As the person who produces this blog, I’m starting with some self-promotion today – YES! Magazine published my latest article on sanctuary. I’ve written about sanctuary for more than a decade, and have another article coming in the June edition of Minnesota Women’s Press. I hope you’ll take a moment (or ten) to read How Cities Are Using Sanctuary to Build Moral Muscle:
“States, cities, school districts, and universities are all defying federal orders with sanctuary declarations. …
“The bottom line is that no local policy can actually prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from conducting raids, making arrests, or deporting undocumented immigrants. But the sanctuary movement is not without power. Importantly, it serves as a public statement, and this public commitment has powerful political and moral impact.
“Participation in the process strengthens the muscle of resistance.
“Here we stand, together, a sanctuary decision declares. We stand with immigrants. We stand with the oppressed.”
Speaking of muscle …
Lawyers make a huge difference in whether immigrants get fair hearings – or any hearings at all – and in whether they succeed in making asylum claims or successful applications for visas. Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders were met with solid legal resistance: lawyers showing up at airports to represent stranded immigrants, lawyers representing separated family members, and legal organizations filing (successful) court challenges to the orders themselves.
The Trump administration decided to fight back by preventing lawyers from helping immigrants They began by ordering the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project to stop offering consultation and advice to immigrants facing deportation. A federal court judge in Seattle just issued a temporary order blocking that Department of Justice order. For more on the case, read on:
Seattle Judge Rules Justice Department Can’t Limit Legal Assistance to Immigrants (YES! Magazine, 5/18/17)
“The group helps about 10,000 immigrants a year, but thousands of them would be deprived of help if the order was upheld, said NWIRP Executive Director Jorge L. Barón. So in response to the cease-and-desist letter, NWIRP filed a federal lawsuit against the department on May 8, saying that it was a violation of the group’s First Amendment rights to “free speech, to free assembly, and to petition the government.”
Federal judge blocks restriction on immigrant legal help (Honolulu Star Advertiser, 5/16/17)
“After following the same practice for more than eight years without challenge, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project received the cease-and-desist letter in April, just after it sued to block President Donald Trump’s travel ban. The judge didn’t reference that lawsuit directly, but noted that among the numerous organizations doing free immigration legal work, the letter had been sent “just this time — to just this agency.”
“Last month, the city announced a $500,000 private fund to provide lawyers for immigrants facing deportation. Though Baltimore has not committed public money to the fund the way other cities have in announcing similar efforts, city officials are fundraising on behalf of the Open Society Institute of Baltimore, the private nonprofit managing the fund.
“We know that in immigration court proceedings, the outcomes are better if people do have representation,” said Diana Morris, the institute’s director. “We want to make sure that people do have legal defense.”
Metro Transit and immigration enforcement
Minneapolis artist Ricardo Levins Morales filmed a Metro Transit officer interrogating someone on a Blue Line train – asking him “Are you here legally?” Immigration enforcement is not an assignment for Metro Transit officers, and Levins Morales challenged him. After the video was posted to Facebook, Metro Transit police chief John Harrington said he “called for an Internal Affairs investigation to gather the details about this incident and to report back to me as quickly as possible.”
• Cell phone video prompts Metro Transit investigation of officer’s query (Star Tribune, 5/19/17)
• Video shows a Metro Transit officer asking rider’s immigration status, and the chief wants to know why (Pioneer Press, 5/19/17)
• Chief Responds to Video Showing Officer Ask Man About Immigration (CBS, 5/20/17)
“State and local law enforcement run the risk of inadvertently committing some type of discrimination,” [Mitchell Hamline law professor Ana] Pottratz Acosta said. “Their actions could be viewed as profiling.”
And in other news …
What the Spike in Immigration Arrests Might Mean for Detention Centers (The Atlantic, 5/20/17)
“With removal proceedings moving at a glacial pace, deportations have actually dipped by 12 percent this year—while more undocumented immigrants are being arrested, fewer are actually being removed. Detainees, therefore, continue to be held in facilities across the country—facilities which may soon be overwhelmed.”
Refugees: Caught Between Violence and Persecution (Americas Program, 5/1917) Central American refugees face hard times in Mexico.
“The current situation bears no resemblance to that of Mexico in the 1980s. We are no longer a country of refuge, and there is little recognition that a large number of Central Americans deserve to be classified as refugees in Mexico; COMAR’s statistics reflect an agency that has neither the staff, the resources, nor the will to fulfill its mission. In 2015, COMAR received 3,423 requests, of which only 929 were approved. Meanwhile, there is an unmistakable trend towards a substantial increase in the number of requests received. Between November 2016 and March 2017, 5,421 asylum applications were submitted, in comparison to 2,148 during the same period of 2015-2016. “
Brennan Center Urges State Department to Abandon New “Extreme Vetting” Initiatives (Brennan Center, 5/18/17) See full text of letter here.
“The Brennan Center, joined by 34 other civil and human rights organizations, today submitted comments to the U.S. Department of State on its plan to collect additional information from U.S. visa applicants who are determined to warrant additional scrutiny from consular officials pursuant to undisclosed criteria. The proposed collection implements the president’s March 6, 2017 executive order banning travel from six predominantly Muslim countries, and would ask designated applicants for information including their social media handles and 15 years of travel and employment history.”
