December 18, 2015 p>
Earlier today, the House and Senate passed the omnibus appropriations bill for FY2016, which President Obama has agreed to sign into law. The bill has been deemed a victory for both parties who found compromise in a divided government. p>
Several immigration-related issues were hotly debated. Notably, the omnibus does NOT include proposals that would effectively end, restrict, or defund the U.S. refugee resettlement program, or language that targets so-called "sanctuary cities," or the president's deferred action programs. The omission of these provisions is a huge victory for AILA, which opposed and fought against these proposals. A big loss, however, was the inclusion of the House bill reforming the Visa Waiver Program that discriminates against nationals of certain countries. AILA opposed this measure, but it received overwhelming support from the House and the administration. The spending bill also reauthorizes the EB-5, Conrad 30, Special Religious Workers, and E-Verify programs through September 30, 2016. For full details on what's in the bill, visit AILA's 2016 Omnibus Bill page. p>
As Congress prepares to go home for the holidays, please take a moment to thank the numerous representatives who demonstrated leadership and voted against harmful proposals that were based in demagoguery and the scapegoating of immigrants rather than good policy. p>
December 17, 2015 p>
Trouble is brewing as Congress prepares to vote on the omnibus appropriations bill. Among the issues causing a stir are the omission of provisions to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees and the reforms to the H-2B visa program. p>
On Syrian refugees: Members of the Freedom Caucus are threatening to vote against the spending bill after the Rules Committee rejected their amendments to the bill that included the House-passed H.R. 4038 that would halt Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the United States. Earlier today, Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio hinted he would stall the passage of the omnibus in order to toughen the vetting process for Syrian refugees. p>
On H-2B visas: Representative Steve King (R-IA) promised to oppose the omnibus because it includes an exemption for returning H-2B visa holders. p>
Some Democrats are also threatening the effort to pass the federal spending bill. The House will vote on the omnibus spending bill tomorrow morning. p>
December 16, 2015 p>
Late last night, Congress released the omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through September 30, 2016. Most notable is what's NOT in the omnibus: The proposals to stop, restrict, or defund the U.S refugee program did not get included. Nor is there any language that attacks the DAPA or expanded DACA programs, or that targets so-called "sanctuary cities," or that increases the detention of noncitizens. For the past many months, AILA fought against these harmful proposals that were based on demagoguery and the scapegoating of immigrants rather than good policy. Congress's decision not to put these ideas into the omnibus marks a huge victory for AILA, our clients, and all immigrants. p>
A vote on the omnibus will take place on Friday. Some conservatives are even vowing to vote against the bill to protest the absence of measures to restrict the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. For full details on what's in the bill, visit AILA's 2016 Omnibus Bill page. p>
A big loss was the inclusion in the omnibus of the House-passed Visa Waiver Program (VWP) bill, H.R .158. That bill will exclude individuals who have visited or are dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria from participating in the VWP. AILA opposed the inclusion of these discriminatory provisions, but the overwhelming support for the measure, which garnered 407 House votes last week and was backed by the White House, virtually guaranteed its inclusion. p>
EB-5, Conrad 30, Special Religious Workers, and E-Verify will be reauthorized through the end of the fiscal year. In the last few weeks, AILA through its active and very engaged EB-5 Committee spent long hours providing expertise and advice to key Hill negotiators. The committee's aim was to ensure the workability of the EB-5 program, but the final proposals still had flaws that would have spelled doom for the EB-5 Regional Center program. p>
To keep the federal government open until the omnibus is passed, Congress is expected to pass another continuing resolution to fund the government through December 22, 2016. p>
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
During last night's GOP debate, a handful of presidential hopefuls (finally) united against Donald Trump and his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Trump defended his proposal, while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reaffirmed his plan to bar Syrian refugees for the sake of national security. Texas Senator Ted Cruz flatly stated he would not support a path to legal status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country in a heated debate with Florida Senator Marco Rubio. According to the experts, the night's winner was Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, who repeatedly engaged with frontrunner Trump. Bush delivered his most memorable line when he told Trump: "You're not going to insult your way to the presidency."
December 15, 2015
With the federal budget set to expire tomorrow, House and Senate leadership have been working to pass the omnibus appropriations measure that will fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. At this point, the expectation is that a deal will be reached by midnight tonight, thus enabling both chambers of Congress to vote by the end of the week.
Here's what we know so far: The highly controversial proposals to end the U.S. refugee program's resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees will not be included in the omnibus. AILA fought hard for this big victory. Hooray!
A big loss on the omnibus will likely be the inclusion of the House-passed bill reforming the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which includes provisions that discriminate against nationals of four countries-Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan-as well as people who travel to those countries without providing adequate exemptions for journalists or humanitarian workers, or a sunset measure. AILA opposed this bill and its inclusion in the omnibus. CQ reported earlier today that the VWP bill is in the omnibus.
So far, there has been no agreement reached on the extension for four expiring immigration-related programs: EB-5, Conrad 30, Special Religious Workers, and E-Verify. Negotiations over the EB-5 program have been hotly contested and protracted, and will likely run up until the final hour.
December 11, 2015 p>
Yesterday, the Senate unanimously approved a five-day funding measure to prevent a shutdown at midnight tonight. The House is expected to vote and pass the measure early this afternoon. According to The New York Times, President Obama will sign the short-term continuing resolution giving Congress until Wednesday, December 16, 2015 to pass an omnibus bill. p>
Experts have indicated that Congressional leaders are close to passing the federal spending bill. However, there are still a number of controversial policy riders that lawmakers are negotiating. AILA, along with a number of coalition partners, have urged members of Congress to pass an appropriation bill free of policy riders that would halt, pause or defund the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, as well any Visa Waiver Program proposals that scapegoat certain nationalities. p>
Once passed, the short-term continuing resolution will also extend EB-5, Conrad 30, Special Religious Workers, and E-Verify for five additional days. While extending the Conrad 30, Special Religious Workers, and E-Verify programs do not appear to be raising any concerns on the Hill, reforms to the EB-5 program continue to be in discussion and at this point it is unclear how extensive those reforms will be. p>
December 10, 2015
Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee reconfirmed America's commitment to religious tolerance. In a 16-4 vote, the committee approved Senator Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) amendment confirming that "the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion."
The amendment vote comes at the heels of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States. AILA's Advocacy Director Greg Chen, along with other legal scholars, told the The Wall Street Journal that Trump's proposal would be unconstitutional. The plan was also rejected by politicians from both sides of the aisle, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Paul Ryan. In a press conference, Speaker Ryan denounced Trump's comments by stating that they don't reflect who we are as the Republican Party or as a nation.
AILA also released a statement condemning any proposals that discriminate against a person's nationality or religion. Join AILA in standing up for America's values by thanking Senator Leahy and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for their leadership.
In other news, the Senate has passed a short-term funding bill that will keep the government running until Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The House Republican leaders also seem to be on board with passing a short-term bill until next Wednesday. The Hill has reported that restrictions on the Syrian refugee program, a policy rider that House Democrats have considered a "poison pill," are still being negotiated as part of the current spending packet.
Take a moment to ask your legislator to protect refugees fleeing violence and persecution.
December 7, 2015 p>
Over half of House Democrats who supported a bill that would effectively end the resettlement program for Syrian and Iraqi refugees have called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to not include such restrictions on the must-pass federal spending bill. According to the experts, this suggests that House members may now oppose the refugee vetting restrictions they supported last month, and consequently the House would have no chance of overriding President Obama's veto promise. p>
In Texas, three Syrian refugee families will be resettled this week, despite the ongoing legal battle between the state and the federal government. Last week, Texas sued the federal governmentand the International Rescue Committee of Dallas , the organization coordinating the resettlement, after demanding that they not allow Syrian families with two young children in the state. AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen explained to Business Insider that "there is no legitimate basis for the Texas lawsuit because Texas has no legal authority to prevent a refugee who has been lawfully admitted, screened and cleared to enter the US from coming to their state." p>
Texas Governor Greg Abbot was among the 31 governors that announced they would refuse to welcome refugees in their states in the aftermath of the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks. AILA has denounced the governor's attempts to deny resettlement and protection to refugees, stating that these actions betray America's fundamental values, and that it "would be unlawful, unconstitutional, and preposterous in this century for them to block their borders to someone in such a discriminatory way." Read AILA's press statement. p>
Join AILA and ask your legislator to protect refugees fleeing violence and persecution. p>
December 1, 2015
Congress may very well end the U.S refugee resettlement program. With less than two weeks to pass an end-of-year funding bill, GOP leaders may use the must-pass bill to stop or reduce the number of Syrian refugees entering the country. Some lawmakers say they will only support a funding bill that blocks funds for refugees from Syria and other regions in the Middle East.
The Senate was also poised to take up a separate bill that would halt resettlement of Syrian refugees as the House did last week. Senate Democrats vowed to filibuster the House bill. In recent weeks, President Obama has forcefully defended the refugee resettlement policy.
Yesterday, the administration announced new measures to improve security for the Visa Waiver Program that would prevent individuals who have recently visited "conflict zones" from entering the United States. The new changes include increasing information sharing between countries and increasing fines for airlines that fail to verify passengers' identities. (Check out AILA's Backgrounder on the Visa Waiver Program for more information.)
Join AILA in asking members of Congress to oppose any legislation or appropriation riders that would halt, limit, or defund the refugee resettlement programs for refugees from Syria and nearby regions in the Middle East. There is no need for Congress to suspend the U.S. refugee program or mandate additional security measures. Currently, refugees undergo a rigorous security screening process requiring vetting by multiple U.S. agencies, which takes about two years. Check out AILA's Syrian Refugee Crisis page for more information and resources.
November 20, 2015
Today, President Obama took the fight for undocumented families to the U.S. Supreme Court by petitioning the Court to grant certiorari of the Fifth Circuit's decision to uphold the injunction against DAPA and expanded DACA. AILA President Victor Nieblas called for the High Court "not only to take the case but to rule in favor of the administration and allow DAPA and expanded DACA to be implemented." See AILA's press statement for the full remarks.
The appeal came as immigrant advocacy groups rallied across the country to mark the one-year anniversary of the President's announcement of the two programs. DAPA and expanded DACA seek to grant temporary relief from deportation to approximately five million people living in the United States. Implementation of the programs has been blocked since February, when Texas and 25 other states sued the administration claiming the President had exceeded his authority. (Check out AILA's page on Texas v. United States for more resources.)
For President Obama to see these programs implemented before he leaves office in January 2017, the Supreme Court must agree to hear the issue early next year and overrule the lower court by June 2016. Until then, millions of individuals will continue to be stuck in limbo as the case makes its way through the courts. Among those stuck in immigration limbo is Uriel Casas, who shared his journey as an undocumented immigrant with the Huffington Post.
November 19, 2015
Earlier today, House members voted 289-137 in favor of Representative Michael McCaul's (R-TX) H.R. 4038: American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015. The bill, which was introduced only two days ago, is a reactionary response to the deadly attacks in Paris that would effectively shut down the U.S. refugee resettlement program in Syria and Iraq.
Forty-seven Democrats crossed party lines in support of Representative McCaul's bill, after a motion to recommit-a procedural move to provide a Democratic alternative-failed to pass. The bipartisan support is likely to collide with Senate Democrats, who are pushing a proposal that goes in a different direction, and the President, who has threatened to veto the bill.
The House vote came just hours after the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Syrian refugees. Members of the committee heard testimony from USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez, among other expert witnesses, on the rigorous and lengthy screening process refugees undergo before being permitted to resettle in the United States. (For more on the refugee screening process and AILA's recommendation, check out AILA's Take on Protecting Syrian Refugees.)
AILA opposed H.R. 4038, and encouraged House members to vote "no." AILA members helped echo AILA National's efforts by contacting their members of Congress. As the Senate prepares to take on the issues, it is important to keep the pressure on. Consider contacting your Senator or submitting a letter to the editor or opinion piece to your local paper to set the record straight. Our Syrian Refugee page has helpful resources to help you get started.
November 16, 2015
A growing number of governors, including those from Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, among others, are refusing to welcome Syrian refugees in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. The announcements come as French officials investigate whether one of the attackers entered Europe as a Syrian refugee. States have no legal authority to bar individuals who have been admitted by the U.S. State Department as refugees from entering their states. In addition, banning a person from a certain country goes against America's core values and beliefs-and, it's unconstitutional! Unfortunately, the reactionary response has also spread to Congress. Numerous lawmakers are calling on President Obama to suspend the Syrian refugee program, claiming that the government is not able to properly screen refugees at the moment. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is considering blocking refugee resettlement funds in must-pass year-end spending bills.
Furthermore, the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Syrian refugee crisis and its impact on U.S. security on Thursday, November 19, 2015. AILA has outlined the rigorous security and background checks for refugees, and has called on Congress to stop the fearmongering against Muslims.
Check out AILA's Talking Points on states blocking the resettlement of refugees, and help set the record straight!
November 13, 2015
After conducting a year-long study of body-worn cameras, CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske announced yesterday that CBP would do even more studying of the issue, and noted that the full-scale deployment of body cameras for all agents and officers would not be necessary. "CBP should lead the way toward transparency and set the standard, rather than try and keep things hidden away," said AILA President Victor Nieblas in AILA's press statement.
Urge President Obama to put cameras on all border agents by signing this petition.
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
Republican presidential candidates sparred over mass deportation plans during yet another debate on Tuesday night. Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush seized the opportunity to attack Donald Trump's plan to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Kasich called mass Trump's deportation plan "silly," while Bush labeled it as un-American. Both governors echoed their previous support for providing immigrants in the country a path to legal status, so long as they meet certain requirements.
During and after the debate, Trump touted how he will deport millions by bringing back President Eisenhower's mass deportation policy. The 1950's policy that removed hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including some Hispanic U.S. citizens, to remote locations without food or water was inhumane and violated human rights. Historians have disputed the program's effectiveness, pointing to the parallel Bracero Program, which gave legal status to farmer workers, as more effective at reducing the size of undocumented immigrants during the Eisenhower administration.
November 10, 2015
Fifth Circuit rules on DAPA/expanded DACA: Late last night, the Fifth Circuit upheld the injunction blocking President Obama's DAPA and expanded DACA programs. The three judge panel ruled 2 to 1 in favor of Texas's argument that the programs would "incur significant costs in issuing driver's licenses to DAPA beneficiaries," rejecting the government's argument that extending relief to immigrants would increase tax revenue and offset the state's cost.
Although the ruling is a blow, it was not a surprise. AILA President Victor Nieblas called for the administration to seek review by "the ultimate judicial authority in this country-the Supreme Court." See AILA's press statement. Administration officials have asked the Supreme Court to take the case, hoping for a spring hearing and a decision by June. Needless to say, millions will continue to be stuck in limbo as the case makes its way through the courts. The executive actions are estimated to provide 4.9 million immigrants with relief from deportation and authorization to work in the country legally. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, the programs would boost the economy by increasing incomes of all Americans, creating more jobs, and boosting the country's GDP. For more on the positive economic impact of the administration's deferred action programs, check out this state-by-state analysis.
CBP may reject body-worn cameras: After a year-long internal review, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) found that officials shouldn't be required to wear body cameras. The report raises questions about the effectiveness of body-worn cameras, their high cost, and whether the cameras are suitable for the hot, dusty, and rugged working conditions of agents. In conclusion, the report recommended "risk-based deployment" of body cameras based on "operation need." The review was launched last year amid an independent report reviewing the agency's excessive, even deadly, force at the U.S.-Mexico border. CBP tested cameras during the last three months of 2014 at a border patrol training academy in New Mexico. Earlier this year, it expanded testing to 90 agents and officers who volunteered to wear the cameras on the field. Proponents have called on the agency to widely adopt body-worn cameras to help improve accountability and safety for agents, officers, and the public. Last Friday, the National Immigration Forum released a policy paper on the benefits of adopting the wide use of body cameras.
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) promised to take executive action on immigration reform during his first 100 days if elected president. Speaking at an immigration forum in Las Vegas, Sanders pledged to expand deferred action to parents of DACA recipients, as well as anyone who would have qualified for legal status under the Senate's 2013 immigration reform bill. Fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley have also stated they support the president's deferred action programs and would extend relief to other individuals living in the shadows. On the contrary, all GOP candidates have pledged to end the DACA and DAPA programs, according to the Huffington Post.
Experts are predicting that the Supreme Court's decision on the programs will impact the presidential election as the implementation of the programs will hinge on the outcome of the election.
November 3, 2015
Another state-level victory on family detention! On Friday, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that blocks Texas from licensing two detention centers as child care facilities in Dilley and Karnes. The order comes after a lawsuit was filed against Texas for its improper fast-tracked approach to obtain the licenses. A Texas District Court will hear the case on November 12, 2015. The Texas court TRO follows the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which last month warned the family detention center located in Berks County that it is at risk of having its license as a child residential facility revoked. Furthermore, the Department threatened to not renew the facility's existing license that expires in February 2016.
Join AILA and other advocacy groups in urging the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service to not license Dilley and Karnes as child care facilities. It only takes a quick phone call!
In other news, newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan appeared on Sunday news shows to lay out his agenda as Speaker of the House. Immigration reform is not on the list. Ryan reinforced his promise to conservatives of no immigration reform under the Obama administration. "The president has proven himself untrustworthy on the issue because he tried to unilaterally rewrite the law himself," stated Ryan on "Meet the Press". Ryan echoed similar sentiments on "This Week" and "Face The Nation."
If this sounds all too familiar, it's because this is the argument that former Speaker John Boehner has used since last November. Over the weekend, Boehner again blamed President Obama for "poisoning the well - to the point where it was impossible to put it on the floor of the House," while expressing regret for not passing immigration reform under his tenure as Speaker.
The White House criticized Ryan for "pandering to the extreme right wing" conservatives on immigration. The Huffington Post pinned the blamed on the House, arguing that the President issued his executive actions only after the House failed to consider the Senate's bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.
President Obama's 2014 deferred action programs continue to be tied up in the legal battle. Yesterday, The Hill reported on a leaked DHS memorandum that reveals that the Obama administration might circumvent the federal court injunction on the President's deferred action executive actions. At the same time, other sources have stated that the memo does not exist.
October 28, 2015
Today, the House Republicans nominated Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin as Speaker of the House. Ryan's nomination comes after he pledged not to bring on immigration-reform legislation to the House while "Barack Obama is President." The pledge helped Ryan get support from members of the House Freedom Caucus who attempted to block the President's Executive Action earlier this year.
Ryan is expected to receive the necessary 218 votes tomorrow to become Speaker.
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
Republican presidential hopefuls will face off in yet another debate tonight - Yawn! Although, the third primary debate, dubbed "Your Money, Your Vote" will focus on job, growth, taxes, technology, and "health of our national economy" the issue of immigration may not be entirely off the table. Immigrants contribute greatly to our economy; almost 20% of business owners (or job creators) are foreign-born, while undocumented immigrants pay over $11 billion in state and local taxes. Bottom line: Immigration reform is good for the economy. Whether the moderators or candidates will take on the issues is yet to be seen.
For more information, check out AILA's Economic Benefits of Immigration.
October 26, 2015
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
Latino and immigrant advocates have launched a campaign to bar Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump from hosting NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL) on November 7, 2015. The #RacismIsntFunny campaign criticizes NBC for backpedaling on its decision to terminate business with the business tycoon after his derogatory and hateful rhetoric against immigrants three months ago.
Amidst the controversy, Trump's SNL appearance was defended by an unlikely fellow Republican candidate, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). With the third GOP debate around the corner (Wednesday, October 28, 2015, at 8pm ET in Boulder, CO), this is by no means a truce between the two campaigns. Over the weekend, Senator Rubio called Trump's immigration plan "absurd," and stated that Trump's rhetoric is just louder than anyone else's.
Senator Rubio is taking more anti-immigrant positions as he tries to distance himself from the Senate's 2013 bipartisan comprehensive reform bill, which he helped draft. Last week, Senator Rubio signed onto fellow presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) legislation to increase the penalties for undocumented immigrants who illegally reenter the country. A similar Senate bill, which both candidates supported, was blocked by the Senate last Tuesday.
