Abuse of power: the Attorney General, immigration courts, and ICE

rini border fence

Immigration courts are not like federal courts established under the constitution. Instead they are subject to the attorney general: he names the judges, he reviews the cases if and when he chooses, and he has expansive power over the entire system. CNN explains how Attorney General Jeff Sessions is using that power to unilaterally reshape immigration law.

Apart from the Attorney General and immigration courts, ICE runs roughshod over immigrant rights. It’s time to abolish ICE, say a number of thoughtful analysts and advocates interviewed for an article in The Nation.

Meanwhile in California, the war over immigration and sanctuary continues to play out, as employers and immigrants are caught in the middle, San Francisco prosecutors describing the benefits of sanctuary, and immigrant advocates organizing grassroots resistance.

Other stories linked below include detention as a death sentence, Congressional Democrats’ refusal to block the Trump budget, the impact of immigration enforcement on schools, and a half-dozen individual immigrant stories. Continue reading

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ICE targets Minnesota professor


A tenured professor at Augsburg University in Minneapolis and his wife have been ordered to show up at ICE headquarters today, on short notice and out of the sequence of their usual, scheduled check-ins. Mzenga Aggrey Wanyama, age 60, has lived in the United States since 1992. After his bid for asylum was rejected, he was a low priority for deportation, and assigned check-in dates every few months. Now deportation looms for Wanyama and his wife, Mary. Two of their three children have DACA status and the third is a U.S. citizen.

Supporters will meet at ICE headquarters in Bloomington at noon today (Friday, March 9). Augsburg president Paul Pribbenow said,  “Dr. Wanyama is a role model for the professional aspirations and accomplishments of future leaders in our city and country. We strongly stand behind him and believe he should be able to stay in the United States.”

See detailed coverage in news articles linked below. In other news: a critic of refugee programs has been named head of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and lawyers detail additional red tape and administrative burdens placed on immigrants and employers, outside of the normal regulatory rule-making process. Continue reading

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Trump, Sessions declare war on California


On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched a lawsuit against the State of California, challenging laws aimed at protecting immigrants in that state. California officials fired back, with Governor Jerry Brown saying that “these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here.”

The Los Angeles Times editorialized that the feds might be doing California a favor by suing, because the lawsuit could “clarify not just for state officials, but for the federal government where the lines of responsibility and culpability might lie.” Like state officials, the L.A. Times noted that the outcomes of previous challenges support California’s positions. A just-released report from legal groups underlines that point, though other legal experts argue that the lawsuit “a credible challenge.

The three laws being challenged, Vox explains, are:

SB 54 (California Values Act): the “sanctuary” law. The Trump administration is suing to allow local law enforcement officials in California to do two things that SB 54 now prevents them from doing: 1) tell federal agents when an immigrant will be released from jail or prison, or give them other “nonpublic” personal information other than the immigrant’s immigration status; and 2) transfer immigrants directly into federal custody from local jails without a warrant from a judge for their arrest (though local officials are allowed to do this if an immigrant has committed certain serious crimes). …

AB 103: the detention review law. The DOJ is suing to strike down a law that requires the California attorney general to review any facility where immigrants are being detained by federal agents while waiting for an immigration court date or their deportation (or where unaccompanied minors are being held while waiting to be placed with a relative). …

AB 450: the workplace-raid law. …The feds are suing to strike down provisions that prevent employers from letting ICE agents access “nonpublic areas” of the workplace during raids or giving ICE agents access to employee records without a judicial warrant. (Though ICE agents would still be allowed to look over an employer’s I-9 files, the form to verify an employee’s ability to work in the US legally.)

More below, along with analyses of ways that the Trump administration is changing immigration law through administrative action, making life harder for legal immigrants in a number of ways.