“In order to apply, immigrants need an order from a family judge in the state court system, affirming that they are in need of protection and cannot be safely reunited with a parent in their native country….”
If the judge doesn’t issue an order, the young immigrant cannot file the petition for a Special Juvenile Immigrant visa.
Border Patrol detains 22-year-old Cal State L.A. student activist; her lawyer says it is retaliation (Los Angeles Times, 5/19/17)
“Claudia Rueda was moving her family’s car outside their Boyle Heights home when she was detained and taken to a federal facility near San Diego on Thursday morning, her attorney, Monika Langarica, said.
“She was moving the car because of street sweeping,” Langarica said. “Before she got out of the car, three vehicles pulled up.”
“Activists and friends of Rueda’s say Rueda was targeted because of protests she has led in recent weeks over the detention of her mother…”
“Lawrence, a single mother in Crystal who has been working for Boston Scientific since she obtained her work permit, says she doesn’t know where to start if she returns home, where Ebola decimated the economy. In fact, Lawrence says, the company she was working for as an accountant when she was in Liberia laid off half of its employees — 500 people — when the economy collapsed.
“It’s a sentiment that Alhaaji Mohamed Bah, president of Guinea Association of Minnesota, agrees with: “There’s no way of going back,” he said, adding that many of the TPS holders lost their homes, jobs and families members to Ebola.
“In recent weeks, as the end of the TPS approached, Bah said he’s been getting calls from people who fear deportation and want to know their fate in the United States.
“They said, ‘I cannot go back,’” Bah remembered. “Some of them even said, ‘It’s better for me to die because going back is like death for me; I don’t have anybody anymore.’”
Feds use anti-terror tool to hunt the undocumented (The Detroit News, 5/18/17)
“Agents using a cell-site simulator to find an illegal immigrant is further evidence of the creeping expansion of a terrorism fighting tool, [Shahid Buttar, director of grassroots advocacy for the nonprofit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation] said.
“As far as we know, this is a novel use of that technology,” Buttar said.
“For perspective, federal agents in Detroit last fall revealed they used a cell-site simulator to find a low-level accused drug dealer.
“Secrecy surrounding the devices on a federal level, before 2015, makes it impossible to determine exactly how investigators have used the device, he said.
“Once you start giving agencies fancy toys, and somebody is making money off of it, they are going to use them for more things, and ultimately oppress your rights,” Buttar said.
ACLU seeks documents on ICE’s use of cell phone trackers (ACLU, 5/19/17) Text of FOIA request here.
“The devices — often known as “Stingrays” after a popular model — can locate an individual cell phone by impersonating a wireless cell tower. Collecting unique identifiers of all phones in a particular location inherently collects location data on many innocent people.
“We’re troubled to see evidence of ICE using invasive surveillance equipment for immigration enforcement purposes, especially given this administration’s hyper-aggressive approach in this area,” said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler.”
“Liliana Cruz Mendez, whose 10-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter are both U.S. citizens, was pulled over in 2013 because of a problem with the headlights on her car. Because undocumented immigrants aren’t allowed to get a driver’s license in Virginia, she pled guilty to a misdemeanor offense of driving without a license and paid a $100 fine. “
Back then, she was allowed to go free, and to check in with immigration authorities yearly. Now, under the Trump administration’s policy, she’s set for deportation.
“When people hear ‘criminal alien’ they think of a murderer,” said Nick Katz, legal manager of the immigrant rights organization CASA, which is helping to represent Mendez. “Her crime is that she couldn’t get a driver’s license.” …
“Mendez fled El Salvador in 2006 at the age of 18, after she was threatened at gunpoint by a man who wanted her to be his girlfriend, Katz said. When she arrived in the United States, she didn’t understand the nuances of the immigration system, and she didn’t have a lawyer — so, when she was called into an immigration hearing in Texas, she didn’t appear for her hearing. That resulted in an in-absentia order for her removal.”
“A federal judge in Detroit ordered the Trump administration to turn over the memo by May 19, according to reports. The ACLU said Saturday that Trump did not meet the deadline on Friday.
“If, as the administration claims, the Executive Order is not a Muslim Ban, then why is the administration refusing to turn over the Giuliani memo? What is in that document that the government doesn’t want the court to see?” Miriam Aukerman, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement. “
The small Texas city fighting to remain a ‘safe haven’ for immigrants (The Guardian, 5/21/17)
“The first place to sue was not liberal Austin, the hub of the fightback, but tiny El Cenizo, a city of 3,800 that nestles along a bend in the Rio Grande and faces Mexico to the north, west and south.
“Here, where 99% of residents are Hispanic and 15% to 20% are undocumented, a “safe haven” ordinance has been in place since 1999, forbidding local authorities from making immigration inquiries. When the new state law goes into effect in September, the failure of Texas officials to cooperate with immigration authorities will become a criminal offence also punishable by fines.
“Every single child that lives here is a US citizen,”[Mayor Raul Reyes] said. “So that is why I am very passionate in my opposition against this bill. To somehow think that we’re just going to turn our backs on people that we’ve gone to school with, that we’ve shared a meal with, that we sit next to [in church] … is just inhumane. It’s just not who we are as a country or who we should be as human beings.”