggest workplace raid in a decade….

“I don’t even know how to explain it to them because they wouldn’t understand,” said Aneth, who also has a 5-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter who is old enough to know that her father, Alberto, remains detained in Louisiana awaiting a bond hearing this week.”

Youth who fled Taliban held with adults after disputed ‘pseudoscience’ age test (Guardian, 5/8/18)

First he fled Afghanistan after his father and brother were murdered by the Taliban. Then he flew to Ecuador on what his lawyers described as a forged passport, and eventually he crossed the southern border into the United States, immediately surrendering to authorities. Now Hamid, who a federal court had determined to be a child, is detained in California with hundreds of adult migrants, terrified and alone, and unable to converse with anyone inside the center as he speaks only Pashto….

“Nonetheless, Hamid was declared an adult by Ice through the use of controversial age determination testing. The form of testing has been branded unreliable by a federal audit and was dismissed as “pseudoscience” by Hamid’s attorneys.

“Documents seen by the Guardian show that Hamid was subjected to a dental exam, conducted by a dentist based at the San Antonio School of Dentistry in Texas, that was used to determine his age. The single-page report concludes that an assessment of Hamid’s dental X-rays puts the “empirical statistical probability” of Hamid’s being 18 or over at 79.52%.”

Caught on video: Father arrested at gunpoint by ICE officers with riot shield (San Diego Union Tribune, 5/8/18) ICE officers grabbed an 11-year-old step-daughter by the arm and took away her phone, with which she was filming. They refused to show a warrant until after the break-in and arrest

“A  father who had previously been removed from the U.S. was arrested Tuesday in his home after immigration officers pried open the back door with a crowbar and entered with guns drawn and carrying a riot shield….

“Pedro Rios of American Friends Service Committee, who was notified about the situation by someone in the neighborhood, documented the scene as a human rights observer. He saw the two officers with guns point them at a child’s face in a second floor window.

“I certainly think it’s excessive,” Rios said of the officers’ arrest tactics. “Pointing multiple guns at children, I think, is excessive.” 


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