Border Patrol, Out of Control

The Border Patrol claims jurisdiction over all U.S. territory within 100 miles of any land or water border. That includes much of Minnesota, all of Florida, most of New York State, much of California, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles—in all, the areas where most U.S. residents live. Within this extensive area, the Border Patrol claims the right to stop and question anyone about their citizenship status. As the ACLU describes it:

  • The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from random and arbitrary stops and searches.
  • According to the government, however, these basic constitutional principles do not apply fully at our borders. For example, at border crossings (also called “ports of entry”), federal authorities do not need a warrant or even suspicion of wrongdoing to justify conducting what courts have called a “routine search,” such as searching luggage or a vehicle.

The Border Patrol notoriously exercises this jurisdiction by questioning passengers on Greyhound buses and—a few months ago—by demanding proof of citizenship from Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez in Havre, Montana. Why? The officer said he questioned them because they were speaking Spanish as they waited in line at a convenience store. Continue reading

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National What?


Protest in support of refugees (Photo by Fibonacci Blue, used under Creative Commons license)

UPDATED: 10:05 p.m. – Minnesota suing!

“The National Emergency to Steal Money to Build the Wall That Mexico Didn’t Pay for so I Don’t Look Like a Fool on Fox News is not a legal thing. Congress can stop it. The courts can stop it. The Constitution demands that it be stopped.”

The Nation has it right. Now it’s up to Congress and the courts.

Congress can pass a resolution to invalidate the declaration of national emergency, Not even Mitch McConnell can prevent it from coming to a vote. If the House and Senate both pass the resolution—and it looks like a good bet that they will—Trump can veto it. Then comes the real test: can they muster a two-thirds majority to override the veto?

In the meantime, lawsuits are flying like snowflakes in February: the city of El Paso, the state of California, the ACLU, border residents and landowners—hard to say how many lawsuits will be filed before it’s over. 

UPDATE: This just in: Minnesota is suing. 

“Minnesota joined 15 states Monday in asking a California federal judge to halt President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, arguing that diverting funds to build a border wall would hurt the state’s National Guard and frustrate counter-narcotic efforts.

“It is also a clear overreach of the power of the executive branch that hurts the people of Minnesota and every state by manufacturing a crisis — at a time when unauthorized border-crossings are at a 20-year low — that endangers the balance of powers at the root of our Constitution,” Ellison said.”

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Lose-Lose on Budget Deal (and just about everything else)

Cruelty Is Not a Family Value

From photo by Fibonacci Blue, published under Creative Commons license.

The 2019 budget deal is a lose/lose proposition, with both Trump and immigrants losing big-time. Trump loses because he gets even less money for a border wall / fence / whatever than he turned down in December. Immigrants (and taxpayers and everybody) lose because the deal includes increased funding for DHS, ICE, and CBP. While the deal contains language about limiting detention beds, it actually increases the funding and number of detention beds through September 30  by about 5,000 people per day (from 40,520 people per day in FY18 to 45,274 people per day in FY19). The bill also fails to restrict ICE’s authority to transfer and reprogram funds, which ICE has used to increase the actual number of detainees to 49,057 immigrants in detention as of February 6.

Language about decreasing detention beds after September 30 means little or nothing, as that will be Fiscal Year 2020, with a new appropriations fight over any and all budget provisions for 2020. The 2019 deal does not provide back pay for federal contract workers. It does not extend the Violence Against Women Act. It does not offer anything to DREAMers or TPS and DED recipients. If the deal is passed and if Trump signs it, the government will be funded through September 30—which means another budget fight coming by late summer.

While the budget deal included “only” $1.375 billion for the wall, Trump said he will declare a state of emergency and plans to take money from other agencies and allocations to pay for construction of the wall. One theory: Because he has sent military troops to the border, they are now in danger, and therefore a wall is needed to protect them. That line of reasoning has only three problems: troops are not needed at the border, they are not in danger at the border, and a wall protects no one. Expect a state of emergency declaration, followed by lawsuits. Continue reading

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Bad News for Butterflies and Children

Homestead detention center

Homestead detention center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

We still don’t know exactly what the budget “deal” provides—but the more we hear, the less likely it seems that there’s any meaningful limitation on detention beds or ICE funding, and there’s absolutely no whiff of relief for DREAMers or TPS and DED recipients. Nada. Nothing.

As we wait to hear what DC is doing to all of us this time around, here’s the (unfortunately awful) news that’s come out in the past few days: bad news for butterflies, distortion of ICE arrest statistics, and the for-profit Homestead detention center holding 1,600 teenage migrants. Continue reading

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Obfuscation in Washington and Plain Talk in Cleveland

U.S. Capitol dome_mct

About 24 hours after a four-member mini-negotiating committee announced they had a deal to keep the government running past Friday, Trump says he doesn’t like it. At  least one Republican member of the committee is also backing away. And the text of the deal has not yet been released.

To recap: the deal reportedly calls for a little less than $1.4 billion for about 55 miles of border wall—even less than the December deal that Trump rejected. The deal also calls for a very gradual decrease in the astronomical number of detention beds, which stood at 49,057 immigrants in detention on February 6. For a little context: that’s about 9,000 more detention beds than Congress authorized in 2018, and up from 27,500 in FY 2007—despite lower numbers of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, lower numbers crossing the border, and lower numbers of arrests at the border. Continue reading

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Congress Negotiates … Something, But Not Essential Immigration Issues

C59kuFmfT1SI5uoIK36mBAUPDATED 10 a.m.: Congressional leaders announced that they have a deal, and they think Trump will sign it. According to the New York Times, the deal provides $1.4 billion for 55 miles of border fending—less than the deal Trump rejected in December. Congress continues to edge uneasily toward Friday, the next shutdown deadline. The wall remains at the center of Washington discourse, ignoring actual immigration issues:

“A real solution will provide dreamers with an earned pathway to citizenship. It will regularize the status of more than 300,000 longtime legal residents with temporary protected status who also, thanks to the policies of this administration, find themselves in legal limbo. A real solution would restore trust in law enforcement and promote public safety by implementing interior immigration enforcement policies that actually prioritize significant public-safety threats, not just those conjured up in the president’s mind.” Continue reading

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Yes, We Can—Monday Kick Start

El Camino del Corazón (City of Minneapolis)

El Camino del Corazón (City of Minneapolis)

Here’s some hope from the latest Gallup poll results: 60 percent oppose significant new construction on border walls and  81 percent support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Besides that news, take a minute for inspiration from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and from volunteers atf San Diego State University.

Becerra gave a stirring Spanish-language response to SOTU last week, delivering a message of hope and strength:

“Your vote in November changed the votes in Congress. And that has changed the politics of our nation.

“Now that you see your power, are you ready to open new doors? …

“Whether it’s with marches on the streets or marches to the polling booths, with fights in the court or through Congress, we will do what’s needed to ensure a strong and vibrant national Union.

“Friends, with faith and the strength of our labor, and respecting the diverse contributions of the American people, the United States will continue to be the home of the American Dream.”

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