October 23, 2015
Federal district Judge Dolly Gee ordered DHS to bring its treatment of asylum-seeking families into compliance with the Flores settlement agreement by today, October 23. Because the government did not seek a stay, the court's order stands while the government's appeal to the Ninth Circuit moves forward, and as of today, children should be released "without unnecessary delay." (Check out this fact sheet for more information on the litigation and its impact on family detention.)
To date, DHS has not complied with Judge Gee's order; private prison companies continue to manage detention centers and provide deplorable medical care to the children and mothers seeking refuge in our country. AILA and its CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project partners have called on the government to fully comply with Judge Gee's ruling. The CARA Project has determined that, as of today, approximately 195 families that it represents have been detained in Texas for more than twenty days, and an approximate 507 represented families have been detained for more than five days. These numbers only include family units represented by the CARA Project; hence, the numbers of children and mothers held in violation of the court ruling is likely significantly higher.
In addition to not complying with Judge Gee's order, authorities in Texas have fast-tracked requests to license two detention centers as childcare facilities in Dilley and Karnes, in an attempt to continue to detain children. According to the Texas Department of Family Protection Services, the licenses are expected to be issued by December 1. AILA has joined immigration, human rights, and refugee organizations, as well as medical and childcare experts, in urging the Texas governor and the Family and Protective Services Commissioner to fully investigate these facilities, and to deny childcare licenses to the private prisons operating the Dilley and Karnes detention centers, noting that licensing these facilities "will not ensure child protection but condone neglect and abuse."
Pennsylvania has heard the community's demands to shut down the family detention center located in Berks County. Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services issued a statement warning the detention center that it is at risk of having its license as a child residential facility revoked, if it continues to violate the conditions of its license. Furthermore, the Department threatened to not renew the facility's existing license that expires next February. This is a huge step for advocates who have worked relentlessly to bring to light the horrible mistreatment of children and mothers detained at this center.
Please take a few seconds to ask your member of Congress to speak out against family detention. Together we help #EndFamilyDetention!
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**The Hillary Clinton Campaign has stated it will stop accepting money from private prison lobbyists or PACs. The decision came after heavy criticism and pressure from civil rights and immigration reform advocates for accepting such contributions. According to Clinton's website, the campaign will donate any direct contributions to charity.
October 20, 2015
Earlier this afternoon, the Senate blocked Senator David Vitter's (R-LA) S. 2146, the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act, from advancing to the Senate floor in a 54 to 45 vote. To move forward, the bill needed a supermajority, or 60 votes.
The majority of the votes were cast along party lines, although a few senators did part with their party. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) voted in favor of the bill. Most notably, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) took a bold step against his party and voted "no" on S. 2146. The Senator had faced heavy opposition from several Illinois-based organizations and the AILA Chicago Chapter.
AILA strongly opposed S. 2146, and along with a number of community and faith-based organizations and law enforcement agencies, urged the Senate to vote against it. The bill seeks to undermine community safety by penalizing localities that have policing policies that help develop community trust, and would unjustly incarcerate immigrants who pose no threat to our communities. Furthermore, the bill does not propose realistic solutions to our nation's immigration system; rather, it only attracts anti-immigrant rhetoric.
On the floor, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) echoed this concern: "We've hit a new low with the extraordinarily hateful rhetoric that diminishes immigrants' contributions to American history and particularly demonizes the Latino community."
Today's vote is definitely a victory, although it may not be the end of legislation that attacks so-called "sanctuary cities" and is targeted to demonize immigrants. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who co-sponsored the bill and is seeking the GOP nomination, said that his next step is "to attach this legislation to must-pass legislation and to actually fix this problem."
Let's keep the pressure on our lawmakers to work on a real solution to our outdated immigration system! Check out AILA's Advocacy Made Easy page for ways to get started.
October 13, 2015
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
The first Democratic presidential debate is tonight in Las Vegas, NV. Nevada is home to a large immigrant community, and the topic of immigration cannot be avoided. In fact, frontrunner Hillary Clinton announced her immigration policy at a Las Vegas high school this spring.
Clinton has stated she supports comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship; she has also promised to defend President Obama's deferred action program for DREAMers and for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, while the Congressional gridlock continues. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who will share the stage with Clinton tonight, also support similar immigration measures.
The one issue within immigration that splinters the party is immigration detention. Both Sanders and O'Malley have called for ending bed quotas, closing detention centers, and limiting detention to those who pose a threat to public safety. Clinton, on the other hand, has not made such a pledge. Nonetheless, Clinton has been critical of the shameful practice of detaining children, mothers, and other vulnerable people, citing that their physical and mental health care are at risk.
Some immigration advocates remain unconvinced on Clinton's stance. Recently, Clinton has been heavily criticized for accepting money from a lobbyist tied to two private prison companies that manage the family detention centers in Dilley and Karnes, TX. After a protest last week, pro-immigrant organizations have taken action on Twitter to urge the former NY Senator to the stand with the community and #dropprisonmoney. Important FYI - Clinton, Sanders, and O'Malley have all proposed to phase out federal for-profit prisons. Whether Clinton will in fact stop accepting money from private prison lobbyists is yet to be seen.
The Democratic hopefuls largely support passing comprehensive immigration reform. In order to have a more informative debate, issues within immigration must be explored. Thankfully, The Hill has prepared a 10 immigration questions for the debate that would clarify the candidates' positions on H-1B visas, E-verify, so-called "sanctuary cities," and refugee resettlement, among other issues.
October 8, 2015
Total meltdown in Congress.
First, the House -
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dropped out of the Speakership race earlier today. In the news conference following his announcement, Representative McCarthy stated that "if we're going to unite and be strong, we need a new face." McCarthy had struggled to win over conservatives, particularly members of the House Freedom Caucus; nonetheless, he was the favorite to win the closed-door vote and the necessary 218 votes to be elected Speaker. Needless to say, the elections for who will replace Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) have been postponed. With Speaker Boehner retiring at the end of the month, the House needs to find another viable candidate fast.
Second, the Senate -
After multiple delays to the markup of Senator David Vitter's (R-LA) S. 1814, Stop Sanctuary Cities Act in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken steps to bypass the committee process and bring the bill directly to the floor for a vote. The vote could happen as early as the week of October 19, 2015. Republican Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Marco Rubio (FL), who are both running for president, as well as Senators John Cornyn (TX), Chuck Grassley (IA), Johnny Isakson (GA), Ron Johnson (WI), David Perdue (GA), and Pat Toomey (PA), are backing Vitter's bill.
Not all GOP Senators are on board: Senators from states with a large Latino population are worried that the bill could damage the party's reputation with Latinos in the same way it has been damaged by Donald Trump's xenophobic remarks on the campaign trail. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) is among those hesitant to support Vitter's bill, stating that he will only support the bill under the condition that he "can offer an amendment for comprehensive immigration reform." His amendment could open up the debate on offering citizenship to undocumented individuals in the country at a time that the national immigration debate has categorized all undocumented immigrants as "rapists" and murderers," used terms like "anchor-babies," offered to track visa holders like Fed-Ex packages, and of course, called for building the Great Wall (on both the Southern and Northern border).
AILA is working on analyzing the updated Vitter bill, and will post updates and resources on our Detainers webpage.
October 7, 2015
On Sunday, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced his bid for House Speaker, challenging Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for the position. Although he's seen as the long-shot candidate, it is worth exploring what the prospect for immigration reform would be under his leadership-and it appears to be slim to none.
Representative Chaffetz is the author of H.R. 1153: Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015, which should be re-titled the "Anti-Asylum Bill," as it seeks to tighten the criteria for establishing a credible fear of persecution, and as a result, would harm asylum seekers; survivors of domestic violence and trafficking; military members; and abused, neglected, or abandoned children. AILA has publicly opposed this bill. Representative Chaffetz has resisted efforts to resettle more refugees in Syria, and last month, in response to President Obama's announcement on Syrian refugee resettlement, Representative Chaffetz stated that "nefarious actors will take advantage of our generosity and abuse our broken immigration system. [The U.S.] asylum system is badly broken and easily manipulated."
Today's House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Syrian refugee crisis has been postponed. For updates on this hearing and other immigration-related hearings, visit our Congressional Hearings webpage.
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine the administration's plan to admit more refugees, including the plan's impact on national security. AILA submitted comments to the committee to set the record straight on the rigorous background checks for refugees and the need to ensure humanitarian protection to all refugees and asylum seekers, whether they are resettled from abroad or have crossed U.S. borders.
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
In an interview with Telemundo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticized President Obama's immigration enforcement, stating that the United States needs to be "less harsh and aggressive" on deportations. Clinton also repeated her support for the administration's expanded DACA and DAPA programs introduced last November, which are currently being challenged in the courts, as well as her commitment to get Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The interview was part of her newly launched "Latinos for Hillary" campaign, geared toward reaching Hispanic voters. These efforts come prior to the first Democratic presidential debate, which is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 13, 2015.
September 30, 2015
Hip Hip Hooray!! Congress has averted a Government shutdown!
Today, on the last day of the fiscal year, both the Senate and the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government through December 11. The CR, which passed largely on party lines in both the Senate and House, also reauthorized EB-5, Conrad 30, Special Religious Workers, and E-Verify for the same duration. Congress has the next ten weeks to pass the budget and make changes to these immigration programs.
In other Hill news, advocates of immigration reform have called on Speaker John Boehner, who will serve until the end of October, to put immigration reform to a vote. The New York Times Editorial Board echoed Pope Francis's plea to Congress to welcome immigrants, and urged Representative Boehner to act on immigration reform, while acknowledging that such a vote "would be nothing less than an October miracle."
Other immigration and Latino proponents are hopeful House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who launched his bid for Speaker, will push forward on immigration reform if elected. In the past Representative McCarthy, whose district is 35% Latino and largely agricultural, has supported a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. On Tuesday, Representative McCarthy stressed the need to secure the U.S.-Mexico border first and then change the immigration system, offering piecemeal solutions rather than comprehensive reform to the outdated immigration system.
September 29, 2015
Pope Francis concluded his U.S. trip in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the United States. On Saturday, in front of Independence Hall, the Pontiff offered words of compassion and encouragement to his largely Latino and immigrant audience. "Many of you have immigrated to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life. Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face," stated Pope Francis. He continued by saying, "Please do not be ashamed of your traditions." The remarks come at a time when presidential frontrunners are leading with hateful inflammatory rhetoric towards immigrants and other minorities. The xenophobic discourse has resulted in some ugly clashes between supporters of anti-immigrant policies and immigrant and advocates.
In other news, with Speaker John Boehner announcing that he will resign at the end of October, the betting folks in D.C. feel that the Continuing Resolution (CR) is much more likely to pass by the September 30 deadline. The proposed CR not only funds the government until December 11, 2015, it also includes "clean" extensions of the EB-5, Conrad 30, and Special Religious Workers visa programs, as well as E-Verify. A clean extension means that no changes have been proposed to these programs. Although a short-term extension for the visa programs is not ideal, it's better than all three programs expiring on September 30.
How will this play out?
Through various Senate procedural maneuvers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a cloture on the motion to concur with an amendment (S.A. 2689, which is the CR). The cloture vote passed on Monday evening.
The Senate now has 30 hours before the final vote to pass the CR as embodied in H.R.719 (a bill being used as a legislative vehicle for the CR). Once the bill passes, hopefully (fingers-crossed) by this evening, then it would move to the House. Representatives then will have all of Wednesday to pass the CR and then send it to the President for his signature. The White House has already stated that it will sign the CR into law.
…and that's how a government shutdown is avoided.
September 25, 2015
Read the op-ed by Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Il) and AILA President Victor D. Nieblas Pradis urging all Americans to reflect on Pope Francis's call to action on immigration. They challenge the nation's leaders to move ahead on comprehensive immigration reform, increase our commitment to resettle more refugees, and end the mass incarceration of mothers and children along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Pope Francis. In his first two days in the U.S., the pope evoked feelings of love and pride by reminding us that America is a nation of immigrants. His message could not have come at a better time as xenophobic rhetoric has crept into the campaign trail and immigration reform remains stalled in Congress. "As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families," the pope stated during Wednesday morning's welcoming remarks at the White House. His statement has gone viral. Before Congress, he said: "In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants." With respect to the refugee crisis abroad and at the U.S. border, he urged lawmakers to "not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal." Invoking the Golden Rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," the pope called on us to show solidarity and compassion to immigrants, and reject a "mindset of hostility".
Join AILA in urging President Obama and members of Congress to welcome more refugees to the land of the free!
What will happen now that Speaker Boehner has resigned?
Speaker Boehner's announcement came as his party threatened his leadership role for supporting any funding bill that doesn't defund Planned Parenthood. The New York Time reports that Representative Boehner's resignation may actually help avert a government shutdown, as he can push a short-term funding measure without fear of repercussion from his party. The next Speaker will be elected by the House majority, and Representatives Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appear to be the leading candidates. Unfortunately, neither is good news for immigration advocates. According to their congressional websites, both representatives state they heavily favor stricter border enforcement and oppose any type of "amnesty." Representative Scalise has gone as far as co-sponsoring legislation that would end birthright citizenship.
September 21, 2015
On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry committed to increase the overall total of refugees to 85,000 in FY2016 and 100,000 in FY2017. AILA urges the government to go beyond and commit to resettling 200,000 refugees in FY2016, with at least 100,000 Syrian refugees. Read about one Syrian family's long journey from Syria to refugee camps to feeling "like a normal human being" in their apartment in New Jersey. Their story echoes the story of thousands of Central American families that come to the U.S. seeking refuge from persecution and violence.
"As our nation responds to the crisis overseas, we cannot forget that thousands of mothers and children from Central America who are fleeing violence and turmoil and likely qualify for asylum protection under U.S. law are being treated in a callous and inhumane manner by our government," stated AILA President Victor Nieblas. "Our government's long-term detention of thousands of these families in South Texas and Pennsylvania cannot be ignored. The mass incarceration of asylum seekers is anathema to our country's history and values, and it is happening right now within our borders."
Meanwhile, the government persists in fighting to continue the shameful and inhumane practice of imprisoning asylum-seeking children and mothers. On Friday, the government filed to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Gee's order to release children and mother in accordance with the Flores settlement agreement. The appeal notice came a week after the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged the President, Attorney General Lynch, and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson to comply with Judge Gee's order and the Flores settlement agreement.
America is and should continue to be a beacon for humanitarian protection. Join AILA in asking the government to do more for the Syrian refugees and to end family detention!!
September 17, 2015
Today, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (US CCR) released its annual report examining the treatment of detained immigrants in immigration holding, processing, and detention centers throughout the U.S. The Commission found the detention centers do not meet basic standards of treatment, which include access to medical care and legal information. The U.S. CCR urged DHS to immediately release families in detention, reduce the use of detention, ensure humane treatment, and strengthen due process protections. The Commission also urged Congress to not fund family detention and to reduce overall funding for immigrant detention centers, in favor of alternatives to detention. AILA Associate Director of Advocacy Karen Lucas' written testimony was quoted throughout the report. The Commission recommendations to strengthen due process and access to legal counsel, as well as asking Congress to stop funding to family detentions, while increasing funds for alternatives to detention, align with AILA's recommendation to the Commission.
Along with its report, the Commission submitted a letter to the President, Attorney General Lynch, and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson urging the government to comply with the Flores settlement agreement. The letter goes on to state that "no children, with or without an accompanying adult, should be forced to live in these facilities."
Read more about AILA's fight to #EndFamilyDetention on our featured issue page. You can also join the fight by asking to your member of Congress to speak out against family detention!
**Immigration on the Debate Stage**
The issue of immigration was alive and well in yesterday's GOP presidential debate. Unlike the first debate, the candidates hardly bragged about their hardline stance on immigration, instead they teamed up to attack frontrunner Donald Trump's mass deportation proposal. However, the presidential hopefuls are still very much united on securing the border. They must have forgotten that President Reagan famously called America a "shinning city" that "if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here." This is quite the contrast from a sealed border patrolled by drones imagined by some of the candidates.
September 16, 2015
On Tuesday, 100 women embarked in a nine day 100-mile pilgrimage from the immigration detention center in York, Pennsylvania to welcome Pope Francis in Washington D.C. The women have chosen to draw attention to detained immigrant mothers who have been separated from their children, in support of Pope Francis's universal message of treating refugees and immigrants with compassion and dignity. A message that immigrant advocates hope he will deliver during his address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, September 24 at 9:20 am. During his trip to the U.S. next week, the Pontiff will visit an elementary school in East Harlem, NY where he will meet with students, refugees, and immigrants including some youth who were among the wave of unaccompanied minors who entered the U.S. last summer. In Philadelphia, he will visit the city's largest prison and bring message of hope and encouragement. Pope Francis has also been a vocal advocate for prison reform calling for the fair and humane treatment of all prisoners. Will Pope Francis call on Congress to end family detention?
Follow Advocacy Director Greg Chen (@GregChenAILA) on Twitter for updates on the Pope's stance on immigration!
Also, check out photos and updates of this amazing pilgrimage via Twitter using #100women#100miles.
**Immigration on the Debate Stage**
Get ready for the second Republican presidential debate! Tonight the GOP candidates will gather at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. Questions of how presidential hopefuls will pay homage to President Reagan have risen, especially when candidates stand far to the right of the former president on issues including taxes, gun control, and immigration. President Reagan signed immigration reform that included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Immigration, which continues to divide the GOP, is likely to make an appearance on the stage as CNN tries to capture the candidates' contrast on the issues.
In light of the debate, the National Immigration Forum Action Fund launched an ad attacking candidates that have used the anti-immigrant rhetoric by invoking President Reagan's farewell speech that called on Americans to welcome all people. Also, California immigrant advocacy groups plan on rallying outside the Ronald Reagan Library calling to end the hateful and xenophobic rhetoric used on the campaign trail. Find out what all 2016 presidential candidates have said on immigration so far!
September 14, 2015
On Friday, AILA urged President Obama to respond more generously to the refugee crisis. AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis said that "we should offer help to those seeking refuge from persecution and violence whether they fled from war in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan or from gangs, rape, or domestic violence in Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador. No matter which land they have been driven from, our laws guarantee humanitarian protection." He also urged the nation to not forget the thousands of Central American mothers and children being incarcerated by our government for seeking safety in the U.S. AILA joined organizations, such as the Refugee Council USA, and House Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), in asking the administration to raise the refugee admission ceiling to 200,000 and designating 100,000 of those admissions to Syrian refugees in FY2016.
Sign the White House petition calling on President Obama to do more to protect Syrian refugees!
Presidential candidates, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, have also called on the U.S. to accept more refugees. Others, like the Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and GOP presidential hopeful, Ben Carson, have stated they could not support admitting more refugees, without ensuring they don't pose a threat to national security.
September 10, 2015
Earlier today, President Obama ordered his administration to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in next fiscal year, which begins October 1. The announcement comes from increasing pressure for the U.S. to increase number of refugees it accepts from war-torn Syria and other regions. Organizations like the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) have called on the White House to welcome at least 100,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. in FY2016. You can join LIRS and ask the President to increase the number of refugees through their website.
On to the fight to #EndFamilyDetention - WARNING: These updates will make you mad, but you can do something about it!
Volunteers from the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project and elsewhere have faced significant roadblocks to access and fair process for refugee mothers and children detained at the three family detention facilities. Recently, two expert volunteer attorneys were recently banned from Dilley. Watch Kim Hunter, a CARA volunteer, talk about being banned and how ICE and Corrections Corporate of America (CCA) are eroding access to counsel at Dilley. Luckily, we have some great allies in this fight. Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee Bennie Thompson (D-MS) sent a letter to ICE Director Saldaña calling for answers about ICE's recent actions limiting detainees' access to pro bono attorneys and misinforming detainees about immigration bonds and ATD outside the presence of counsel.
