Links and stories – April 4, 2017


Besides their years-long backlogs, immigration courts suffer other serious dysfunctions. In a Slate article, a volunteer attorney describes a broken immigration court system, in which his client disappeared – and no one could tell him where. He charges that “the system is designed to deprive people of representation, due process, and humanity itself.”

A second terribly serious problem is that immigrants in deportation proceedings have no right to an attorney.  Most cannot afford – or find – attorneys, which leads to losing, even if they have good legal claims or defenses. Recognizing the need, some cities have set up funds to pay for attorneys to represent people in immigration proceedings. 

A System Designed to Make People Disappear (Slate, 4/2/17)

One recent study found that only about 14 percent of detainees have representation. That’s out of nearly 300,000 cases in the immigration courts every year.

“If I killed someone on the street in broad daylight, I‘d be entitled to an attorney. But those summoned before the immigration courts, including infants who have been brought here by their parents, have no right to counsel. They can hire immigration lawyers, but only if they can pay for them. Most of them can’t, and volunteer lawyers are scarce. So children, parents, and grandparents are locked up for months, sometimes years, waiting for a day in court. When they show up in front of a judge, they do so alone and terrified. Those who don’t speak English are provided an interpreter who tells them what’s being said, but no one is there to tell them what’s really happening.”

“Eleven percent of detainees in Arlington who represented themselves won their cases, compared with 25 percent who had a lawyer. In Baltimore, 7 percent of detainees won their cases, compared with 29 percent who had a lawyer…. “Communities such as Los Angeles have responded by creating a legal-aid fund for immigrants, with $5 million from the city and county governments and an additional $5 million they said they plan to raise in private donations. New York also has a deportation-defense program, which began in 2013; advocates say the program has significantly improved immigrants’ chances of winning their cases.”

SF courts anything but safe for some immigrants in sanctuary city (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/2/17) “Public Defender Jeff Adachi is a vocal advocate for the rights of unauthorized immigrants, but his office has been criticized for its tactics that make immigration status an issue in cases.”

High skill H-1B visas


The H-1B visa allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ highly skilled foreign workers when they cannot find U.S. workers to fill the jobs. Every year, applicants for H-1B visas greatly outnumber the 65,000 available visas, so a lottery is held. Trump said he will end the lottery – but it began on schedule on Monday, April 3.

“There are 65,000 visas available each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 for workers with advanced degrees.But the number of petitions has outstripped the number of visas in each year since 2013, prompting a lottery to determine whose petitions get processed. And there’s no sign that it’s slowing down.”

“The biggest beneficiary of the system, by far, is India, which produces a steady pipeline of workers trained in math, engineering and science. Seventy one percent of H-1B visa recipients came from India in 2015, according to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. China comes in second, accounting for nearly 10 percent of H-1B visa recipients….The H-1B visas last for three years, and can be renewed once. But workers applying for green cards can renew their visas indefinitely. There is currently a decade-long backlog of Indian green card applicants. Given the tremendous delay, companies have an incentive to hire workers from India, who critics say end up in a system of de facto “indentured servitude.”… [G]reen card applicants cannot change jobs while their applications are pending or they have to re-start their applications.”

Homeland Security announces steps against H1B visa fraud (Reuters, 4/3/17)

“Proponents of limiting legal immigration, including Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller, have argued the program gives jobs that Americans could fill to foreign workers at a less expensive cost.

“The measures announced by DHS on Monday focus on site visits by U.S. authorities to employers who use H1B visas.”

On the other end of the labor spectrum, farmers can’t find enough workers to plant, tend, and harvest crops:

“Providers of fruits and vegetables, nursery stock, produce, and meat products say the skilled workers who put food on our tables and plants in our yards can’t be easily be replaced. Their speed, dexterity, and crop knowledge of crops, as well as their willingness to work long hours and unpredictable schedules in isolated areas makes them vital to the industry.

“The Trump administration’s vows of aggressive enforcement against undocumented workers — many of whom are longtime residents of the state — and the companies that employ them could create chaos from farm to market and all points in between, industry leaders say.”

And in other news

Hit-and-run accidents fell after California gave those here illegally driver’s licenses, study finds (Los Angeles Times, 4/3/17)

Why the Somali community in the Twin Cities is so much more politically successful than the one in Columbus, Ohio (MinnPost, 4/3/17)

“Most Somalis in Columbus and in the Twin Cities, on the other hand, came to the U.S. around the same time, had spent some months or years in refugee camps in Africa and often hold low-skill jobs.

“Yet Chambers found that Somalis in the Twin Cities are more engaged and more influential in their community, both socially and politically.”

Protesting Trump’s immigration policy? You might be accidentally helping him. (The Guardian, 4/3/17)

“Roberto Suro, a journalism and Latino affairs scholar at the University of Southern California, said the White House may struggle to match Barack Obama’s record-breaking deportation levels but that tough rhetoric and scattered high-profile Ice operations were generating energetic immigrant activism and news coverage.

“Fear is a natural consequence. People appear to be changing their behavior. There’s talk of folks at least thinking about going home. That obviously would suit Trump’s purposes.”



About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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