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Square dancer, paralegal, student, taxi driver: Immigrant stories across America


Individual stories bring reality home in a way that statistics cannot: Leezia Dhalla, a Canadian-born “dreamer,” square dancer, press manager, and Texan; Harminder Saini, for whom “America is the plan;” Luz Bolanos, a paralegal in Fort Worth; Emmanuel Makender, a refugee in Michigan. Their stories—and more in today’s news. Continue reading

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Shackled for 40 hours, Somalis return to abuse, assaults in U.S. jails

Airport gate sign

Guidance sign in an airport terminal

Glades staff have used pepper spray, segregation, shackling and physical abuse on our clients in a discriminatory display of excessive force,” the administrative complaint — filed with two Department of Homeland Security offices — reads. “They have used racial slurs to berate them, including the words ‘nigger’ and ‘boy.’ They have interfered with our clients’ right to make a grievance by threatening them and placing them in segregation when they express their intention to file a grievance.

The Somali victims are refugees and their abusers are U.S. jailers, as reported in a major exposé by The Intercept. These are the 92 men who were shackled hand and foot and waist for 40 hours as they were flown to an airport in Senegal and then back to the United States. During their 40-hour ordeal, airplane bathrooms overflowed, guards refused to remove their shackles, and they were forced to urinate in bottles or on themselves. They say that some were beaten by guards: ICE denies any mistreatment, of course.

Now they are being held in Krome Detention Center and Glade Detention Center  in Florida. Pro bono lawyers, including some from the University of Minnesota’s Binger Law Center, are suring to stop deportations and to defend the human rights of the refugees. Glade may be the more abusive of the two centers, but abuse is endemic in the immigration detention system. Those held at Glade say they are threatened and put in segregation to prevent them from filing grievances. They report physical assaults by guards, which put one of the men in a wheelchair.

“Rebecca Merton, a program coordinator at Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, or CIVIC, said that there is a logic to the mayhem: The abusive conditions eventually wear down the will of detainees to stay and fight their deportation orders in court. “One way that ICE, and particularly [Enforcement and Removal Operations, an ICE sub-office], achieves its goal of mass deportation is by subjecting people to indefinite detention in terrible conditions without any source of hope, or sometimes, outside contact,” said Merton.”

The Intercept’s detailed indictment is not easy reading, but it provides essential information for anyone who cares about basic human rights.

Other immigration news today includes the impact of immigration policy on home health care, farming, DACA recipients, LGBT youth, and immigrant military recruits. Continue reading

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Dreamers and DACA on March 5

Defend DACA Here 2 Stay

Six months ago, Jeff Sessions announced that DACA would end on March 5, and Trump said Congress would fix it before then or he would do “something.” They were all wrong.

Hard-fought court battles have preserved some of DACA for some of its recipients, while Trump and Congress have failed utterly to live up to their promises to Dreamers.

On March 5, young people who have received DACA in the past can still apply to extend their work permits and protection from deportation for two years, thanks to two lawsuits in federal courts. But more than a million other Dreamers remain without any way to apply for that protection, and 20,000 who applied prior to September 5 are still waiting for DHS to act on their applications. As they wait, they have neither work permits nor protection from deportation.

Other immigration news includes immigration authorities jailing Vietnamese permanent residents indefinitely, apparently ignoring a Supreme Court decision to the contrary; more news about ICE raids in California; and continuing threats to Burmese refugees.

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ICE-ing families and civil rights

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Photos of hielera—cold cells where immigrants are held, from Human Rights Watch report.

Separating children from their parents and forcing everyone to sleep on the floors of frigid holding cells—sounds pretty awful, but that looks like standard treatment for many people arrested near the border by U.S. immigration authorities. Farther away from the border, and after years of living in the United States, a Utah family faced multiple warrantless, door-busting ICE invasions and other civil rights violations. When they asked to see warrants, they got responses that amounted to variations on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’s “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”

A different family might get a break from immigration authorities: after the Military Times reported on threatened deportation of a veteran’s wife next week, DHS appears to have relented in that case.

Reactions to USCIS striking “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement continue, with three articles giving reflections from across the country.

And in other news: Minnesota reports about delays in a Somali deportation flight and about Winona churches and sanctuary; court decisions invalidating government moves against immigrants; and more.

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