Please take a moment to take action by thanking Congressman Bennie! You'll feel better!
In addition to eroding access to counsel, CCA is making big bucks from detaining families. Dilley generated $65.9 million in revenue for CCA in the second quarter of this year. Furthermore, CCA's noted that their profit share won't be impacted so long as the "public acceptance of our services" doesn't change. Oh but it's changing. AILA, along with civil rights organizations, religious leaders, and members of Congress continue to urge the administration to #EndFamilyDetention. The chorus of voices calling to end the shameful and inhuman practice family detention may get a boost from Pope Francis, when he addresses Congress on September 24.
Join us in urging legislators to speak out against family detention!
September 1, 2015
In the first-ever papal address to Congress on September 24, Pope Francis is expected to emphasize that immigration policy needs to be discussed with compassion and dignity. Pope "experts" have already noted that he has made his papacy about defending the civil rights of migrants and refugees. Last year, during the surge of Central American children fleeing to the U.S. he asked for the children to be "welcomed and protected." Earlier this year, Pope Francis floated the idea of entering the U.S. through the U.S.-Mexico Border as a "gesture of brotherhood and support for immigrants." In line with that message, the NY Roman Catholic Archdiocese has hired three immigrants from local day labor centers to build the holy chair the Pope will use during Mass while in New York City. This gesture honors immigrant laborers who are often lack legal status and are victims of wage theft and exploitation. Many Hispanics hope the Pontiff's message on immigration at the end of the month will help ease anti-immigrant sentiments by politicians and lawmakers.
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
Immigration continues to dominate the presidential campaign and GOP presidential hopefuls are twisting themselves into pretzels on immigration. On Saturday, Governor Christie said he would use a FedEx-like system to ensure visa holders don't overstay their visas. The proposed policy of tracking people like packages was quickly labeled as inhumane and a violation of civil liberties. What's wrong with putting a bar code on every immigrant? As if there aren't already enough "build-a-wall" proposals, on Sunday, Governor Walker suggested one on the northern border. Sen. Rand Paul (KY) jumped on Walker's idea (and Trump's promise that the Mexican government would pay for a wall on the southern border) as "pretty dumb."
August 24, 2015
On Friday evening, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Gee upheld her July decision and ordered the government to release children and mothers in accordance with the Flores settlement agreement. AILA and the American Immigration Council (AIC) welcomed the decision. "This decision will bolster our efforts to end the inhumane practice of detaining children and their mothers," stated Melissa Crow, Legal Director of AIC.
The administration has until October 23 to comply with Judge Gee's decision. "AILA and the Council will be watching every step the government takes," promised AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis. "We expect it to follow this federal court's order with no less zeal than it did obeying the Texas district court's DAPA decision."
In July, the Court determined that the government violated the custody standards for immigrant children set forth by the national Flores settlement agreement, which must be met even if the child is apprehended with a parent. Judge Gee has called the current conditions at the Border Patrol facilities "deplorable" that fail to meet the minimal safe and sanitary standards.
August 20, 2015
This month, DACA celebrates its third anniversary. As of March 31, 2015, approximately 750,000 individuals had applied for DACA, and 83% of eligible individuals had applied to renew their DACA status. According to a new report by the Migration Policy Institute the "high renewal application rate demonstrates the value that recipients place on DACA, which has provided life-altering benefits to many." Another survey revealed that the program is beneficial to not only DACA recipients, but also their families and local communities, reported The Hill.
The government appeared again before Federal District Court Judge Hanen and apologized for inadvertently issuing more than 2,000 3-year DACA work permits after his injunction. Bloomberg Business reported the administration informed the Judge that only 12 of the erroneously issued work permits weren't recovered; rather than the 22 originally reported last month. Visit AILA's Texas v. United States resource page for more information.
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
Presidential Candidate Donald Trump's immigration policy plan continues to make headlines as it stirs controversy. His plan has split the Republicans on the issue of birthright citizenship. Trump's proposed H-1B reform has also been criticized by Fwd.us, a group founded by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. "The idea we should radically restrict pathways for highly-skilled immigrants to come and stay here is - again - just wrong," wrote Fwd.us President Todd Schulte. "The evidence is clear that high-skilled immigrants create American jobs." This year's H-1B visas quota was filled in the first week that employers could submit applications.
August 18, 2015
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
On Sunday, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump released his immigration policy plan. Trump's plan reflects the anti-immigration platform that he has run on since he entered the race in June. The plan entitled Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again calls for: 1) Building a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border; 2) Enforcing immigration laws by tripling ICE officers, requiring nationwide use of E-verify, deporting "all criminal aliens," defunding so-called "sanctuary cities," and imposing criminal penalties for those who overstay their visas; 3) Eliminating birthright citizenship, and 4) Reducing foreign worker visa programs and mandating companies to hire from the "domestic pool of unemployed."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who chairs a Senate subcommittee on immigration, has given his seal of approval to the plan by stating that it "reestablishes the principle that American's immigration laws should serve the interests of its own citizens."
Trump's forceful position has already encouraged Scott Walker to call for a border wall and to question birthright citizenship. On the border wall, Walker drew upon the barrier between Israel and the Palestinian territories as evidence that a wall can work.
On the flip side, Candidate Lindsey Graham (R-SC) expressed concern about the direction Trump is steering the Party on immigration, and Chris Christie criticized Trump's plan for building a wall and having Mexico foot the bill. Christie has called for increasing border enforcement and mandating the e-verify system to determine workers' eligibility.
August 13, 2015
The saga continues on erroneously issued 3-year DACA work permits -
The DHS Inspector General (OIG) has found no evidence that USCIS deliberately violated U.S. District Judge Hanen's February injunction. According to OIG's public statement, a misunderstanding within the agency resulted in USCIS inadvertently printing and mailing more than 2,000 3-year DACA work permits, after the injunction. The OIG further stated it is unable to confirm the exact number of erroneously issued 3-year work permits. Given that Judge Hanen on Tuesday wrote that "the court does not consider mere substantial compliance…to be acceptable and neither should counsel," the government will have a lot of explaining to do about the administrative snafu next week.
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
This week, Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls have taken on the issue of immigration - and stayed positive!
Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley has been promoting his immigration policies by calling to #endfamilydetention on his Twitter account; writing an article in Spanish about his immigrant heritage and America's need for comprehensive immigration reform; and declaring a pathway to citizenship for new Americans as one of his "15 goals to rebuild the American Dream." O'Malley detailed these and other immigration plans last month.
In New Hampshire, Republican candidate John Kasich defended undocumented immigrants as "people who are contributing significantly" to the nation, stating he favored a pathway to legal status and would not rule out a pathway to citizenship.
August 12, 2015
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and other top immigration enforcement officials will not have to appear before U.S. District Judge Hanen next week to explain why more than 2,000 three-year DACA work permits were issued after his injunction in February. The injunction blocked the implementation of the President's Executive Action initiatives that would grant deferred action for five million undocumented immigrants, after 26 states filed a lawsuit against the administration. On July 10, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from both sides, and has yet to make a decision. Visit AILA's Texas v. United States resource page for more information.
In other news, Senator Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has issued a letter to DHS Secretary Johnson asking for all the immigration and criminal records of the two men alleged to have murdered a woman in Santa Maria, CA on July 24. Senator Grassley has now scheduled S. 1814, Stop Sanctuary Cities Act, sponsored by Sen. Vitter (R-LA) for a markup on September 10. AILA's statement opposing the bill can be found in our Detainers Featured Issue Page.
August 7, 2015
DOJ bad acting on family detention:
No surprise, yesterday DOJ submitted its response to district court Judge Gee claiming the alleged family detention "practices that no longer exist" and that she should reconsider her ruling. AILA and the American Immigration Council called the response a shameful attempt to "pretty up" family detention. The administration continued to argue that detention was necessary to deter illegal migration to the US. In an affidavit, Deputy Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello stated that Judge Gee's ruling would "greatly impact" CBP's ability to secure the border. Visit AILA's Flores v. Reno settlement webpage for more.
**Immigration on the Debate Stage**
Last night presidential candidate Donald Trump took full credit for bringing immigration to the national platform. "If it weren't for me, you wouldn't even be talking about illegal immigration," said Trump. "This was not a subject that was on anybody's mind until I brought it up at my announcement."
The majority of candidates focused on enforcement and border security with several references to building a wall to reduce illegal migration to the U.S. This trending idea may actually result in a larger undocumented population.
If you missed the debate, check out this posting of video clips of each candidates' statements on immigration by Immigration Works.
August 6, 2015
**Will Republican Candidates Debate Immigration Tonight?**
With a huge field of candidates clashing tonight on the Republican debate, it may be the most-watched event of the 2016 campaign. Don't miss the fun! Here's what Candidates Trump, Cruz, Paul and Carson are saying:
August 5, 2015
The Senate has adjourned - Congress is gone until September!
The Senate Judiciary Committee will not markup Sen. Vitter's unconstitutional S.1814, Stop Sanctuary Cities Act, tomorrow, which AILA opposed. It's rescheduled for September 10.
Now we can actually get some work done: Keep the pressure on Congress this August recess. Visit our Advocacy Made Easy page for information on how to schedule your in-district visit!
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
Florida Senator Marco Rubio outlined a three step plan to address the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. during a GOP pre-debate forum in New Hampshire Monday night. The Senator, who two years ago was part of the bipartisan Gang of Eight that pushed for comprehensive reform bill, stated that the "[immigration system] cannot be fixed in one massive comprehensive piece of legislation. There is only one way forward, and it will require three steps, and they have to happen in the following sequence." The Florida lawmaker didn't completely rule out citizenship stating that "at some point in the future, we could have a further conversation about whether they're allowed to apply for a green card."
HuffPo reports that the enforcement-first approach has fallen flat with the overwhelming majority of Latino voters. And NBC News Latino says Republicans will need to change their strategy, if they want to win the necessary the Latino votes to secure the White House.
Check out the ten candidates that will be on stage
August 4, 2015
Senate Markup - This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to markup Senator Vitter's Stop Sanctuary Cities Act (S. 1814), an unconstitutional bill that will actually erode public safety. Today, AILA joined a sign-on letter that urges Senate members to oppose the bill and calls upon "DHS to fix the constitutional problem with detainers, or to discontinue their use entirely." National local government, civic and law enforcement associations have also pressed Congress to oppose legislation that would curb precious funding and undermine community safety. For more information visit AILA's Detainer Resource Page.
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
On Monday, Jeb Bush unveiled a six-point plan on how to secure the border and enforce immigration laws. The former Florida governor's plan seeks new resources to improve technology and infrastructure at the border; illustrates the need to identify and 'send home' individuals who have overstayed their visa; and threatens to defund so-called "sanctuary cities." As for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, Bush suggests a "rigorous path" to legal status. The path includes passing criminal background checks, paying fines and taxes, learning English, and earning a provisional work permit. Bush, however, has stated that border security and enforcement must come first: "Finding a practical solution to the status of the people who are here illegally today is a nonstarter if our borders are not secure against future illegal immigration."
With only a few days before the first GOP debate, we are sure to see more candidates outline their immigration plans. Monday night's pre-debate preview showcased the Republican candidates eagerness to tackle the subject
August 3, 2015
DHS finds itself fighting in the courts.
In family detention news, U.S. District Court Judge Gee extended the government's deadline to reply to her order to show cause to later this week, August 6. On July 24, Judge Gee ruled that the government's family detention policies do not comply with the Flores settlement agreement. Unfortunately, government's request for an extension may signal their interest in continuing to fight Judge Gee's decision and not end the shameful practice of imprisoning mothers and children, ignoring calls from members of both the Senate and the House to comply with the decision and end family detention.
Meanwhile in Texas, the U.S. government asking District Court Judge Hanen to cancel the contempt hearing currently set for August 19. In mid-July, Judge Hanen threatened Secretary Johnson and other immigration officials with contempt of court for issuing more than 2,000 three-year DACA work permits after his injunction in February. Almost immediately, DHS engaged in "extraordinary measures"- including sending letters and texts, making calls, and even conducting in-person home visits -to recover the work permits. In the end, reportedly, only 22 erroneously issued work permits were not returned, and "deferred action" and work permits have been cancelled for those individuals. Judge Hanen's injunction blocked the implementation of the President's Executive Action initiatives that would grant deferred action for five million undocumented immigrants, after 26 states filed a lawsuit against the administration. On July 10, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from both sides, and has yet to make a decision. At this point what we do know is that the battle continues, and could eventually go all the way to the Supreme Court, Politico.
Without comprehensive immigration reform, it seems that immigration policy will continue to be fought in the courtroom.
July 31, 2015
Yesterday, AILA, the Council and others filed a formal complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Offices for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and Inspector General (OIG) on behalf of 10 individual mothers who experienced first-hand the deplorable medical treatment provided at the Karnes, Dilley and Berks family detention facilities. The complaint urges CRCL and OIG to promptly investigate these cases and to take swift action to address these systematic problems.
On Tuesday, Congress members heard first-hand accounts of substandard medical care by mothers who had spent 10+ months in detention centers, in a forum held by the Congressional Progressive Caucus and House Judiciary Democrat. The panel also included Olivia Lopez, a former Karnes detention center social worker, and mental health experts. Ms. Lopez's testimony included how she was reprimanded by her superiors for recording medical or mental health concerns raised by the detained mothers.
The complaint and the forum add to the ample evidence demonstrating the need to end family detention. The government has until August 3 to show U.S. District Court Judge Gee cause why the specific remedies she ordered should not be implemented in 90 days. Congress members, Civil rights organizations and religious leaders have also called for the Administration to be on the right side of history, and not appeal Judge Gee's rule and end family detention once and for all.
Take action and let's put an end the cruel and inhumane treatment of families seeking asylum!
July 30, 2015
Disaster averted in Senate on Operation Streamline.
For years, AILA has criticized Operation Streamline, a federal program that fast-tracks federal criminal prosecutions for immigration status offenses through speedy mass prosecutions. In May 2015, the DHS Inspector General (OIG) concluded that Operation Streamline may not be an effective enforcement tool, despite its enormous costs. The OIG also found that CBP uses Operation Streamline to refer asylum seekers for prosecutions for illegal entry and reentry-a practice that is in gross violation of asylum law. In light of this report, AILA urged DHS Secretary Johnson and DOJ Attorney General Lynch to halt streamline prosecutions. So yesterday, despite all these longstanding concerns, the Senate Homeland Security Committee planned to markup a resolution that would trumpet the successes of Operation Streamline. AILA called upon senators to oppose S.Res.104, and the Committee pulled the resolution from getting a vote. Chairman Johnson (R-WI) seemed disappointed, and called Operation Streamline a "very effective process."
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
We're less than 10 days away from the first Republican Debate, and we can be sure that Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, both currently leading the polls, will be sharing the stage. The topic of immigration is likely to be debated, as the two frontrunners have feuded over the issue. In a recent Spanish-language interview with Telemundo, Bush stated he was personally hurt by Trump's offensive remarks about Mexicans because of his family's Mexican heritage-his wife was born in Mexico. The former governor also seized the moment to reaffirm his support for a pathway to legal status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. In contrast, Trump continues to make incendiary remarks about how to fix the immigration system.
July 28, 2015
Federal Court Judge Gee ruled that the two family detention centers in Texas violate the treatment of children set forth by the national Flores settlement agreement, which requires minors in temporary custody to be placed in safe, sanitary, non-secure, and licensed facilities. Judge Gee determined that the agreement must be met even if the child is apprehended with a parent. The administration has until August 3 to show why the court should not require the release of immigrant children and their mothers within 90 days.
Under the court's decision, the recent reforms issued by the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement cannot survive, and the Texas facilities will need to be shut down. Policies that attorneys volunteering for the CARA Family Detention Project in Texas have reported deprive mothers of due process, causing confusion and outright fear. Even a former employee of the detention center in Karnes, Texas, has spoken out on the deplorable conditions and unethical practices of those running the facilities. AILA and the American Immigration Council have welcomed the ruling that should signal the end of mass incarceration of children and mothers seeking asylum in the United States. AILA Executive Director Crystal Williams further explains the decision and discusses what is coming next in this Quicktake.
On the Hill, the debate over so-called "sanctuary cities" continues. Senator Vitter's (R-LA) "Stop Sanctuary Cities Act" has been placed in the Senate Judiciary Committee executive calendar for this Thursday; however, a full Senate markup is not likely until next week. The bill, which was introduced last Tuesday, threatens to withhold federal funding to localities that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement officials. For more information, visit AILA's Featured Issue page.
July 24, 2015
Unfortunately the negative trend continued this week following the tragic shooting in San Francisco. Yesterday the House passed H.R. 3009, largely on party line votes. However there were some crossover votes. Six Democrats supported the House GOP bill Thursday: Reps. Ami Bera (CA), Jim Cooper (TN), Henry Cuellar (TX), Bill Keating (MA), Collin Peterson (MN) and Krysten Sinema (AZ); while 5 Republicans voted against Reps. Curbelo (FL), Dold(IL), Donovan (NY), King (NY) and Reichert (WA).
"Had [H.R. 3009] been the law of the land before this terrible crime, it would not have prevented it," stated Rep. Curbelo, referring to the San Francisco shooting that has used to push through this legislation. "This is not a solution. This may generate a headline, but it's not gonna solve a problem."
In fact, H.R. 3009 is not a solution. The legislation would punish over 300 localities that have chosen to protect its residents by fostering trust and openness with local law enforcement and protect them from constitutionally suspect immigration detainers. The various senate offices are also drafting measures dealing with immigration enforcement.
Efforts to fight against these types of bills continue by advocacy groups across the nation. Democrat Senator Feinstein (CA) was presented the "Donald Trump Award," by United We Dream in hopes of dissuading her from introducing a bill that would require local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE. Today, the LA Times Editorial Board echoed the frustration of many, and called on Congress to "get serious about the root problem: the dysfunctional immigration system…and work to pass fair, comprehensive immigration reform." 87% of Americans favor laws that allow undocumented immigrants in the country to become U.S. citizens, so long as they pay taxes, pass criminal background checks and learn English, according to a recent Gallup poll.
July 23, 2015
Earlier today, the House passed H.R. 3009: Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, with a 241 to 179 vote. H.R. 3009 is a reactionary bill that will not even advance its stated goal of protecting American communities. H.R. 3009 will place at risk critical funding for community policing, victim services, and other local law enforcement programs to hundreds of cities and counties that currently rely upon those funds. AILA opposed it. The White House threatened to veto it. And mayors of major U.S. cities, sheriffs, and police chiefs all opposed H.R. 3009 and urged lawmakers to vote against it.
Much mischief is likely to come in the next few weeks especially given what was signaled at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary hearing. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) expressed support for the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) being promoted now by DHS, requirements for localities to notify federal authorities about immigration matter, and heightened penalties for illegal entry. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he would introduce a bill that would impose sanctions on cities that have community trust policies, aka "sanctuary cities", and impose mandatory minimum sentence on illegal reentry prosecutions." Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) questioned whether imposing mandatory minimums on people who illegally reenter would be a wise policy as it would "be an invitation for a lot of prosecutions." AILA has expressed concerns about prosecutions for illegal entry and reentry, particularly under the rapid, mass methods used by Operation Streamline that have skyrocketed in recent years.
July 22, 2015
Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have asked in a letter to DHS Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Lynch to "undertake a joint review of the policies and practices pertaining to the release of BOP prisoners against whom ICE has lodged a detainer request." The representatives focused on the need to improve communications between federal and state or local law enforcement agencies. It is unlikely that House Republicans will take this approach. According to Politico, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had promised to Representative Steve King (R-IA) to bring more immigration enforcement bills to the floor after the August recess. The promise came after King expressed support for this week's House bill, even though it may be a "disappointment" to House conservatives.
