Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New York City Continues to Reject Cooperation with Federal Secure Communities Program

January 8, 2014

ice deportationA set of laws restricting New York City’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities, adopted over the past two years by the City Council, are beginning to have an effect according to statistics recently released by the City.   The laws, passed in response to the federal Secure Communities data-sharing program, prohibit the City from honoring hold requests from Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) except under certain circumstances.  The federal program facilitates Homeland Security access to fingerprints of suspects booked at local jails.

In 2011, New York City prohibited city officials from honoring detainer requests except where the individual had prior convictions or outstanding warrants. Then in February 2013, the Council passed further restrictions limiting detainers for all immigrants but those who are facing serious misdemeanor charges, such as sexual abuse, assault, and gun possession.

According to the New York Times, “[f]rom July, when the most recent of the restrictive laws went into effect, to September, city officials responded to 904 federal hold requests,” 331 of which the city declined to honor. These numbers represent a significant departure from past practices, where every detainer request was customarily honored.  However, despite the significant impact on deportations in the City, New York City’s policy represents one of the more moderate positions cities have taken on the Secure Communities program, where cities like Chicago and the District of Columbia have all but prohibited any cooperation with ICE.

Despite the steps the City has taken to shield its immigrant residents from federal reach, immigrant advocates, now turning their advocacy efforts toward incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio, are arguing for even greater restrictions. Mayor-elect de Blasio  “vowed to end the city’s cooperation with federal immigration detainers except for detainees convicted of ‘violent or serious felonies.’”

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Restricting Immigration Could Hurt Medicare

June 19, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 1.04.15 AMA new study released by researchers at Harvard Medical School revealed that, over a seven-year period, immigrants contributed $115 billion more to the Medicare Trust Fund than they took out. According to authors of the study, immigration restrictions could dramatically reduce the fund.

Studies further show that, in general, immigrants use less health care than U.S.-born citizens. According to lead researcher Leah Zallman, “The assumption that immigrants are just a drain has been a part of the argument that people should be denied services.” The research, however, shows that immigrants have the opposite effect.

In 2009, for example, U.S.-born citizens spent $31 billion more than they contributed to the fund. Alternatively, immigrants contributed $13.9 billion more than they spent. Contrary to the idea that many immigrants don’t earn enough to contribute to the Fund, immigrants aged 18 to 64 only contribute an average of $100 less, per year, than their U.S.-born counterparts.

The report concludes that immigrants will be vital to keep the fund going in the coming years, as baby boomers continue to retire. According to the study, “Encouraging a steady flow of young immigrants would help offset the aging of the U.S. population and the health care financing challenge that it presents.”

Looking Back: The Impact of the 1986 Immigration Reform on Farmers

June 5, 2013

In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act allowed illegal immigrants within the United States to gain legal status. As one illegal immigrant farmer turned legal construction worker stated of the Act, “Immigration reform changed my life. It gave my family freedom . . . It allowed us to reach the American dream.”

Now that Congress is considering new immigration reform measures that would provide farmers with a quick avenue towards legal status, experts are looking to the impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 to estimate the potential impact of the new reforms on today’s illegal farmers.

Many farmworkers who gained legal status in 1986 quickly left the fields for higher paying jobs and, in some cases, college educations. They were lifted out of poverty and able to purchase cars and trailer homes for the first time since entering the United States. Since then, a now class of poor, illegal farmworkers has sprouted.

Experts believe that immigration reform today would have a similar impact on illegal immigrants who are currently employed as farmworkers and living in poverty. However, the impact of the new reforms would go even further. Unlike the reforms in 1986, the current proposal includes a guest worker provision that would ensure that another class of poor, illegal farmworkers is not created.

U.S. Supreme Court Has Not Decided Whether it Will Hear Alabama Immigration Case

May 22, 2013

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to decide whether it would hear  arguments in Alabama v. U.S., a case which concerns a key piece of Alabama immigration law. When the Court announced the cases it would hear, however,  Alabama v. U.S. was not mentioned.

The petition for review asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of Alabama’s ban on harboring illegal immigrants. The harboring provision further criminalizes “transporting and inducing, or encouraging, those who entered the U.S. illegally to stay in Alabama.”

The harboring provision was later blocked by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court based its decision on technical grounds, stating that the provision conflicted with federal law.

The U.S. Supreme Court selects a very small number of cases to hear each year. According to Alabama Solicitor General John Neiman, the court may not decide whether it will hear the case until April 29, or later.

Boston Bombings Call Strength of Immigration Laws Into Question

May 8, 2013

After the bombing of the Boston Marathon, Delaware Senator Chris Coons is calling into question the strength of United States immigration laws. Of immigration and national security, Coons stated, “I think we should redouble our efforts to make sure we understand what’s the path forward on immigration, how do we use this opportunity to make America safer.”

Both suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were legally residing in the United States. Surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is a naturalized United States citizen. Tamerian Tsarnaev, the suspect who was killed in a police shootout, was previously investigated by the FBI in back in 2011. The investigation stemmed from warnings from the Russian government that Tsarneav had ties to Islamic extremists. The FBI was unable to find a link.

Although Senator Coons believes that we should move forward with immigration reform, he believes such reform should have better filters. Delaware Senator Tom Carper, who currently serves on the Homeland Security Committee, agrees. After the bombing, Carper stated that we need to learn what officials could have done differently to recognize and avoid the threat posed by Tsarnaev and his brother.