These developments come a day after the father of the woman shot in San Francisco testified before the Senate, and a day prior to his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee. The House hearing will also include testimonies from the sheriff of Sacramento County, California and police chief of Dayton, Ohio, whose localities limit law enforcement officers' engagement with federal immigration agencies. In a formal statement to the House, AILA reminds lawmakers that "these policies are designed to promote community safety …[and] are not designed to harbor dangerous or violent criminals," and urges them to reject legislation that would punish localities that favor a more effective approach to law enforcement.
July 21, 2015
In the Senate and House, scrutiny of so-called “sanctuary” cities continued today with threats to their funding and demands for mandatory cooperation. In the Senate Judiciary, with several families of crime victims testifying, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced proposals that would hold sanctuary cities “accountable” for not cooperating with federal immigration enforcement. ICE Director Sarah Saldana defended her agency’s efforts on enforcement, pledged to implement the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) aggressively, and turned toward comprehensive reform as the right solution. She came under heavy fire by Senators Grassley, Sessions, and Cruz for changing her position on the need for a mandatory detainer policy.
This week, House members are likely to vote on legislation that would “deny federal grant funding to states with policies that prohibit law enforcement from gathering information about individuals' immigration status or that contradict federal statute,” reported The Hill. The bill, H.R. 3009, sponsored by Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is being referred to as the “Donald Trump Act” for “demoniz[ing] immigrants and appeas[ing] the angry, anti-immigrant Donald Trump-Steve King wing of the Republican Party” by House Democrats. Immigration advocacy and civil rights groups are urging lawmakers to stop the bill. “Good policies are made over time, by examining our shared values and opinions, and by working toward equality and justice for all people,” stated a National Immigration Law Center and United We Dream letter to Congress that AILA joined.
July 20, 2015
The tragic shooting of a San Francisco woman by an undocumented man has been shamefully used by a number of politicians to fuel false depictions of immigrants as criminals. Candidate Donald Trump's labeling of Mexicans as rapists has already gone viral, and unfortunately met with only tepid criticism from his own party ranks.
We may see similar scapegoating of immigrants on Tuesday when the full Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a full committee hearing on enforcement and sanctuary cities. Five family members of crime victims, including the father of the woman shot in San Francisco, are scheduled to testify in tomorrow's hearing. Chief Thomas Manger of Montgomery County, Maryland will also testify. With respect to ICE's use of detainers, he has stated: "We can't hold them. Basically, you're falsely imprisoning an individual without legal foundation to hold them." Other law enforcement leaders and victim advocates have explained that forcing localities to collaborate on federal immigration enforcement instills fear within immigrant communities and ultimately undermines public safety. AILA issued a formal statement calling for more careful investigation before lawmakers act: "AILA hopes the focus will be on solutions that protect all members of our communities."
Directors Sarah Saldana of ICE and Leon Rodriguez of USCIS have also been called to appear before the panel. DHS Secretary Johnson was grilled by several members of the House Judiciary Committee last week for not enforcing immigration law. That same Committee will also hold a hearing on "Sanctuary Cities: A Threat to Public Safety" on Thursday. More information to follow!
July 16, 2015
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
Republican House Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Mike Coffman (R-CO) offer Presidential candidates advice on winning the Latino vote in 2016. Coffman said Republicans must "break the narrative" that they are anti-immigrant, and Curbelo described immigration as the gateway issue for Latino voters: "If they feel that the Republican candidate is either anti-immigrant or is not sensitive to this immigration issue, then the Republican nominee won't even have the chance to win those people's votes."
Candidate Trump clearly disagrees, boasting: "a vote I will win is the Hispanic vote"--not because of his immigration views, but because of his employment of Latinos. A new poll found that "eighty-one percent of Hispanics said they have an unfavorable impression" of Trump.
On Wednesday, the White House released a report to modernize the immigration system -if you don't have time to read all 48 pages, read the factsheet! The recommendations include improvements to existing employment, family, and humanitarian-based immigration programs. Important ideas such as revising the timing procedures in connection with the way the Visa Bulletin operates, and proposing regulations to improve job flexibility for H-1B visa holders were addressed. These steps "do not offer the permanent, more robust solutions that are vitally needed to address our broken immigration system," states the information sheet. However, "President Obama is acting within his legal authority to fix what he can, but only Congress can finish the job by passing comprehensive, commonsense immigration reform that fully brings our legal immigration system into the 21st century."
Ask your Congress member to get the job done! Share with him or her AILA's America Needs Immigration Reform Booklet.
Need to find who your legislator is? Visit AILA's Advocacy Action Center
July 15, 2015
ATTENTION: Do you know any DACA beneficiaries with a 3-year work permit issued OR mailed after February 16, 2015? These work permits must be returned to USCIS by July 30, 2015.
Help spread the word by sharing AILA practice alert in your community or via social media! Beneficiaries that fail to return their 3-year EADs may have their DACA status and work permits revoked.
USCIS is implementing new drastic measures to retrieve these work permits. Starting July 16, USCIS plans to send plain-clothed officers on home visits to collect work permits in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, and possibly San Francisco, and may do so in other communities. These steps are being taken because DHS Secretary Johnson and four other top immigration enforcement officials may be held in contempt of court by an order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Hanen if they do not retrieve the estimated 2,500 work permits that were issued in error.
For more information watch AILA's Quicktake with AILA President Victor Nieblas. AILA will also be issuing a public service announcement soon-stay tuned!
On the Hill, House Judiciary members questioned Secretary Johnson yesterday at an oversight hearing focused on the recent San Francisco shooting of a woman by an undocumented man. The Senate Judiciary Committee has also called on the Directors of ICE and USCIS to appear before them next week.
July 14, 2015
AILA learned yesterday that ICE has taken steps to follow through on Secretary Johnson's June announcements on family detention and "will generally not detain mothers with children, absent a threat to public safety or national security, if they have received a positive finding for credible or reasonable fear and the individual has provided a verifiable residential address."
This is "a long-overdue step forward" stated AILA President Victor Nieblas in an AILA joint press release with the American Immigration Council (AIC) "When looking at alternatives to detention, ICE should turn first to community-based support models, which are extremely effective and far more appropriate for asylum seekers than restrictive and expensive electronic monitoring."
Reps. Roybal-Allard (CA), Gutiérrez (IL), and Lofgren (CA) responded immediately with a joint press release. "We greatly appreciate the steps DHS is taking to limit detention for families, but we believe that family detention in its current form must end completely and unequivocally." In June they led a congressional delegation that visited the family detention centers in Texas last month.
So the fight continues to #EndFamilyDetention, and there are numerous ways for you to help! Visit AILA's advocacy and media tools website for ideas and information.
July 13, 2015
Donald Trump launched an attack this weekend using the San Francisco shooting of a young woman by an immigrant to stir up hate against all immigrants. His vitriol has helped ignite a debate about sanctuary cities like San Francisco that have refused to participate in federal immigration enforcement activities.
Republican Senators Cotton (R-AR) and Vitter (R-LA) and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) are among those who have introduced legislation that would withhold funding from sanctuary cities. San Francisco's Sheriff in a press conference on Friday defended the city's policy, established in 1989, requiring warrants or court orders to detain immigrants. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter openly defended his city's sanctuary policies that he signed into law last year, calling Trump's attacks "vicious…negative,…vile and I think kind of violates general human decency."
Today, the NY Times editorial board examined what's been "lost" in the debate: noting that sanctuary cities improve public safety and ensure that civil rights are protected. The editorial draws on an American Immigration Council (AIC) report that immigrants are less likely to be criminals than native-born Americans. Everyone should also read the blogpost by Lynn Tramonte of America's Voice: "Debunking the Myth of 'Sanctuary Cities'"!
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
On the issue of sanctuary cities, can you guess where each presidential candidate stands? To find out, read this CBS News article. On Tuesday last week Candidate Clinton criticized San Francisco, then two days later her campaign stated that she continues to believe "sanctuary cities can help further public safety."
July 9, 2015
On Friday, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court will hear one-hour arguments from both sides on the constitutionality of President Obama's Executive Orders. The deferred action programs, known as DAPA and expanded DACA, would provide an estimated 4.9 million immigrants with relief from deportation, and authorization to work in the country legally. The Latin Post has reported that Reps. Luis Gutiérrez and Raúl Grijalva, along with other immigration rights advocates, will rally outside the court in New Orleans, in support of DAPA and DACA. The ruling - unfortunately for us - is not expected to be issued on Friday. Furthermore, regardless of which way the court comes down, we will very likely see the case appealed to the Supreme Court, causing yet additional delay in reaching a final outcome.
Learn more about the legal challenges of DAPA and DACA Expansion, and the potential economic impact it can have on your state!
***Immigration (or should we say fear and loathing?) on the Campaign Trail***
The Washington Post has reported that Republican National Committee Chairman urged GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump to tone down the derogatory and hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric. The call came after pressure from Republican leaders and donors, who are concerned that Trump's comments are damaging the party's efforts to win more Hispanic votes. Senator Lindsey Graham openly criticized Trumps remarks, while adding that undocumented immigrants are "good, hardworking people, cleaning our toilets, picking the crops that we all enjoy, changing the beds and working three or four jobs in the shadows to try to keep their family afloat." (Graham also didn't hesitate to criticize Hillary Clinton's lack of commitment to immigration reform while in Congress.)
Trump, however, in a NBC news interview on Wednesday, boasted "I'll win the Latino vote," because of his job creating record.
Hmm…Perhaps Mr. Trump is not aware of the other conversations his remarks have ignited? The one happening in Spanish among Latino families across the nation. "A conversation the Republican Party cannot ignore," wrote Gabe Ortiz of the Public Radio International. Ortiz concluded by stating that "millions of other Latino and immigrant voters step into a voting booth next year to pick the next president, we'll be voting for the members of our community, like my mom, who can't."
July 8, 2015
It's déjà vu all over again. Republicans and Democrats have found themselves at a stalemate over the budget, yet again. The Hill reported Congress will be forced to pass a continuing resolution to keep government funded until September 30. Lawmakers will have a few weeks before and after their month-long August recess to resolve funding feud, otherwise it could lead to another government shutdown.
According to The New York Times the spending bills are aimed to 'hamper Obama's policies' with significant budget cuts to educational, environmental and health care programs. Furthermore, on Wednesday, the Committee on Appropriations released the FY2016 Homeland Security Bill, which "does not contain funds to implement the President's executive action on immigration," and will be considered by the subcommittee on July 9. Senate Democrats have promised to filibuster all appropriation bills, while the President promised to veto those that make it to his desk.
In other news, nine Republican senators openly criticize the Priority Enforcement Program in a letter to Secretary Johnson for failing to secure American lives. Like many politicians the senators have politicized and falsely generalized last week's senseless tragedy in San Francisco. Immigration status should not be treated as a predictor of criminal activity. In truth, "immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born" stated a study published by the Immigration Policy Center today.
Richard Smith of the San Francisco Chronical reminded readers that "mixing a deportation system that does not respect due process with a criminal justice system whose inequities are increasingly" hurts communities that have worked towards strengthening relations between law enforcement and immigrants. Aren't communities safer when law enforcements have the trust of everyone in the community? Comprehensive immigration reform would overall make our nation safer, by fully integrating immigrant members into our social fabric.
July 1, 2015
Systematic corruption and collaboration with anti-immigrant groups by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees were the focus of two reports published Tuesday. The first, an internal report by Homeland Security Advisory Council, stated that CBP is "vulnerable to 'systematic corruption' by drug cartels, smugglers and other criminals," informed the LA Times. The Advisory Council's report calls for CBP to increase the number of criminal investigators to 550 from 207. This increase will help battle internal corruption and assure officers are accountable for excessive and unnecessary force used against immigrants. (At 550 Border Patrol will be in par with NYPD - who has about 10,000 less officers!) The report also urged CBP officials to adopt policies that emphasize the importance of preserving human life; a fundamental American value.
The second, "Blurring Borders: Collusion between Anti-Immigrants Groups and Immigration Enforcement Agents" examined DHS employees affiliation with three organizations who have spearheaded the anti-immigration movement. As evidence of the collusion, the report illustrated the similarities between immigration policies advocated by certain elements within DHS and ICE, and those of anti-immigration organizations. The report called this collaboration troubling as Border Patrol officers and ICE agents have testified before Congress and made statements to the media as "credible, neutral experts on our country's immigration system." Hopefully these reports result in serious policy changes that make immigration enforcement officers more liable for their actions!
**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**
Marco Rubio confirms he continues to support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants - what took him so long! The declaration in New Hampshire finally broke Rubio's hiatus from his 2013 signature issue. Washington Post reporter, Jennifer Rubin, proposed that Rubio should use his experience on pushing for immigration reform as "a way of proving his capacity for presidential leadership." Excellent advice!
The Guardian reminded us today imprisoning children and families is not "'national security' - it's cruelty." Authors Dale Minami and Karen Korematsu - daughter of Fred Korematsu, who challenged the constitutionality of President Roosevelt's wartime executive order authorizing the incarceration of people of Japanese descent - drew similarities between the shameful 1940's detention of Japanese Americans and the current detention of asylum-seeking families from Central America. They urged the President to not let history repeat itself and #endfamilydetention.
Born in Japanese concentration camp in Crystal City, TX, Dr. Satsuki Ina knows firsthand the trauma of being an imprisoned child. "We, too, lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety, never knowing what our fate would be" she wrote in the Houston Chronicle. She revealed that her mother suffered from post-traumatic stress as a result of their incarceration, and wonders "how many lives, just like my mother's, the U.S. government is needlessly and cruelly damaging today for its ill-advised 'family detention' program."
Watch Dr. Ina, psychotherapist and professor emeritus at California State University, take us from 1940's Crystal City to present-day Dilley, as she further discusses the immorality of detaining families.
Today, Women's Refugee Commission, American Immigration Council and AILA filed a complaint with the DHS' Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, to investigate the serious psychological impact on families detained at Karnes, Dilley and Berks. Ten case examples are included to highlight the severity of the trauma. "The mothers and children profiled in the case examples are living proof that family detention is inhumane," said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President, in a press release, "I can tell you unequivocally that these ten case examples are just the tip of the iceberg."
"This policy started so quickly last summer that no one has taken the time to investigate the psychological consequences, and that is a real failure on our government's part," said Karen Lucas, AILA's Associate Director of Advocacy in an AP article.
Take action and let's put an end the cruel and inhumane treatment of families seeking asylum! #EndFamilyDetention
June 29, 2015
Friday's Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage was a major victory for love and equality. In a NY Times' opinion piece, University of California poli-sci professor, Matt Barreto, reflected on how America's progressive movement is making its way through the courts rather than through the legislative process. He concludes that immigration will be the next progressive issue decided by the courts. (Please, let it be in the 5th Circuit Court! Read more about the lawsuit challenging DAPA and DACA expansion.)
Immigration groups agreed, including the National Council for La Raza (NCLR) and United We Dream, that Friday's ruling was an indicator that the country is becoming more inclusive and just for all. "Marriage equality is a great step towards a better & more equitable country. Laws should not discriminate against anyone!" stated United We Dream on Twitter.
Today, ICE issued guidelines for transgender immigrant detainees. This comes on the heels of a letter from 35 Representatives urging the administration to end the detention of LGBT immigrants who "are extremely vulnerable to abuse, including sexual assault, while in custody." United We Dream declared that new guidelines are not enough, and insisted that "ICE can and must do to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer immigrants are safe" in their press release.
June 26, 2015
Saturday will mark two years since the Senate took a historic step forward on immigration reform and passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, with a 68 to 32 votes in favor - Remember, we were all in San Francisco at the time! - Although the bill was not perfect, it did "contain provisions that will boost our economy, make our country safer, and offer protections for the undocumented who currently live in the shadows," stated former AILA President Doug Stump in 2013.
So what if the bill had not died in House of Representatives? And had become a law? In an article Philip Wolgin of the Center for American Progress explored what it would have meant if the majority of the 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants were given a path to citizenship. It would have provided relief to many families and individuals who live in constant fear due to their undocumented status. While the economic impact would have been significant; "Reform would have added a cumulative $1.2 trillion " to the GDP.
Earlier this week, BoombergBusiness became another voice in the chorus that immigration reform is good for the economy by stating that the U.S. needs immigration reform for job growth.
For more information check out AILA's America Needs Immigration Reform Infographic!
June 25, 2015
Today House Democrats who visited two family detention centers in Texas shared personal videos and photos of their trip. The images revealed that Congress members were greeted by woman and children chanting "We want to be free!" and "Liberty!" in Spanish. Representative Castro of Texas is heard telling the mothers "No deberían de estar encarceladas" - You shouldn't be jailed - in a cellphone video. A message that was brought back to Washington.
"We shouldn't have over 1,000 children detained in a prison camp," affirmed Rep. Gutiérrez in yesterday's press conference.
Please join us in thanking House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), and Representatives Zoe Lofgren (CA), Joaquin Castro (TX), Luis Gutiérrez (IL), Judy Chu (CA), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA) for their clear message to end family detention.
June 24, 2015
Today, it's all about family detention. The day after ICE issued a stunningly inaccurate press release calling family detention centers "an effective and humane alternative for maintaining family unity as families go through immigration proceedings or await return to their home countries" (and AILA exposed that statement for the lie it is), today, Secretary Jeh Johnson announced changes to the way DHS detains families. Specifically, the plan is for DHS to offer bond or other release to families once they have passed their credible or reasonable fear interviews. Stated DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in a press release this morning, "Once a family has established eligibility for asylum or other relief under our laws, long-term detention is an inefficient use of our resources and should be discontinued." The press release further stated that DHS would "conduct credible and reasonable fear interviews within a reasonable timeframe" and that bonds would be realistic, taking into account the family's ability to pay.
AILA's President Victor Nieblas Pradis notes that this a step forward for DHS, and states that if properly and robustly implemented, the Secretary's plan could make a big difference to many detained families. This would be especially true for those asylum-seeking mothers who are put through the more stringent "reasonable fear" process because they had a prior removal order that was reinstated - with a few very recent exceptions; ICE has been categorically denying them any opportunity for release, even after they establish their fear to an asylum officer. Nonetheless, "we are still not where we need to be," he states. "Our government still will be detaining children and mothers when we already know that it is highly inappropriate and traumatic to do so for any length of time. These are still prisons, designed and built to incarcerate and run by a warden. That culture will be more difficult to alter. And all volunteer attorneys have witnessed first-hand the psychological damage that detention has done to detained moms and kids."
"So I applaud these changes, I welcome them with open arms. But more is needed. There is simply no humane way to detain families. Asylum seeking families should be given due process, not expedited removal. And the end of the road must be the end of family detention entirely."
Read AILA: DHS Plans on Family Detention Are a Step Forward for the complete statement.
AILA's President also recorded a Quicktake on the DHS announcement.
The members of Congress who visited Karnes and Dilley earlier this week reported on their powerful trip and also reacted to Sec. Johnson's statement. In a press conference today, the Representatives gathered to share their experience at the detention centers and voiced the need to do nothing short of ending family detention.
June 23, 2015
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge ordered the immediate return of a mother and her 12-year-old daughter who were deported to Guatemala. Their removal came after ICE declared no imminent plans to deport them. The family's attorney, Bridget Cambria, accused ICE of denying due process to her clients, who were victims of domestic abuse in their home country. According to Cambria her clients have a pending asylum case and ICE should have informed the courts of their removal.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) focused on senseless procedures for asylum seekers in his remarks to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) on Friday. "America has always been a haven for the oppressed…We cannot and must not shirk the historic role of the United States as a protector of vulnerable people fleeing persecution" the presidential hopeful reminded his audience as he called for immigration reform.
Sanders is among the growing list of presidential candidates taking a pro-immigration reform position. With a new poll announcing that most Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina - key 2016 states - support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, we'll see who else joins the list!
June 19, 2015
Facebook CEO donated $5 million to TheDream.US which will help undocumented students in the San Francisco Bay area attend college. "Without documentation, it's often a struggle to get a college education, and [undocumented students] don't have access to any kind of federal aid," explained Zuckerberg on Facebook. Kudos on his commitment to Dreamers!
On to the H1-B visa debate. The Atlantic takes a look at the nation's conflicting views on H1-B visas. Some see it as vital tool in bringing over much needed high skilled talent that will boost U.S. economy, while others see it as a way for businesses to cut costs and streamline their operations.
Finally, in Congress there was a final vote on the National Defense Authorization Act yesterday. It passed 71-25 in the Senate and did NOT include either of McCain's border amendments (1632 and 1633) - or any of the other troubling immigration riders. Phew!
June 18, 2015
CBP is claiming that infants and toddlers at the border are seeking employment, reports Huffington Post. According to CBP an 11-day-old girl waded across the Rio Grande River with the intention of coming to the U.S. to find a job. This preposterous factual scenario is the basis for a June 2, 2015, AILA amicus brief filed by AILA members Stephen Manning and Andres Benach that alleges CBP is falsifying responses on border entry documents. "If they're not paying enough attention to separate the fact that obviously this child is not looking for work, what else are they just glossing over?" said Manning.
On the campaign trail - Jeb Bush is now speaking on the subject of immigration, after going off-script in response to protesters in Miami on Monday.
On The Tonight Show, Bush in a 'slow jam' stated "We're a nation of immigrants, and I believe everyone should have the chance to achieve the American Dream." Then yesterday in Iowa, Bush stayed positive on immigration! The former FL governor acknowledged that immigration is an issue Republicans have lost on. "I want to win!" Bush stated after outlining his immigration views. If only other candidates embraced the topic!
Among other news, ICE releases FAQ on prosecutorial discretion and enforcement priorities. Check it out!
June 17, 2015
Attention 2016 candidates: "Stake out specific, realistic, pro-immigration reform plans," advised Katie Packer Gage, Romney's 2012 deputy campaign manager. Packer Gage says Republican presidential hopefuls who take a hardline position on immigration will lose more votes in the general election than it would win them in the primaries. Packer Gage's research found that women, 18 to 34 year olds, and Hispanics voters -key groups in the 2012 elections- are overwhelmingly unlikely to vote for an anti-immigration candidate. Overall message: don't go negative on immigration; go positive! Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush have taken their stands on immigration earlier this week.
Also making a stance on immigration are 8 Democrats who will visit family detention facilities. After 136 House Democrats sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson calling for an end to family detention, eight of them will visit the Karnes and Dilley, TX facilities on June 22 and 23rd. The delegation, organized by Representatives Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA); also includes, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), Joaquin Castro (TX), Judy Chu (CA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), and Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX). The eight members will hold a press conference on Thursday, June 18 in advance of that trip.
Lastly, - OMG! Another Congressional hearing on Presidents Executive Actions! Yawn... - Today, the House Oversight committee held yet another hearing to attack the November 20, 2014 executive actions. This one featured testimony by ICE Director Sarah Saldana, USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez, and DHS Inspector General John Roth. Instead of workable solutions on immigration, most of the hearing was dominated by politically-driven rhetoric. Solutions are what AILA will keep pushing for! To be a part visit: www.aila.org/advo-media.
June 16, 2015
In announcing his bid for presidency at a Miami rally on Monday-uh finally-Jeb Bush said he would get immigration reform done. "The next president of the United States," he declared, meaning none other than himself, "will pass meaningful immigration reform so that will be solved, not by executive order." Aside from the jab at Obama's November 2014 executive actions, this is a huge and positive statement coming from a candidate whose party is at best ambivalent on the topic.
Good news for immigrants seeking to reopen deportation cases was reported on Monday. In an 8-1 decision in Mata v. Holder the Supreme Court announced that federal appeals courts have the authority to review and reopen deportation cases that are denied or closed by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Often deportation cases are thrown out due to negligence or deceit from their legal counsel, other times because the appeal case takes longer than the standard 90-day deadline.
Last week, those holding the purse in Congress appropriated a paltry $300 million for Central America with most of that going toward security initiatives. The president asked Congress for $1 billion to address the border crisis and violence and instability in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The NYTimes called it "extremely shortsighted."
Switching gears, states are taking on immigration policy. As federal immigration reform hinders in Washington, states continue to address the matter by introducing their own immigration bills. California and Texas are to pilot guest-work visas programs that would allow migrants to work legally. Both states are waiting to receive permission from the federal government. They join a long list of states that have taken immigration policy to fit their needs.
June 11, 2015
Tell DHS to grant TPS for Nepal! On Friday, an entire month will have passed since Nepal's government asked for TPS. Nepalis are still recovering after the April earthquake and its aftershocks. TPS would allow Nepalis to work lawfully and help rebuild their country. Join the Twitter Thunderclap organized by the New York Immigration Coalition that will post all our collective tweets on Friday at noon.
Word is out that DHS has been diligently working on ideas to improve and expand the current Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. Earlier this week Senator Grassley shot off a letter to DHS Secretary Johnson complaining that proposed new regulations "are irresponsible and dangerous." Sen. Grassley said the program was "full of inefficiencies, susceptible to fraud, and that the Department was not adequately overseeing it," citing a March 2014 Government Accountability Office report. Although no proposals on the regulation are public yet, through a briefing by ICE, Senator Grassley's office was tipped off that foreign STEM students could get two additional 24-month extensions and foreign grads of non-STEM degree U.S. programs would also be able to extend their OPT periods up to 24 months. Stay tuned!
June 10, 2015
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) today approved the FY2016 CJS Appropriations Bill, advancing the more than $51 billion measure toward full committee consideration on Thursday. The GOP-controlled Senate panel blocked the President's $50 million request to provide legal services for unaccompanied immigrant children coming before the U.S. immigration court system after fleeing violence in Central America. Without representation, unaccompanied children are much more likely to be sent back to their home countries, as it is nearly impossible for them to navigate the maze of documentation and legal requirements alone.
In other news, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released statistics on apprehensions at the southwest border between October 1, 2014, and June 1, 2015. According to the data, apprehensions of unaccompanied children to date in FY2015 are 51% less than the same period in FY2014, and apprehensions of family units are down 47% from the same period last year. An article in Fox News Latino reports that new U.S. policies have led to fewer unaccompanied children crossing the border, but that advocates for the minors find many of the administration's "deterrence" policies very troubling, particularly the practice of family detention. Advocates are also quite concerned about the Protection of Children Act of 2015 reintroduced by Rep. John Carter (R-TX), which calls for the quick return of unaccompanied minors who do not file a political asylum claim, as well as the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), which seeks to tighten the criteria for establishing a credible fear of persecution and, by extension, obtaining political asylum. States AILA's Director of Advocacy Greg Chen, "[The Act] will strip the existing protections for children who come here, protections that make sure these children are (properly) screened for asylum and trafficking before they are sent back to their countries."
June 5, 2015
On June 4, 2015, Huffington Post reported on a suicide attempt by a mother in family detention who has been detained with her 4-year-old daughter. "These are individuals who have gone through some awful, violent circumstances," said Javier Maldonado, one of the attorneys working on her case. "Putting them behind walls is not proper care." The deeply harmful physical and psychological effects of detention have long been observed by AILA volunteers and psychologists working with detainees.
In a surprising and refreshingly positive turn-of-events, USCIS has announced that it will reopen the availability of H-2B work visas for the summer season. Even though the cap was hit back in on April 2, 2015, USCIS in consultation with the State Department, determined that there are a number of H-2B visas that are still unused and available. According to a statement from Senator Barbara Mikulski, between 3,000 and 6,000 of these visas remain available.
June 4, 2015
House Republicans are using the power of the purse to block the DOJ from defending itself in a legal battle that has put on hold President Obama's executive actions on expanded DACA and DAPA. Yesterday, the House approved the appropriations bill for FY2016 (H.R. 2578), which contained three immigration-related amendments proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), all of which were adopted. The first King amendment would prohibit funding for the U.S. to participate in the Texas v. United States case. "It is unfair for us to deny the executive branch an opportunity to put forth its arguments in court," Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) stated, opposing King's amendment. "This is not the appropriate bill for this," he added. Rep. King's second amendment would prohibit the use of funds for agencies to negotiate international trade agreements that contain immigration provisions, and his third amendment would block grant funding to state and local law enforcement that allegedly provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. The addition of the immigration measures to the appropriations bill, which has already drawn a veto threat from the White House over cuts in domestic programs, will likely harden the administration's opposition to the bill.
June 3, 2015
This week, the House is considering the appropriations bill for the 2016 fiscal year that funds the Department of Justice, including the immigration courts. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and Rep. John Carter (R-TX) have submitted several immigration-related amendments that attack the Obama administration's executive actions, enforcement practices, and the use of funds to provide legal services.
The bill, H.R. 2578, was reported out of Committee on May 27, 2015, and does include $421,873,000 for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to support hiring new IJs, support staff, and Board of Immigration Appeals lawyers to reduce the backlog of cases and expedite judgments. No funding, however, was designated for Legal Orientation Programs or counsel programs. The Committee commended EOIR for the use of LOP and other such programs that help improve the efficiency of court proceedings, but merely encouraged EOIR to continue using those programs and directed that the U.S. Government should not bear any expense for those programs.
In other news, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is the latest Republican to enter the already crowded Republican presidential race. Graham's announcement won applause and criticism from immigration advocates: "Sen. Graham is among the few Republicans who consistently supports immigration reform," said the Alliance for Citizenship. United We Dream said the immigrant community "expects any presidential candidate to support deferred action and to make concrete commitments to expanding protections to millions more, without waiting for congressional gridlock to finally lift immigration." Sen. Graham, along with his Senate colleague John McCain, were two of the main forces on the Republican side of the aisle, pushing for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. Back then he said: "As to the 11 million, they will have an earned, hard pathway to citizenship. They have to get in the back of the line before they can become citizens. They can't cut in line. They have to pass two English proficiency exams." Sen. Graham was also a key force behind the effort to create a "future-flow" program, the idea that we need a new worker visa category for essential workers.
June 2, 2015
Incredible momentum is building against family detention. Today, 33 senators sent a letter to DHS, stating, “[W]e do not believe there is any system of mass family detention that will work or is consistent with our moral values.” The Senate letter followed an even larger sign-on letter led by immigration champions Zoe Lofgren, Luis Gutierrez, and Lucille Roybal-Allard that 136 House members, including leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, all joined. That’s nearly three-quarters of the members of the President’s own party calling upon him to stop detaining families.
Big thanks to all the AILA chapters that contacted their members of Congress to speak out against family detention!
May 27, 2015
One hundred thirty-six members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to DHS today calling for an end to family detention once and for all, stating, "We believe the only solution to this problem is to end the use of family detention." AILA President Leslie Holman applauded the 136 House members in a press release: "Calling out the Administration is not done lightly, but it is vital that the federal government understand that continuing this practice is immoral and inhumane." Be sure to check out AILA's Family Detention page to learn more about this issue.
In other immigration news, members of Congress reacted strongly to yesterday's Fifth Circuit decision to continue enjoining DAPA and expanded DACA. In a statement, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said that the decision "only delays the inevitable" and "prolongs the suffering of immigrant families" across the country. A statement from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the decision of two Fifth Circuit judges to "defer the dreams of hard-working immigrant families across America" represented a "disappointing delay of a clear outcome," but that "the President's executive actions fall well within the clear precedent set by Presidents of both parties" for the last 50 years. Likewise, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) said in a statement that the ruling was "disappointing but not unexpected," and remained confident that millions of immigrants will eventually apply for DAPA and DACA. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) conveyed a different opinion in his statement, saying, "I applaud the Court's decision and will continue to do everything in my power to fight this executive overreach." But Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton vowed just the opposite, writing in a tweet, "5th Circuit is wrong on immigration. [President Obama] followed precedent, took steps for families when GOP House wouldn't. Must continue the fight." Be sure to check out AILA's webpage on the Texas v. United States case for more information on this important topic.
May 26, 2015
The Fifth Circuit refused today to lift the temporary injunction that has been blocking the implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA. As background, twenty-six states are suing the federal government over President Obama's executive actions on immigration, and U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, TX, issued an injunction on February 16, 2015, to stop DACA/DAPA from taking effect while the lawsuit works its way through the courts. Pending the government's appeal, DOJ lawyers sought a stay of the injunction, arguing that it interfered with DHS's ability to protect the U.S. and secure the nation's borders, and that immigration policy is a domain of the federal government, not the states. But in today's ruling, the Fifth Circuit denied the stay, saying that the federal government lawyers are unlikely to succeed on the merits of that appeal. Judge Stephen Higginson dissented, writing, "I would not affirm intervention and judicial fiat ordering what Congress has never mandated." AILA President Leslie Holman responded to the ruling in a press release, stating, "It appeared early on that this particular panel of this particular court was unlikely to grant the stay. Thankfully though, this is far from the last word on the matter." For more information, please see AILA's webpage on the Texas v. United States case.
May 22, 2015
Momentum continues to build in the fight to end family detention. News outlets such as The Huffington Post, Latin Post, and McClatchyDC provided coverage of yesterday's important press conference and discussed the growing pressure on DHS to stop detaining mothers and children.
As AILA Director Crystal Williams wrote in a recent Leadership Blog, "We need all of you to help keep the tidal wave rolling. If you can't volunteer in the trenches at one of the detention centers, make your voice heard by telling your congressional members exactly why they need to stand up for these children and mothers. More and more members of Congress speaking publicly creates more and more pressure on the President. Open their eyes to what is happening and the stain that family detention is on our country's grand history of offering safety and security to the most vulnerable. Tell your family, your friends, your church - shout it from the rooftops that you have joined this battle. There's no ignoring it any longer, there's something happening here."
For more information, check out AILA's Storify and visit AILA's Family Detention resource page.
May 21, 2015
In a moving and impactful press conference today, members of the House, led by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), voiced grave concerns over the deplorable conditions at the family detention facilities in Berks County, Pennsylvania; Dilley, Texas; and Karnes, Texas. During the press conference, AILA member and asylum expert Dree Collopy shared how, as a family detention volunteer, she witnessed "countless scenes" of inhumane treatment that she "never expected to see here in the United States." Speaking through an interpreter, Maria Rose Lopez, a former detainee who spent six months in the Karnes facility with her nine-year-old son after fleeing from Honduras to escape domestic violence and rape, said, "We came here seeking protection. [T]hey shouldn't criminalize us for seeking protection." Please continue to contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to stop family detention once and for all! As Ms. Collopy stated, "This embarrassing stain on America must end now." For more information, please check out AILA's Storify and visit AILA's Family Detention resource page.
May 20, 2015
Tomorrow, at least 11 members of Congress, led by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Luis Gutierrez, and Lucille Roybal-Allard, will hold a press conference calling for an end to family detention. AILA member, author, and Artesia warrior Dree Collopy will speak alongside them. Currently, over 1,000 women and children are being detained at the detention facility in Dilley, Texas. AILA is 14,000 members strong. Please join us in the fight to end family detention now! Take the time to contact your Senators and Representatives, and ask them to add their voices to the chorus rallying to stop family detention. Tell them to speak out against this inhumane practice! With Hillary Clinton and the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Seattle Times all speaking out, the momentum is building to end family detention once and for all. For more information, please visit AILA's Family Detention resource page.
May 18, 2015
In response to ICE's nearly meaningless announcement regarding increased oversight of family detention centers, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a statement, declaring that "the proposed reforms are not enough," and that "ending family detention is the only answer." "Detaining mothers and their children who are fleeing extreme poverty, persecution, abuse and violence is unacceptable and goes against our most fundamental values," said Sen. Reid. AILA could not agree more: There is simply is no humane way to detain families. To capitalize on this strong momentum, please contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to add their voices to the chorus rallying against family detention. For more information on responses to ICE's announcement by AILA and members of Congress, please see AILA's Family Detention resource page.
May 15, 2015
Yesterday, members in the Republican-led House voted 221 to 202 to strip from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a measure introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) that asked the Secretary of Defense to review policies on whether DACA recipients could join the military if they had work authorization. In a letter to House members yesterday morning, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) wrote, "The NDAA, as amended by Congressman Gallego, undermines America's border security and ratifies portions of President Obama's illegal amnesty for illegal aliens." But not all Republicans supported Brooks' amendment to strip the Gallego provision; following the circulation of a letter by Representatives. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) that urged fellow GOP members to oppose the Brooks Amendment, twenty Republicans voted against it. All 182 Democrats in the House voted "no." Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addressed the issue in a statement, stating that she believes DREAMers who want to serve in the military "should be honored and celebrated, not discriminated against."
Republicans who voted to keep the Gallego amendment in NDAA
Mike Coffman of Colorado
Carlos Curbelo of Florida
Jeff Denham of California
Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania
Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida
Robert Dold of Illinois
Chris Gibson of New York
Richard Hanna of New York
Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington
John Katko of New York Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey
Tom MacArthur of New Jersey
Martha E. McSally of Arizona
Dan Newhouse of Washington
Dave Reichert of Washington
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Washington
Elise Stefanik of New York
Fred Upton of Michigan
David Valadao of California
May 14, 2015
ICE announced yesterday that it will be taking a series of actions related to the oversight of family detention centers. These actions include creating an Advisory Committee to advise the Director and the Secretary concerning ICE's family residential centers, designating a senior ICE official to coordinate and review facility policies, providing dedicated work space to pro bono attorneys, and establishing a review process for any families detained beyond 90 days. AILA President Leslie A. Holman responded to the plans in a press release, stating that the planned changes are "almost meaningless," and do "almost nothing to address the fundamental issue that there is no humane way to detain families." "Instead of five new action items," President Holman stated, "the Administration should turn instead to smart solutions and end family detention once and for all. No innocent child and courageous mother should waste away in a jail." Representatives Luis V. Gutiérrez (D- IL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) also issued a statement calling for an end to DHS's family detention program. "We acknowledge that DHS is trying to address broad public disappointment with its policy of incarcerating vulnerable women and children," the Representatives said in the statement. "Unfortunately, [the] plan states that DHS will continue detaining women and children, and only consider methods of making the facilities better and more humane. The United States government should not be in the business of holding mothers and children in detention, no matter how nice the facilities or how many stakeholder meetings the government has. … The government should be releasing detainees … not fighting the court orders, injunctions, and overwhelming evidence against family detention." See AILA's resources on detention and family detention for more information.
Switching gears, according to a May 4 report from DHS's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), federal officials have failed to keep track of the number of times they have used prosecutorial discretion (PD) to release undocumented immigrants. Over the last two fiscal years, DHS has spent $21 billion annually on ICE, CBP, and USCIS. The report stated that because of this significant investment, DHS "should fully assess its policies and decisions about immigration enforcement to ensure it is using Government funds as efficiently as possible." But the report found that DHS in fact "does not collect and analyze data on the use of [PD] to fully assess its current immigration enforcement activities and to develop future policy," and is thus unable to ascertain the number of undocumented immigrants who were released pursuant to President Obama's executive orders on immigration. While ICE reported 12,757 instances of an official determining that an immigrant qualified for PD, the report concluded that that figure is likely higher, since ICE field office personnel who make those daily PD decisions have said that recording each occurrence of PD would be "too time consuming."
On April 15, AILA sent a national sign-on letter with more than 100 other organizations to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, expressing concern about the implementation of Secretary Johnson's November 2014 memorandum on PD and enforcement priorities. Of note, the sign-on letter called attention to the fact that, since the memo's release, PD has been applied inconsistently or, in some cases, not at all, leading to the very injustices that PD was designed to avoid. The inability to accurately track the specific instances of PD's application has almost certainly contributed to its inconsistent implementation.
Meanwhile, Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) continued their series of border security hearings yesterday. At the hearing, titled "Securing the Border: Fencing, Infrastructure and Technology Force Multipliers," Rebecca Gambler, a Director in the U.S. Government Accountability Office's (GAO) Homeland Security and Justice Team, highlighted the need for accurate statistics, testifying that "DHS could do a better job of collecting data and developing measures and metrics to assess what contributions they are getting out of different investments." On the subject of better data collection, Chairman Johnson brought up the report by DHS's OIG on the failure by DHS to collect and analyze data on the use of PD, asking Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Ronald Vitiello, "What percent situational awareness do we have?" Responded Vitiello, "We've struggled with the idea of defining situational awareness. How do you measure something that has a different connotation for different environments?"