Immigration Rights Groups File Racial Profiling Lawsuits

April 24, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 1.06.23 AMLast March, advocates for immigrant rights filed numerous lawsuits in five states. The lawsuits allege that the Customs and Boarder Protection officers in the various states had engaged in abuse and racial profiling. Specifically, three lawsuits allege that boarder control agents treated people illegally, and six other complaints allege that immigrants suffered harsh and violent conditions while in confinement.

According to documents from the lawsuits, U.S. citizens and immigrants alike were put in cold, tight conditions of confinement for days and not given ample food and water. The lawsuits allege that Customs agents intentionally provided the poor conditions in an attempt to convince immigrants to sign voluntary deportation orders. The cases further allege customs officials are singling out U.S. citizens for questioning based on their race.

According to Betsy Ginsberg, an attorney who assisted with one of the cases, “We hope these cases bring attention to the systemic actions on the part of border patrol agents.” Ginsberg’s client, a 63-year-old woman, alleges that she suffered a stroke when she was detained at the Sandusky Bay Processing Center. She is seeking $600,000 in damages for the ordeal. The woman was selected for questioning by a boarder control agent while on a bus in Minnesota. She was returning home to New York after a funeral.

Senators Agree on Path to Citizenship

April 10, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 12.26.31 AMEight United States senators are currently working together to draft a bipartisan immigration reform bill. According to recent reports, the senators have come to an agreement on what is widely considered the most contentious part of the bill, the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The United States is currently home to 11 million illegal immigrants. Under the bill, these immigrants would have to register with the Department of Homeland Security, file federal income taxes, and pay fine in order to become given probationary legal status. Moreover, the illegal immigrants must have a clear law enforcement record.

If an illegal immigrant is given probationary legal status, he or she will be able to work within the United States, but will not be allowed to receive federal public benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid. The senators have not yet determined how long an illegal immigrant would need to reside in the United States before they would be permitted to apply for permanent resident status.

Although the draft bill has a long way to go before becoming law, lawmakers and advocates are optomistic that the bill may be successful. According to immigration expert Angela Kelley, “Nine months ago, people would have thought you were nuts to say that four Republicans and four Democrats were working on a way to legalize 11 million people . . . It’s a Rubik’s Cube, but more sides are matching in color than ever before. That’s significant.”

Celebrities Have Trouble With Immigration Law, Too

March 27, 2013

Currently, there are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Of the many people who have had problems with their immigration status, some later became American celebrities. In light of the recent immigration reform efforts, ABC News complied the stories of eight celebrities who “broke U.S. immigration law, allegedly.”   

One celebrity couple to have trouble with the Immigration and Naturalization Service was John Lennon and Yoko Ono. According to the LA Times, Lennon “pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cannabis possession in London in 1968, and immigration law at the time banned the admission of anyone convicted of any drug offense.” Lennon and Ono were issued deportation orders by the Nixon administration, but were able to stay in the country thanks to their powerful friends.

Another celebrity who was once in the U.S. illegally is Salma Hayek. According to Hayek, “I was an illegal immigrant in the United States . . . for a small period of time.” Canadian actor Michael J. Fox was in the United States illegally for a brief amount of time as well. Ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger could have been deported back in the mid-seventies, when he violated the terms of his visa by working as a brick layer.

Other celebrities who have allegedly had immigration troubles include Cesar Millan, Luis Enrique, Jorge Hernandez of Los Tigres del Norte, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Immigration Reform is Good for the Economy

March 13, 2013

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, immigration reform, if passed, will be the most important piece of economic legislation in 2013. Although immigration reform isn’t officially considered a part of economic policy, statistics show that immigrants have had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the American economy.

Immigrants have been responsible for the formation of many United States businesses. From 1995 to 2005, over 25 percent of technology and engineering businesses started in the United States had a foreign-born founder. Moreover, immigrants founded half of all Silicon Valley tech startups. Finally, half of all PhDs working in the United States in the fields of science and technology were born elsewhere.

One of the many economic challenges that could be lessened by immigration is the retirement rate of baby boomers in the United States. By the year 2050, there will be only 3 working Americans for every retiree. This will be a significant drop from the current rate of 5 Americans per retiree. Through immigration reform, the United States could essentially import workers to fill the gaps left by the baby boomer generation. As the article states, it would be “akin to raising the birth rate, only easier, because most of the newcomers are old enough to work.”

Number of Deportations Decreased in 2013

January 22, 2013

De BlasioAccording to the New York Times, immigration officials reported that the Obama administration deported 368,644 people in 2013, bringing the total number deported under President Obama to just under 2 million. Despite being the large number deported, the 2013 numbers are 10 percent lower than in 2012.

According to immigration officials, “98 percent of those deported fit into one or more of the priority categories set by Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” which includes those convicted of a crime, those categorized as a national security risks, fugitives or those otherwise obstructing immigration controls, and recent undocumented entries.  In a recent ICE report, the agency touted a record high 75 percent of those deported had committed serious offenses and 59 percent had been convicted of a crime.

However, according to the acting director of ICE, John Sandweg, the decrease could have more to do with the exceptionally slow immigration court process than anything else. Because such a high percentage of deportees were convicted of criminal offenses, they had to pass through immigration courts before being removed from the US.

The new numbers, according to the New York Times, will provide fodder for all sides of the debate around immigration reform. Republicans arguing that the Obama administration has been weak on immigration enforcement can now point to lower deportation numbers showing declining enforcement by the Obama Administration.  Whereas, immigrant advocates will continue to argue that historically high overall deportation numbers under the President’s administration, despite the recent decrease, requires a change in policy.