May 12, 2015
Today, 40 Members of Congress sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, requesting that DHS properly follow the DHS immigration enforcement priorities. The letter urges DHS to implement robust accountability mechanisms for Sec. Johnson's November 20, 2014, enforcement priorities memo titled "Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants."
Said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), "This is about minimizing uncalled-for human suffering and ensuring law enforcement targets the individuals who actually pose a threat to our society. . . . [W]e need to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that harmful practices of the past aren't continuing today under the guise of new directives."
The letter cites numerous reports that ICE has failed to apply, or has applied inconsistently, the exceptions within the enforcement priority categories. In some cases, it appears that ICE has even targeted individuals who fall outside the enforcement priorities. Specifically, the letter requested clarification from ICE on the training that ICE is employing to implement the priorities, the screening mechanisms it is using to identify positive equities, and the safeguards in place to ensure that ICE is adequately reviewing prosecutorial discretion (PD) requests. The Members are requesting clarification on Priority 2(d) of the enforcement priorities memo, which focuses on immigrants who "have significantly abused the visa or visa waiver programs," and are asking whether DHS will commit to excluding mere visa overstays from this category.
AILA SEEKING CASE EXAMPLES - AILA encourages all AILA members to send case examples where ICE is not following the priorities memo to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are specifically looking for cases where the person falls into priority 3 but has several equities, and/or for cases where the person does not fall under any of the priorities but was still sought out by ICE officials.
The House will be taking up the Defense Authorization bill this week. During markup, the Armed Services Committee attached the Gallego Amendment. That amendment, which gives the Secretary of Defense the authority to allow DREAMers into the military, passed with bipartisan support. In response, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has introduced an amendment to be considered in the Rules Committee and eventually on the House floor that would strip the Gallego Amendment from the NDAA bill. It's unclear if Rep. Brooks' amendment will be considered on Tuesday evening or Wednesday afternoon in the Rules Committee.
May 8, 2015
Significant advocacy efforts are underway to obtain a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Nepal due to the massive earthquake in the country on April 25, 2015. Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, the earthquake killed at least 7,885 people, from the capital of Kathmandu to the rural areas, and injured more than 16,390. More than 10% of the country's homes were destroyed (299,588) or damaged (269,107), according to NEOC data. On May 5th, twelve Senators-eleven Democrats and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk-joined a sign-on letter urging DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to designate Nepal for TPS in light of the tremendous devastation suffered by Nepal. The letter states that the earthquake, reportedly the most powerful to strike Nepal since 1934, has "destroyed large swaths of [a] country ... that was already struggling with civil unrest." Tens of thousands of Nepalese people currently live in the U.S., and the letter from the Senators makes clear that "now is not the time to send them back, as their country is devastated and clearly not in a position to receive them."
Also, AILA was one of 127 organizations to sign a coalition letter to Sec. Johnson calling for TPS status for Nepal. Designating Nepal for TPS status would empower Nepalese people in the U.S. to aid their home country in rebuilding by protecting them from deportation and granting them work authorization, which would enable them to continue working and send remittances to Nepal. In addition, the letter states that "the devastation in Nepal and the hazardous conditions there make it unsafe for any Nepalese nationals to be forced to return to the country at this time." AILA will continue its strong advocacy efforts to ensure that Nepal and its people receive the support they require during this humanitarian crisis.
May 6, 2015
Today, the Senate Homeland Committee passed Sen. McCain's harmful and unnecessary borderlands bill, S. 750, that AILA and a broad coalition opposed. Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) both raised concerns about the unrealistic and unattainable 100% sealed border standard that S. 750 would put into law. Sen. Heitkamp extracted a promise from Sen. McCain to rework that standard drawing upon the Senate 2013 immigration reform bill. DHS Sec. Johnson has called the 100% apprehension standard "unworkable," and CBP has testified that it does not need the additional access provided in the bill. Sen. McCain also acceded to Sen. Heitkamp's amendments to sunset the bill after four years (a modification that Sen. Carper also wanted) and to allow GAO to conduct a report evaluating the impact of the bill and of CBP's activities on federal lands. AILA hopes the bill goes no further.
Hillary Clinton goes big on immigration! In detailed remarks during a roundtable discussion in Nevada yesterday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton articulated the urgent need for immigration reform, telling students at Las Vegas' Rancho High School, "We can't wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship." If elected president next year, Clinton vowed that she would not only support immigration reform and protect deportation relief policies put forward by President Obama, she would also expand them, saying, "If Congress continues to refuse to act, as president I would do everything possible under the law to go even further." Importantly, Clinton said she believes that undocumented immigrants who are "at risk," including children and vulnerable people (e.g., transgender individuals), should not be detained, and that immigration should instead target violent, repeat criminals for deportation. Additionally, the would-be Democratic nominee criticized the congressionally-mandated immigrant detention bed quota and the fact that private prison companies run many detention facilities, which she said gives them "a built-in incentive" to lock up immigrants. Said Clinton, "People go out and round up people in order to get paid on a per-bed basis. That just makes no sense at all to me. That's not the way we should be running any detention facility." Furthermore, she argued that those in deportation proceedings-at the very least, the young-should receive more legal representation. Comprehensive immigration reform is not just "the right thing to do," Clinton said, "it [also] strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and strengthens our country," which is why "we can't wait any longer" to fix America's broken immigration system.
May 5, 2015
AILA, along with many other border, immigration, faith, labor, environmental, civil rights, and human rights experts and advocates, submitted a national sign-on letter today opposing S. 750 ("Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act"), which is scheduled for markup tomorrow before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), S. 750 would give CBP greater access to federal lands for security activities notwithstanding existing environmental protections and laws, as well as create the capability to conduct 100% surveillance of the Southern border and to apprehend and turn back all undocumented border-crossers. The national sign-on letter emphasizes that entirely sealing the southwest border is an unattainable objective; in fact, Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) and his House counterpart Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) have disavowed the goal of stopping every illegal border crosser as unachievable, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has described such high apprehension rates as unworkable. Further, the letter underscores that S. 750 offers no workable solutions to the immigration system and instead presents only "the mirage of a 'border-security first' piecemeal approach to immigration reform that comes with no commitment to pass common-sense solutions that would actually benefit America." Critics of the bill also stress that the legislation would not succeed at bolstering homeland security, but could indeed trample national park lands and other federal acreage due to proposed motorized patrols and deployment of communications, surveillance, and detection equipment throughout the lands. To learn more, read the entire national sign-on letter opposing S. 750.
May 1, 2015
The Senate Homeland Security committee seems intent to act on border reform. On Wednesday, the committee called Sec. Johnson to testify about the DHS budget. Johnson said that 9,802 unaccompanied children had crossed the southern border during FY2015, a number “considerably lower than last year.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) questioned Sec. Johnson’s assessment of the current border situation as improving and accused the Secretary of being “disingenuous” with regard to the number of border crossings, arguing that many unaccompanied children are not showing up to their court dates, thus deflating the border crossings number. Sec. Johnson acknowledged that DHS does not have situational control over the southwestern border, nor does it have full “situational awareness” yet, but at the same time he said the border is getting more secure. Sec. Johnson pointed to statistics showing that apprehensions of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied minors are both down significantly this year. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) empathized with the plight of mothers in Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras who are attempting to rescue their children from the growing violence in those countries by sending them across the border with coyotes who say they can keep the children safe. Sen. McCaskill challenged Sen. McCain’s statistic on missed court dates, highlighting that when unaccompanied children have a lawyer and a translator, over 90% of them show up to court hearings. In addition, she underscored the cost of detaining those juveniles—over $300 a day—and the need to provide the children with an adequate number of lawyers and translators in order to increase the rate of appearances at the hearings.
Next week on May 6, the same Senate committee will markup S.750, (McCain), which would give CBP greater access to federal lands notwithstanding environmental protections or any other law. Sen. McCain’s bill also calls for achieving 100 percent surveillance of the Southern border and the apprehension and turn back of all illegal border crossers--the same absurd, unattainable standard set by the current Republican border bills. Watch AILA’s Upcoming Congressional Hearings webpage for more information.
April 30, 2015
Today, the House Homeland Security Committee asked Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to testify before the Committee at a hearing titled "Allegations of Special Access and Political Influence at the Department of Homeland Security." This is the second hearing in five weeks looking into DHS's Office of the Inspector General report detailing "Employee Complaints about Management of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) EB-5 Program." The report focuses on three specific EB-5 cases in which unnamed USCIS employees made allegations against then-USCIS Director Mayorkas of having gotten too involved in EB-5 cases and having provided special access to certain interested parties.
In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) stated that he continues to have concerns over allegations contained in the IG's report. Mayorkas stated that when he first took the helm at USCIS, he found an EB-5 program that was underdeveloped and inadequately resourced. He made clear that as the leader of the agency, he had the responsibility to ensure that all cases were decided as the law required, and that agency errors were addressed. AILA released a press statement on this report, saying that it is not surprising that there are those who opposed the USCIS Director getting involved, and that those who were opposed to this hands-on leader were able to get their dissatisfaction written into the IG's report.
Yesterday afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled "Birthright Citizenship: Is it the Right Policy for America?" At the hearing, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asserted that the legislative history and plain meaning of the clause "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" contained in the 14th Amendment proved that the Amendment's purpose was to guarantee that babies born to free slaves would be U.S. citizens, and that the Amendment "did not contemplate that anyone who would sneak into the United States and have a baby would have automatic citizenship conferred on that baby." In a similar vein, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at the hearing, "The question of whether our forefathers meant for birthright citizenship in all circumstances to be the law of the land is far from settled. In any event, we must still determine if it is the right policy for America." Rep. Goodlatte expressed his opinion that it was important to have an "open and honest discussion" about the consequences of birthright citizenship, noting that, of the G-20 countries, only the U.S. Canada and Mexico automatically grant citizenship based on the individual being born in the country, despite the citizenship or immigration status of the parents.
Articulating a different perspective, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said that the answer to the question the hearing's title posed was "clearly yes," and that "no other policy would be worthy of this country." Rep. Lofgren emphasized that the "origins of birthright citizenship long pre-date the 14th Amendment," citing Justice Joseph Story's dissent in the Supreme Court's case Inglis v. Trustees of the Sailor's Snug Harbour, in which he stated, "Nothing is better settled at the common law than the doctrine that the children even of aliens born in a country while the parents are resident there under the protection of the government and owing a temporary allegiance thereto are subjects by birth." Moreover, the Congresswoman said that the Supreme Court's sole divergence from the adherence to this principle occurred in the Dred Scott decision, when theQ Court denied birthright citizenship to the descendants of slaves, and that the Citizenship Clause in the first sentence of the 14th Amendment was a direct repudiation of that infamous decision.
After the hearing, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement, in which she said the hearing was an "appalling" effort to "reverse one of our most fundamental constitutional guarantees: people born on American soil are Americans." Calling the proposal one of the most "loathsome" and "xenophobic" in recent memory, Rep. Pelosi stated that the "assault on birthright citizenship dishonors our history, betrays our future, and insults millions of proud first-generation American citizens." Likewise, in a press conference following the hearing, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said, "The 14th amendment to the Constitution says that any child born in this country is a citizen—regardless of who his or her parents are. Birthright citizenship is at the core of who we are as a nation.”
April 29, 2015
Keep fighting for Melida and Estrella, the mother and daughter being held in family detention in Karnes City, Texas. Tell ICE you support their release by signing this petition to ICE Director Sarah Saldaña, and circulate the petition widely! Also, watch this incredibly moving video from AILA member Stephen Manning (Melida and Estrella's attorney), in which he recalls the first time he met his clients Melida and little Estrella, and explains why family detention is so destructive. AILA and Stephen Manning will deliver the petition, which currently has nearly 2,000 signatures, to ICE and DHS. Sign the petition now, and help bring this family's suffering to an end.
Yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, fielding questions regarding family detention, executive actions, and children crossing the border. Discussing the lower apprehension and removal rate for undocumented immigrants, which has steadily declined since President Obama took office in 2009, Sec. Johnson said, "There are fewer people attempting to cross the southern border, and there are fewer people apprehended." The number of children caught traveling alone has dropped by about 45% this year, compared to the same time last year, while the number of families being arrested declined by about 30%. The Secretary expressed concern, however, about the time-consuming removal process for undocumented children crossing the border, who increasingly are from noncontiguous countries. "You see greater claims for humanitarian relief, for asylum," Sec. Johnson said, "and so it's not as simple as just sending somebody back across the border."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), told Sec. Johnson during the hearing that he saw in DHS "a lack of will" to enforce the country's immigration laws, an attitude which he said existed "before [Sec. Johnson] took the office…from the president on down." Referring to the Obama Administration's November 2014 prioritization directive, Sen. Sessions said that "priority can also be an amnesty," because it sends a message to undocumented immigrations that, "if you don't commit a serious crime, you're okay, you're not going to be deported." In contrast, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a statement praised Sec. Johnson's "sound leadership" at DHS over the past 16 months. He denounced, however, the Obama administration's decision to reinstate the "failed policy" of family detention, and he lamented the policy's "significant psychological consequences for the women and children detained." At the hearing, Sec. Johnson said, "I'm hearing a fair amount of issues with family detention...being raised by a number of people. So I'm currently evaluating whether the current policy is the best one." For more information on family detention, view AILA's Detention and Family Detention page.
April 27, 2015
Join the sign-on petition and tell ICE you support the release of Melida and her four-year-old daughter Estrella from family detention in Karnes City, Texas. Melida has a 10-year-old U.S. citizen daughter, a sister with a green card, and other U.S. citizen family and friends all waiting for her in New York and willing to care for her while her case proceeds. She has already endured more than eight months of detention, suffering constantly while her daughter has been chronically ill and required hospitalization. Take action today to tell ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion for this mother and daughter.
On another topic, a new bill sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) would make E-Verify mandatory for all employers within one year, require use on current employees within three years, and allow use on prospective employees. The proposed “Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act” (S. 1032) contains shorter timelines than similar mandatory E-Verify legislation currently pending in the House (“Legal Workforce Act,” H.R. 1147).
While the House bill, which recently cleared the House Judiciary Committee, would phase in E-Verify requirements over two years for most employers and over three years for the agriculture industry, the Senate Bill would shorten that timeline to within one year. In addition, the Senate bill would require employers to use E-Verify to check the work authorization of existing employees, a practice currently prohibited, within three years of its enactment. Under the Senate bill, employers could also use E-Verify to check the employment authorization of prospective employees.
Sen. Grassley has touted E-Verify as a “proven, cost-free, successful tool” that “safeguards opportunities for legal workers and helps to reduce incentives for illegal entry into the United States.” Yet the National Immigration Forum has criticized the proposed legislation for its exclusive focus on enforcement without incorporating other elements of an immigration overhaul. “An E-Verify bill on its own is a step in the wrong direction,” said the Forum’s Executive Director Ali Noorani. “Without broader immigration reform, a worker verification system cannot succeed on its own. The imposition of mandatory E-Verify without a broader reform package would hurt our nation's economy, businesses, and workforce. Our broken immigration system is a national issue that deserves a constructive approach. This bill is not the answer.”
The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee; a markup has not yet been scheduled.
April 24, 2015
The wait is finally over for Loretta Lynch. After a five-month battle, the Senate confirmed Lynch as the next attorney general in a 56-43 vote yesterday, making her the first African-American female attorney general in U.S. history. President Obama nominated Lynch back in November, but Republicans leading the Senate refused to bring her nomination up for a vote until a dispute over abortion language in a bill to combat human trafficking was resolved. On Wednesday, the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a compromise and passed the trafficking measure by a vote of 99 to 0.
In other news, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) commented on the Central American Migrant Program at the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest hearing yesterday afternoon. In moving testimony, Sen. Blumenthal said, “This issue has a human face. More than 1,000 children were murdered in Honduras in 2014 alone. The conditions there are life-threatening, not only to people who speak their minds and who speak truth to power, but also to children who are innocent victims of gang warfare and lack of protection that is beyond their choice or control. ... The Obama administration’s Central American Migrant Program may help a few hundred of these children—so far not a single child has even been processed, not to mention rescued, and here we are in this forum holding a hearing on whether or not the United States is doing ‘too much’ to save these children. ... I submit to you that no country has ever felt ashamed for doing ‘too much’ to save children.” Less enthusiastic about the program, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) also commented: “Congress rejected this. So the President is executing it on his own. It’s a new program and in fact, in effect establishes a new system of immigration to the United States.” For more information on the humanitarian crisis in Central America, visit AILA's featured issue page.
April 22, 2015
Excellent news: The Senate reached agreement late last night that proposed immigration amendments will NOT be included in the list of Amendments to S.178, the anti-human trafficking bill that has stalled the confirmation vote for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. Four Senators—Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Sen. Thom Thillis (R-FL)—had proposed amendments that would have restricted constitutional birthright citizenship, eliminated protections for unaccompanied children, and granted DHS broad power to detain non-citizens for prolonged periods, among other harmful measures. Prior to reaching an agreement, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) had urged his Republican colleagues not to “destroy this human-trafficking legislation that is so important.” The Senate is scheduled to hold Lynch’s confirmation vote on Thursday. This is a huge win for the immigration community!
April 21, 2015
In a candid interview on Sunday, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill admonished Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio for his flip-flop on immigration reform, saying on ABC's This Week, "If you look at Marco Rubio's record, he took a principled, courageous stand on immigration reform. ... And then the minute his party's base started chewing on about it, the minute Rush Limbaugh criticized him, he folded like a cheap shotgun." In 2013, Rubio co-authored S. 744, a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have allowed some undocumented immigrants to eventually become citizens. But this February, he renounced his previous stance and declared that piecemeal legislation focused chiefly on border security and enforcement measures was the only way forward. Sen. McCaskill cautioned that Rubio's about-face was "old politics." Said MacCaskil, "That is the stalest trick in the book. That is shirking on your principles because of the political necessities of your party."
In other news, there are no clear indications yet about an eventual ruling in the challenge over last year's immigration executive actions in Texas v. United States. The hearing in the 5th Circuit on Friday concerned whether the court should lift the temporary injunction against the programs, but both sides spent much of the two-plus hours arguing over the broader legality of the administration's actions. Two of the three judges seemed skeptical of the states' arguments, and one judge alleged that the current controversy is a direct result of a conflict between the White House and Congress, noting that courts should stay out of "political jockeying." For more information on Texas v. United States, visit AILA's resource page.
Meanwhile, after a month-long dispute, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced today that a "bipartisan" deal on an anti-human trafficking bill has been reached. The deal ends the Senate standoff and paves the way for a confirmation vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch in the coming days. Several harmful immigration amendments, including one eliminating protections for unaccompanied children by Senator Inhofe, may be brought up for votes on the trafficking bill. AILA sent up vote recommendations on these amendments.
April 13, 2015
On Sunday, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced that she will be running for president in 2016. Senator Marco Rubio announced today that he is also throwing his hat into the 2016 presidential election. Clinton has supported President Obama's executive actions on immigration and supports comprehensive immigration reform with "a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants." Long ago as a senator, she supported former President George W. Bush's plan for comprehensive immigration reform back in 2007.
Rubio has stated that he believes in a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and even helped craft the bipartisan immigration legislation back in 2013 which ultimately "died in the house." However, his positions have shifted dramatically since the 2013 bill passed. He recently stated that before he could support any CIR legislation, "the nation's borders must first be further secured to prevent illegal immigration." In addition, he has vocally opposed the president's recent executive actions on immigration.
Lastly, a Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Oversight of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement" is scheduled to be held tomorrow at 10am. The Judiciary Committee hearing will feature ICE Director Sarah Saldaña.
April 10, 2015
Today, Senator Sessions published an op-ed on the Washington Post that lays out a doomsday scenario in which the percentage of foreign-born immigrants put pressure on "wages, as well as schools, hospitals and many other community resources." Senator Sessions goes on to say "high immigration rates help the financial elite (and the political elite who receive their contributions) by keeping wages down and profits up."
Senator Sessions' couldn't be more wrong about the effects of immigration on the economy. Especially considering the fact that the bi-partisan "I-Squared Act" would provide "critical reforms needed in the area of high-skilled immigration" and would ultimately benefit the American economy.
Want to get angry? Be moved by family detention warrior Kim Hunter's account of the strength of women detainees in Karnes and Dilley TX facilities.
April 9, 2015
Today, Jenny Rodriguez Martinez spoke about the struggles she and her children have to endure as a result of ICE's failure to follow the priority enforcement guidelines. Jenny's husband, Henry David Alvarado Mendoza, was not an enforcement priority and did not have a criminal record. Nonetheless, during a routine traffic stop, Jenny's husband was detained and subsequently deported to Honduras.
Jenny spoke at a briefing in both the House and Senate buildings urging staffers and representatives to ensure that prosecutorial discretion be applied to cases like hers. "ICE has been splitting up families and one of those families is mine," she said at the hearing. She went on to say that ICE should be focusing on those who present real threats to the community and not focus government resources on deporting families who pose no threat to public safety.
April 7, 2015
Yesterday, 181 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed onto an amicus brief in support of President Obama's executive actions on immigration. In addition, Attorney General Mark Herring of Virginia also filed an amicus brief in support of the executive actions on immigration. This show of support highlights what we've long been saying: the president's executive actions on immigration is legal and will inevitably be implemented.
To further illustrate that point, today, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld "the dismissal of a lawsuit over President Barack Obama's first major executive action to aid illegal immigrants." The dismissal of the lawsuit is a good indication of what's to come with the Texas lawsuit and the injunction currently in place.
April 2, 2015
Today, Senator Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty "to 14 federal corruption charges stemming from allegations that he improperly aided a wealthy donor." The judge in the federal court released the Senator on his own recognizance, but ordered him to surrender his personal passport.
With Senator Menendez's indictment, many are left wonder what this means for the future of immigration reform. Once a champion of immigration reform and immigrant rights, the federal corruption charges are bound to "weaken his role in the national immigration debate."
Lastly, Senator Mark Kirk became the fifth Republican to announce his support Attorney General nominee, Loretta Lynch. This could give Loretta Lynch "the necessary votes for confirmation." Lynch's confirmation to replace Attorney General Eric Holder has been on delayed for more than 20 weeks. A number of reasons were cited by Republicans for delaying Lynch's confirmation, one of them being her position that the President's executive actions on immigration were legal.
April 1, 2015
Today, Senator Menendez was indicted by a federal grand jury on public corruption charges. Senator Menendez is said to be facing a total of 14 charges that include, "one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the travel act, eight counts of bribery…three counts of honest services fraud" and "one count of making false statements."
Senator Marco Rubio announced today his plans to make a "big announcement" in a couple of weeks feeding speculation of his plans to run.
With Senator Reid's departure, rumblings of a rift between Senator Schumer and Senator Durbin "over the future of the Democratic whip position" were heard on the Hill. This rift has "called into question whether Senate Democrats can resolve their hierarchy issues neatly or whether they are facing a messy intra-party fight heading toward 2016."
March 31, 2015
Last week, a formative figure in the fight for immigration reform announced that he would not be seeking re-election. Senator Harry Reid has been at the forefront of the immigration reform movement and one of its champions. Senator Chuck Schumer, architect of the 2013 immigration reform bill, is poised to become the new minority leader.
During last Friday's vote-a-rama on the budget resolution, one anti-immigration amendment was voted in: Amendment 360 sponsored by Senator McCain seeks to deter unaccompanied immigrant children from coming to the U.S. by undermining protections for such children and subjecting them to expedited removal process that provide almost no due process. AILA's Greg Chen explained in the Arizona Republic how McCain's amendment will result in being "sent back to life-threatening dangers without being adequately screened for asylum."
Yesterday, the DOJ filed a 69-page brief in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that "the federal government has unique authority to enforce the nation's immigration laws and to exercise discretion during the deportation process."
In an article in the National Review, Presidential candidate Jeb Bush stated that he would "be open to allowing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship." While immigration advocates have embraced Bush's stance on immigration, it's easy to see that this will be a focal point of anti-immigration attacks during the GOP primaries.
March 26, 2015
Let the vote-a-rama begin! Today, the Senate started voting on amendments to the budget resolution. Unfortunately, as expected, a number of problematic anti-immigration amendments were presented.
In response to these amendments, AILA submitted vote recommendations to let legislators know we oppose enforcement-only amendments that present no solution on immigration, require unnecessary and excessive spending on border security, and interfere with the Executive Branch's clear legal authority to implement reforms to the immigration system. AILA members also took charge and wrote their representatives to let them know they also oppose anti-immigration amendments.
Two hearings were held today - one in the Senate and one in the House. The Senate hearing titled, "Defining the Current Population Living in the Shadows and Addressing Future Flows," sought to examine the "root causes of Central American migration to the United States." The House hearing titled, "Leadership Challenges at the Department of Homeland Security: Allegations of Improper Influence Regarding Special Visas," sought to stir the pot by alleging some E-B5 applicants who were "perceived to be politically powerful by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees, received special access and attention" from DHS Deputy Secretary Mayorkas.
In an unusual display of bipartisanship, the House "passed a bill to end the "sustainable growth rate" used to calculate doctor's payments for Medicare." Comments such as, "Don't look now, but we're actually governing," by Renee Ellmers (R) and "We are working together to get the job done for the American people," by Nancy Pelosi (D), makes us hopeful that soon enough, they'll be saying the same thing when they pass comprehensive immigration reform.
March 24, 2015
Late yesterday, 26 states represented by Governors and Attorney Generals urged the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals not to stay Judge Hanen's injunction. While this is not particularly surprising news, it is nonetheless disappointing to see the opposition attempt to continue to delay the inevitable implementation of the President's executive actions on immigration.
Today, in part one of a three part series on border security, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs held a hearing titled "Securing the Border: Assessing the Impact of Transnational Crime." Two more are scheduled to be heard on Wednesday and Thursday.
Senator Coats of Indiana announced today that he will not be seeking re-election next year. While his announcement is "opening up his Senate seat to a wide group of hopefuls," it's considered to be "a Safe Republican contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call."
House leaders are preparing for a budget resolution battle which will undoubtedly bring anti-immigration amendments to the table. Two have already been filed by Senator John McCain which aim to fund measures to secure the southwest border and deter migration from unaccompanied children.
Lastly, Senator Ted Cruz announced yesterday that he would throw his hat in the 2016 Presidential race. We can only wonder, will Donald Trump ask him to show his long form birth certificate?
March 23, 2015
Late yesterday, 26 states represented by Governors and Attorney Generals urged the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals not to stay Judge Hanen's injunction in the lawsuit challenging DAPA and DACA expansion. While this is not particularly surprising news, it is nonetheless disappointing to see the opposition attempt to continue to delay the inevitable implementation of the President's executive actions on immigration.
It is, however, reassuring that 14 states filed an amicus brief in support of the 5th Circuit lifting Judge Hanen's decision.
For more information, check out AILA's Resources on Texas v. United States.
March 20, 2015
Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held an immigration hearing on DHS policies and procedures for apprehension and detention of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
What struck most on the Hill were the comments the Director of ICE, Sarah Saldaña, made regarding ICE detainers. When asked whether ICE detainers were mandatory, Saldaña stated "I cannot say that detainer notices are mandatory, they are definitely discretionary." Saldaña's statement mirrored what we've been saying for years.
However, when asked by Congressman DeSantis if it would help to clarify the law and make it mandatory for local law enforcement officials to cooperate with ICE officials, Saldaña responded with, "Thank you. Amen. Yes." This is disturbing to say the least considering there have already been court cases which ruled that ICE detainers are unconstitutional.
Moreover, Saldana seems to have missed the memo-meaning her own boss's November 20 memo on Secure Communities that raises concerns about the constitutionality of mandatory detainers and about how detainers undermine trust with the community and ultimately public safety.
Also yesterday was the Senate Judiciary Oversight hearing on President Obama's executive actions, chaired by Senator Ted Cruz. During the hearing the topic of prosecutorial discretion came up and as predicted, it was alleged that DACA and DAPA and advance parole create a new path to citizenship for unauthorized persons. Nothing could be further from the truth, to learn more, read AILA's Factsheet dispelling myths about advance parole.
UPDATE: In an effort to clarify ICE's position on detainer requests, ICE Director Sarah Saldaña released a statement to ensure "there is no confusion about my response."
In her statement, Saldaña assured the public that "Any effort at federal legislation now to mandate state and local law enforcement's compliance with ICE detainers will, in our view, be a highly counterproductive step and lead to more resistance and less cooperation in our overall efforts to promote public safety."
March 18, 2015
Today, mark-ups for H.R. 1148, the "Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act" and H.R. 1153, the "Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015" were held - and they did not disappoint."
The mark-ups were filled with memorable moments such as when Congressman Steven King, in an attempt to rid himself of pesky protestors, introduced an amendment which sought to give Capitol Police power to apprehend undocumented immigrants. Thankfully, his amendment failed to pass.
And let's not overlook the House Judiciary Committee's BuzzFeed style press release filled with GIFs. No doubt the committee has fully and openly abandoned bipartisanship. Thanks millennials.
March 17, 2015
In day one of a three-day event, three hearings were held on immigration.
As we guessed, the hearings sought to discredit the benefits of the H-1B program (the American Immigration Council's Executive Director, Benjamin Johnson testified during the hearing), blame the Obama administration for "failing" to secure the border, and highlight the perceived costs that the President's executive actions on immigration would have on the country.
In the latest update regarding the Texas lawsuit against the President's executive actions on immigration, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has given Texas, and the other states challenging the executive actions, until March 23 to respond to the request to stay Texas Judge Hanen's preliminary injunction.
Representative Aaron Shock from Illinois resigned today as a result of scandal involving mileage expenses. Congressman Shock was one of a growing number of Republicans who supported comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
March 16, 2015
There is no resolution yet on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act 2015 that was hijacked by Senator Vitter's birthright citizenship amendment which aims to "limit U.S. citizenship only to the children of citizens, legal residents and immigrants serving in the military." On Tuesday, the Senate is scheduled for another cloture vote on the bill which will certainly fail-primarily due to the perennial inclusion of the Sen. Hyde provision on abortions. Unclear yet if Vitter's amendment will get a floor vote.
Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled, "Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers." This hearing, run by Senator Grassley, will undoubtedly evoke the old 'foreigners are taking our jobs' myth. Our press release says "the reality is that work visas, like the H-1B, in fact complement and enhance the American workforce." With two Republican and three Democratic co-sponsors of the I-Squared bill who are also on Judiciary there should be a strong defense of high skill, STEM and other critical reforms in this area.
On Wednesday, House Judiciary will continue markup on a cluster of enforcement bills, including Rep. Chaffetz's asylum bill, H.R. 1153, and Rep. Gowdy's H.R. 1148 which should be renamed the "The Criminalize and Mass Deportation of Immigrants Act."
March 13, 2015
Hearings, hearings, and more hearings. Next week, relating to President Obama's executive actions on immigration.
AILA already submitted a statement for the record to the House Judiciary Committee opposing the HR1148, Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act scheduled to be heard and marked up next week. We've stated that H.R. 1148 resurrects the discredited "SAFE Act" and additionally defunds the implementation of much of the President's November 2014 executive action. It seeks to undo the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. U.S. by allowing 50 different states and thousands of localities to enact and enforce their own immigration laws.
One of the hearings, "A Review of the Department of Homeland Security's Policies and Procedures for the Apprehension, Detention, and Release of Non-Citizens Unlawfully Present in the United States-Part II," is Part II of the series on "how the President is 'failing' to protect our borders." AILA's Director of Advocacy, Greg Chen, testified before Part I of this committee to illuminate the members on this myth of non-enforcement.
For more information on the other four hearings and for Congressional updates and pending legislation, view AILA's What's Happening in Congress page.
March 12, 2015
Today, the Justice Department filed an emergency motion for a stay pending appeal, with attachments, in Texas v. United States, requesting that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals lift the current injunction in place which is blocking the President's executive actions on DAPA and expanded DACA. DOJ is asking the 5th Circuit to lift the injunction "in its entirety or, at minimum, stay it with respect to implementation in states other than Texas, or states that are not parties to the suit."
H-1B update: USCIS reminds the public that it will begin accepting FY2016 H-1B petitions on 4/1/15. USCIS expects to receive more petitions than the cap during the first 5 business days in April. If it does, all petitions received during the first 5 business days will be subject to a random selection lottery.
Lastly, The Hill describes the continuing divisions among Republicans on how to proceed on immigration. A bill introduced by Senator Grassley would prevent immigrants protected from deportation by President Obama's executive actions from claiming the earned income tax credit. Republicans are generally united on the substance of this bill, but cannot agree as to whether and how to bring up immigration again after last week's bruising defeat on the DHS appropriations bill.
March 11, 2015
Today, Senator Vitter introduced an amendment aimed at unravelling an integral part of our Constitution-the right to birthright citizenship.
The only time in our nation's history when birthright citizenship was denied to individuals was in 1857 when the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case that African-Americans could not be considered U.S. citizens. A decade later, the Dred Scott Decision was overturned with the adoption of the 13th and 14th Amendments.
To say this amendment is archaic is an understatement. That's why AILA quickly took action and urged Senators to oppose this amendment, stating that, "Citizenship based on place of birth is a fundamental right inextricably tied to our liberty and equal rights. In America, each person is born equal with no disadvantage or exalted status arising from the circumstance of their parentage. Civil rights leaders have spoken out loudly and clearly that they view this proposal as an unprecedented and unacceptable attack on the rights of all Americans."
There were also two other amendments filed today which we opposed:
Amendment 275: Would grant DHS extraordinarily broad power to detain noncitizens for prolonged or indefinite periods.
Amendment 276: Would strip away critical protections for children fleeing to the United States alone, in search of safety and humanitarian protection.
Interestingly enough, both amendments were filed by Senator Inhofe.
March 10, 2015
Today, the Senate began consideration of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S. 178). AILA does not have a position on S. 178 itself, but we are watching several harmful immigration related amendments that have been filed on the bill that could get votes in the next day or two. These include an amendment by Senator Vitter (R-LA) that seeks to eliminate birthright citizenship; one by Senator Inhofe (R-OK) that eliminates protections for unaccompanied children; and another by Senator Inhofe that would greatly expand the prolonged detention of immigrants.
March 9, 2015
The Texas lawsuit against DAPA and expanded DACA: DOJ lawyers said they would appeal the district court's preliminary injunction if Judge Hanen did not issue a decision on the government's request for an emergency stay of his decision by today. Stay tuned!
Last week, Senator Jeff Sessions announced plans to "hold oversight hearings on H-1B visas that benefit high-skilled immigrants." These oversight hearings have been widely seen as an attempt to rally support against any bill that seeks to provide reforms needed in the area of high-skilled immigration.
One such bill, the bi-partisan "I-Squared Act" introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch, seeks to expand the "number of green cards to meet economic demand without taking away green cards from other immigration categories."
Our statement in support of I-Squared said: "AILA believes that the provisions in the 'I-Squared' Act would make long overdue updates to high-skilled immigration." We've also noted the fact that this bill would "create a fund through fees to be paid by businesses seeking STEM workers that will be used to improve STEM education at the state level, helping to alleviate possible future shortages in the STEM fields."
Senator Sessions' announcement to hold oversight hearings on H-1B visas comes on the heels of his threats to block the confirmation of Attorney General nominee, Loretta Lynch, in response to the President's executive actions on immigration.
We're encouraged to find bipartisan support for the need to address critical reforms in the area of high-skilled immigration and we hope to see the I-Squared Act move forward - with or without Senator Sessions' blessing.
March 6, 2015
This past week, four bills were scheduled for markup in the House Judiciary Committee but so far, only two of the four were favorably reported to the House. The two bills moving forward are: "Legal Workforce Act" (H.R. 1147) and "Protection of Children Act of 2015" (H.R. 1149).
While the two other bills, "Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act" (H.R. 1148) and "Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015" (H.R. 1153), have yet to move forward, it's important to underscore the fact that all four of them are reincarnations of past bills AILA has actively fought against. We've submitted statements to the House Judiciary Committee expressing our concerns:
"Legal Workforce Act" (H.R. 1147)
Sponsor: Rep. Smith, Lamar
We've voiced our opposition to this bill "as it would impose new mandates on American employers and their newly hired workers without providing adequate protections for either businesses or workers. On its own, this bill would do enormous harm to our nation's economy."
"Protection of Children Act of 2015" (H.R. 1149)
Sponsor: Rep. Carter, John
We've expressly stated our concern to this bill citing it "would harm vulnerable child victims of violence" and also "result in children who are eligible for, and desperately need, humanitarian protection in the United States being sent back to the violence they escaped."
"Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act" (H.R. 1148)
Sponsor: Rep. Gowdy, Trey
We've expressed our opposition to this bill because it "not only adopts a highly punitive approach to enforcement but also would block the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing key administrative reforms announced on November 20, 2014. In so doing, H.R. 1148 prevents DHS from prioritizing enforcement resources to target serious threats to national security and public safety, effectively jeopardizing the safety of our communities rather than strengthening it."
"Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015" (H.R. 1153)
Sponsor: Rep. Chaffetz, Jason
We've voiced our concern this bill "would dramatically alter U.S. asylum and humanitarian protections, and gravely harm asylum seekers; survivors of domestic violence and trafficking; military service members; and abused, neglected or abandoned children."
For more information on Congressional updates and pending legislation, view AILA's What's Happening in Congress page.
March 4, 2015
Yesterday, Speaker Boehner announced he would allow for a vote on a "clean" Department of Homeland Security bill that does not include language to restrict use of funding to implement the President's November 2014 executive actions on immigration. The bill passed with bi-partisan support in the House, 257-167, and will now be sent to the President's desk for his signature.
While the passage of this bill ensures funding for the Department of Homeland Security through September 2015, it also ensures "an increase of $362,155,000 to support additional staffing and detention capacity" for family detention centers across the country.
AILA has long said the practice of detaining families undermines the fundamental principles of due process and fairness and speaks to the need for immediate systemic reform. AILA members who've represented a number of these families in detention have seen the devastating effects of family detention first-hand.
Our members will continue the fight to safeguard the rights of these families who are "among the most vulnerable immigrants" and ensure that they too are afforded the due process rights they deserve.
For more information on detention, view AILA's Detention and Family Detention page.
BREAKING: President Obama just signed the “clean” bill to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security through September 2015.
March 3, 2015
In the latest development of the DHS funding saga, Speaker Boehner announced that he would allow for a vote on a "clean" Department of Homeland Security funding bill.
Right now, our members are actively calling their state representatives and urging them to support legislation that would fund the DHS without any immigration-related provisions attached.
We're here to let our representatives know we support the passage of a "clean" bill.
Our members know that we can't tolerate turning the DHS budget into a game of "political football." We'll be here to ensure that a "clean" bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security moves forward!
It's time for the House of Representatives to come together and pass a bipartisan bill which funds the Department of Homeland Security without dismantling the President's executive actions on immigration.
March 2, 2015
This afternoon, the Senate will take another procedural vote on the House DHS funding bill in what seems to be a never-ending cycle of meaningless political maneuvering. There is little question the Senate will defeat that bill. On late Friday, both chambers passed and President Obama signed a one-week extension of funding for DHS that will expire on March 6. In the upcoming days, Congress will repeat the brinksmanship over immigration and the President's executive action plans. With the fiasco in the House, there is even talk of a vote to remove Speaker Boehner from his leadership post using a "motion to vacate."
On Tuesday and Wednesday, four bills are scheduled to be marked up in the House Judiciary Committee. The markups for all four bills are scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:00 am (ET). All four of these bills are a reincarnation of previous anti-immigration bills we've fought against in the past:
For more information on Congressional updates and pending legislation, view AILA's What's Happening in Congress page.
February 28, 2015
Congress passes one-week DHS funding bill:
Late Friday night, just before the DHS funding was set to expire at midnight, the House passed a Continuing Resolution keeping the department open for another week. With Democratic and Republican leadership joining together the bill passed 357-60 in the House matching a bill that the Senate passed earlier in the evening. President Obama signed the bill just before midnight. The one-week bill sets up Washington for a repeat of this past week's bruising battle over the President's Executive Action plans. For more information, see this Washington Post story.
DHS Budget Battle Update - February 27, 2015
With the clock ticking until the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) funding lapses, it's still unclear what's to come, but the Senate and House are still far apart:
Midweek, the Senate appropriations committee broke a long-standing stalemate and voted 98-2 in support of pushing a clean bill forward in an effort to prevent DHS from shutting down. This morning the Senate will vote on a bill for DHS funding without any add-ons that strip or defund executive action. But the Senate battle is not over on executive action: Republican Senator Collins introduced a bill which would eliminate nearly all the executive action plans. It's precisely for this reason that AILA sent a letter to the Senate expressing opposition to the Collins bill. A preliminary procedural vote is expected today on that bill. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scored Collins' bill and found that it increases deficit by $6.3 billion.
Late last night House Republicans announced they will do a short-term Continuing Resolution to fund DHS for just three weeks--presumably so they can wait until the 5th Circuit rules on the preliminary injunction against Obama's DACA and DAPA plans. If the House does a short-term bill, that will still need to be reconciled with the Senate bill which goes till end of the fiscal year, September 30. If the two chambers they can't resolve it today, DHS will shut down at midnight.
What will the impact be: As mentioned in AILA's Quicktake, 70% to 80% of DHS will still need to work as "essential" personnel. Currently, DHS stated it will furlough 30,000 non-essential employees but require roughly 200,000 to continue working without pay until a budget is passed.
February 26, 2015
The Director of Advocacy at AILA testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on immigration enforcement on Wednesday February 25. That same day President Obama spoke at a Town Hall event in Florida, the Senate appropriations committee voted 98-2 in support of moving a clean bill forward, and a bill was introduced by Senator Collins which would eliminate nearly all of the executive action initiatives.
In the hearing on immigration enforcement, questions arose regarding the administration's ability to enforce current immigration laws. During his testimony, Greg Chen, the Director of Advocacy at AILA, stated "In the first six years of the Obama administration, DHS removed about 2.4 million people--more than any other president during a time when net migration to the U.S. was low and border apprehensions were at a 40-year low." Chen went on to say "Absolute enforcement against every unauthorized person is not only unrealistic but also an unwise policy choice that runs counter to fundamental American values. Mass deportation would gravely fracture American society, negatively impact businesses, and hurt the economy."
The question surrounding the legality of President Obama's executive action was also brought up during the House hearing and during the Town Hall event in Florida, President Obama reiterated the message that the "approach of executive actions has been used by previous Republican and Democratic Presidents throughout modern times." In a previous statement released by AILA, we've found that the "federal government will ultimately prevail and that DAPA and expanded DACA will be fully implemented."
February 25, 2015
Back in January, in a statement submitted to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, AILA underscored the fact that "[t]he mass detention of asylum-seeking mothers and their children - many still breastfeeding infants - is a humanitarian disaster that violates fundamental due process and the civil rights of hundreds of families who have fled violence and are seeking asylum."
It's also clear that detaining these families and children takes a devastating toll on their emotional and physical well-being. We've seen the effects of detention first-hand, our "pro bono attorneys have seen children who are dehydrated, listless and cold. Infants weighing just 12 pounds have lost up to 40 percent of their body weight."
We're glad to see that Senator Blumenthal has "called on the Administration to end this policy and begin processing these families in a manner consistent with American values."
For more information on detention, view AILA's Detention and Family Detention page.
February 24, 2015
It's a step in the right direction. The Department of Homeland Security announced today that it would extend eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders seeking employment-based lawful permanent residence. Prior to this change, spouses of H-1B visa holders were forbidden under law to work while in the United States.
In a statement by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez, "Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense…It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families."
USCIS is also hosting a teleconference event regarding the regulation. For more information on the teleconference event, view USCIS Invitation to Teleconference on H-4 Regulatory Update.
February 23, 2015
In January, Representative DeSantis introduced an amendment to the DHS appropriations bill (Amendment #3) that would endanger immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who are petitioning for protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
This week, Congress must decide what to do about the DHS budget which, as of now, is only funded through February 27. The Republicans have been pushing an outrageous bill that stops all of the President's executive actions on immigration. While this bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, there's a possibility that the Republicans will call for votes on harmful immigration amendments that have a higher likelihood of getting votes from moderate Democrats--in particular Rep. DeSantis' Amendment.
This amendment, although cleverly cloaked under the guise of defending victims, would deter reporting of domestic violence by the victims, and will lead to the deportation of victims wrongly convicted due to cultural and language barriers. In a letter sent to the House of Representatives, AILA's President and Executive Director urged that "…lawmakers who genuinely seek to protect domestic violence victims should recognize the DeSantis amendment will actually discourage victims from seeking help from law enforcement and ultimately do more harm to the exact populations it purports to protect."
AILA's passionate members are actively working to ensure the language in H.R. 240, particularly the provisions in place to help identify and protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, remain intact.
For more information on the DeSantis amendment and AILA's efforts to protect victims of violence, view AILA's Immigration Reform - Protecting Victims of Violence page.
February 20, 2015
Today, the Obama administration and the Department of Justice announced it would seek an emergency stay, on or before Monday, to lift the injunction currently in place which has stymied the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiatives from moving forward.
The lawsuit filed against the President and the subsequent injunction was just an attempt to score political points. As we've said in the past, "Beneath the surface of the lawsuits are the same speculative and discredited myths of criminality and economic impacts that have long fueled anti-immigrant rhetoric." It's time that we get these initiatives back on track and provide relief to millions of immigrants, including refugee mothers and children, who have remained in the shadows for too long. From the beginning, AILA has concluded that DHS has the legal authority— now it's time for the courts to reiterate that message.
As if the courts need more help figuring this out, next week the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the "Unconstitutionality of Obama's Executive Actions on Immigration" that will feature former USCIS Counsel Stephen Legomsky testifying.
BREAKING: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia just issued a preliminary injunction against the government's no bond policy for families currently in detention!!! For more information read about it on AILA's Detention and Family Detention Resource page.
February 19, 2015
The prison industry is making huge profits from family detention. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States, just announced that in 2014 it earned $21 million in revenue for managing the Dilley family detention facility in south Texas through its contract with ICE.
We've always known that CCA would make a killing on the Dilley contract but now the information is public and we must hold CCA and ICE accountable for the outrageous, unnecessary and completely inhumane use of taxpayer dollars to jail thousands of Central American families seeking asylum. Earlier this month, the New York Times featured the incredible work of AILA and other immigration attorneys who have been volunteering tirelessly to help these families.
February 18, 2015
This past Monday, TX federal district Judge Andrew S. Hanen granted a temporary injunction against the implementation of President Obama's executive action regarding the Deferred Action for Parents of Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative.
The injunction temporarily blocks President Obama's recent executive action aimed at providing administrative relief to millions of immigrants. The President and Secretary Johnson already announced that they will appeal and fight this vigorously. AILA is confident that the federal government has the legal authority to implement these reforms and that it will ultimately prevail. As AILA President Leslie Holman said: "DAPA and expanded DACA will be fully implemented."
Despite this bump in the litigation road, AILA recommends that individuals who are potentially eligible for expanded DACA or DAPA start gathering the necessary documentation needed for the application and seek qualified counsel to give themselves the best chance for success and to avoid potential problems.
For more information on executive action and litigation, view AILA's Administrative Reform resources page.
February 17, 2015
Late yesterday, a federal district court in Texas granted a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the implementation of DAPA and the expansion of DACA in a lawsuit brought by 26 states. The Obama Administration has indicated that the Department of Justice will appeal the judge's decision.
AILA issued a press statement on the preliminary injunction - AILA: Texas Judge Made the Wrong Call; Executive Action Will be Upheld and Implemented.
Later in the day, DHS announced that it will not begin accepting applications for expanded DACA as planned tomorrow. Until further notice, DHS has also suspended the plan to accept requests for DAPA. (AILA Doc. No. 15021766).
For more on this decision, please see AILA's Administrative Relief resource page. We will continue to update our membership as more information and analysis becomes available.
February 12, 2015
The future of the DHS funding bill remains uncertain, and members of Congress are becoming increasingly frustrated. Yesterday, Speaker of the House John Boehner said that Senate Democrats should "get off their ass" and stop blocking the House-passed bill that would defund President Obama's immigration programs. Today, House Democrats responded by trying a weird procedural move to force a vote on a “clean” DHS funding bill (without the executive action policy riders). The effort failed.
Several conservative Republicans are now calling for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to change Senate rules to undo the filibuster – that’s the reason a bill needs not simply a majority of the Senate (which the Republicans have) but a full 60 votes (which they don’t) to pass.
But not all Republicans are singing the same tune. For example, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) said yesterday, “I generally agree with the Democratic position here. I think we should have never fought this battle on DHS funding. … I think it's the wrong battle for us at the wrong time."
Even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) – a staunch foe of the President’s immigration policies – wouldn’t go that far. “The answer is not to change Senate rules,” he said. "The answer is for Senate Democrat not to be obstructionists.”
Today, a Wall Street Journal blog bemoaned the Republican strategy of trying to hold up critical DHS funding over extreme, restrictionist policy riders – like defunding deferred action for DREAMers. The strategy is “headed for failure if not a more spectacular crack-up,” the piece stated.
February 9, 2015
A riveting exposé of family detention ran on the cover of this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine – featuring the feats of our very own AILA-Immigration Council Artesia Pro Bono Project! Check out "The Shame of America's Family Detention Camps.”
On Capitol Hill, the fight over DHS funding continues. Senate Democrats have already blocked a vote on the House bill – which defunds the President’s executive actions on immigration – three times.
There’s speculation that the reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-TN) keeps banging his head against this wall is to show House leadership – which wants the Senate GOP to stand firm against executive action regardless of whether it can actually garner the necessary votes (it can’t) – that they have tried. Every day, the possibility of yet another short-term DHS funding bill (continuing resolution or “CR”) gets more and more likely.
Meanwhile, House leadership still does not see that enforcement-only approaches provide no solution to our broken immigration system. On February 4, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the “Legal Workforce Act,” a mandatory E-Verify bill that is unworkable and would do more harm than good to our nation's economy.
Still waiting for the judge to issue a decision in the Texas state litigation against DAPA/DACA…
February 3, 2015
It was a busy day today on Capitol Hill for immigration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to bring the House-passed DHS funding bill - which also defunded President Obama's executive action on immigration - to the floor, but first he had to get enough votes for a "motion to proceed." As expected, he could not.
It was nearly a party-line vote. Within the GOP, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) voted against it; Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) missed the vote; and Sen. McConnell ended up having to vote against his own motion in order to preserve his ability to bring the bill back to the floor at some point in the future. All of the 48 Senate Democrats voted against it. Sixty votes would have been needed to overcome a potential filibuster. Asked if there's an option Democrats could accept that's short of a "clean" bill, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said "No."
It is unclear what Senator McConnell's next move will be. DHS funding runs out Feb. 27, and the Senate is only in session for two more weeks before that deadline.
Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee today held a hearing titled, "Examining the Adequacy and Enforcement of Our Nation's Immigration Laws" to discuss President Obama's executive actions, including the end of Secure Communities. In a written statement submitted to the hearing, AILA urged Congress to conduct more rigorous oversight of DHS and to pass reforms to bring its enforcement practices back on track, stating that "the dramatic expansion of enforcement...has not necessarily resulted in more effective enforcement."
January 28, 2015
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), held its confirmation hearing of the President's nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch. If confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the nation's first African-American woman to serve as attorney general.
The first question out of the gate (by Senator Grassley) was about the legality of the President's November 20th executive actions on immigration. Ms. Lynch stated that the important question in all cases like this is whether there is a legal framework to support the requested action, and the advice given by the Department of Justice (DOJ) must be thorough, objective and completely independent. She noted that the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel's opinion on the legality of the executive actions found that some proposals did not in fact have that legal framework, and those proposals were not adopted. Senator Grassley then asked, what are the outer limits of the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion? When we are talking about millions of people, how can this really allow for case by case adjudication? Ms. Lynch responded that prioritizing enforcement seemed to be a reasonable way to marshal limited resources. As a prosecutor, she said, I always want the ability to still take some sort of action against those who don't fall within my highest priority. Nothing in the November 20th memo takes away that ability, she noted.
The current attorney general, Eric Holder, clashed frequently with Republicans who accused him of politicizing the office, reports the New York Times. "Republican dissatisfaction with Mr. Holder was a dominant theme of the hearing," said the Times. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, went so far as to ask: 'You're not Eric Holder, are you?'"
While Ms. Lynch awaits the Senate's decision on her confirmation - which may be weeks out -- more litigation may be on the horizon. At a meeting Tuesday morning, Speaker of the House John Boehner told his conference about a plan to sue the Obama Administration over executive action. "We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue - one we believe gives us the best chance of success," Mr. Boehner told members, according to a source in the room, The Hill reports.
For more analysis of what's happening on the Hill, including an update on the House border bill vote, the Senate DHS appropriations bill and the Attorney General confirmation hearing, watch AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen's recent Quicktake.
January 26, 2015
The bipartisanship that characterized the House Homeland Security Committee in the last Congress– an aberration in the House, to be sure – is now gone. After last week’s contentious markup of Chairman Mike McCaul’s highly partisan border bill, the gloves are off. Democrats on the committee expressed frustration at the shift toward partisanship and were unified in objecting to the markup at every stage of the proceedings, which dragged out into late evening. Did it change the outcome? No. Did it give the Dems the opportunity to make their point? Yup. In the end, the “Secure Our Borders First” Act passed out of committee on a party-line vote of 18-12.
But it looks like intra-party divisions may have been partly to blame for House leadership’s surprise decision today to postpone a vote on McCaul’s bill until next week. Leadership cited the winter weather. But as the National Journal reports, the bill had already faced vocal opposition from within the GOP for not going far enough. Senator Jeff Sessions, for example, raised questions about the bill because it does not include interior enforcement measures like expansive detention and mandatory E-Verify. Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that Chairman McCaul’s bill distracts from the House DHS funding bill that defunded the President’s executive action. (The future of that DHS funding bill in the Senate, by the way, remains unclear for the second week in a row.)
The 25-state lawsuit in Texas against the President’s executive action is still awaiting a preliminary decision by the judge. In the meantime, more than 30 mayors from around the country plan to submit an amicus brief supporting executive action.
January 20, 2015
The President’s State of the Union address is tonight at 9pm ET. This is his chance to frame the Democratic Party agenda going into the 2016 election cycle. Ana Zamora, a DREAMer from Dallas, Texas, is a guest of the First Lady, and will be sitting in the gallery, reports the Dallas Morning News.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that just came out today shows that a majority of the American people – 52 percent – support President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration.
That may be true, and is clearly a win for the Administration, but few things these days are as divisive politically as immigration. At this weekend’s South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention, when asked by MSNBC “what will most distinguish the true blue conservatives from the Washington squishes in 2016,” convention organizer Joe Dugan quickly replied: “Amnesty.”
In Capitol Hill news, on Friday, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Mike McCaul introduced border security legislation that would put a lot more technology and fencing on the southern border (it even includes sector-by-sector minimum requirements) and sets out an impossible-to-attain “operational control” goal of preventing 100 percent of unlawful entries and contraband. The Homeland Committee is rushing to markup this bill (the “Secure Our Borders First Act”) Wednesday. The amendment process may end up making the bill even more extreme – more on this tomorrow.
January 16, 2015
Immigration was a big topic of discussion during the second day of the GOP's retreat in Hershey, PA - without a lot of resolution. Plenty of strategizing: how does the Senate both fund DHS in time (which would require them to pass a bill moderate enough to garner at least 6 Democratic votes) and satisfy the urge within their conference to take a stand against President Obama's executive action? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled his willingness to take up the House-passed DHS funding bill: "We're going to try to pass it," said. "If we're not able to do that, then we'll let you know what's next."
Meanwhile, Representative Mike McCaul, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, plans to unveil a beefed-up version of his border security bill from last year (H.R. 1417, the "Border Security Results Act"). How beefed up? Unclear. He says it will be "the most significant and toughest border security bill ever before Congress." The original version of his bill garnered bipartisan support and passed out of his committee unanimously, though it never got a floor vote (see AILA's summary of that bill). It focused on metrics: how do we measure operational control of the border? But last week, on a local NPR affiliate, Rep. McCaul didn't talk about metrics. He talked about battening down the hatches: "All of these illegals that are crossing in is a very costly exercise that changes the whole makeup of entire cities down there along the border. … We plan on putting more fencing down there, putting more assets and technologies down there, including assets we've used in Afghanistan that we're going to re-deploy down to the southwest border." Yikes - sounds both offensive AND expensive.
In other news, Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, penned an op-ed today in the Washington Post supporting Senator Hatch's "I Squared" bill, which increases the H1-B cap and enables the recapture of unused green card numbers. This bipartisan bill was cosponsored by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "These are badly needed reforms that should have happened long ago," Vivek says, but the bill has gotten mired in politics.
January 15, 2015
At the joint House-Senate GOP retreat today in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Senate Whip John Cornyn pledged that Republican leaders would not allow DHS funding to expire. “No more drama associated with shutting down, for example, the Department of Homeland Security. That’s off the table,” he told reporters.
Even some of the Senate's fiercest critics of immigration reform are wary of signaling DHS shutdown – including Senator Jeff Sessions. "We need to fund DHS. I think that's high ground," Senator Sessions said Tuesday. But let’s be clear: he’s no fan of executive action – "I think it's exceedingly important that we not fund government actions that we think are unwise and are unlawful," he said. And it didn’t stop him from distributing to his colleagues a 23-page "Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority" making a staunch case against immigration (including what he calls the “Silicon Valley STEM Hoax”). Ultimately, Senator Cornyn said the GOP leadership has yet to finalize its game plan about how to handle the House legislation.
So… what happened at the preliminary injunction hearing in the Texas v. United States lawsuit challenging DAPA/DACA? The judge did not issue a decision yet. Some interesting highlights from the hearing, courtesy of Emma Perez-Trevino, Senior Investigative Reporter for the Valley Morning Star (who was live-tweeting from the courtroom): Judge Hanen told the parties that talking to someone in Brownsville about immigration is "like talking to Noah about the flood. We are the spearhead of the spear if there is any tip to it." But he also stated in the beginning, "There aren't any bad guys in this. This is an area of legitimate debate.”Judge Hanan said he would rule as expeditiously as possible. The judge granted the government’s request for additional time to file one more reply brief, by January 30. It’s expected that the judge would hold off on his decision long enough to take that brief into consideration, but nothing is certain.
FYI, here is the list of House Republicans who voted NO on yesterday’s amendment to repeal DACA – is your Representative on the list?
Mark Amodei (Nev.)
Mike Coffman (Colo.)
Ryan Costello (Pa.)
Carlos Curbelo (Fla.)
Jeff Denham (Calif.)
Charlie Dent (Pa.)
Mario Díaz-Balart (Fla.)
Robert Dold (Ill.)
Renee Ellmers (N.C.)
Chris Gibson (N.Y.)
Richard Hanna (N.Y.)
Cresent Hardy (Nev.)
Joe Heck (Nev.)
John Katko (N.Y.)
Pete King (N.Y.)
Adam Kinzinger (Ill.)
Frank LoBiondo (N.J.)
Tom MacArthur (N.J.)
Martha McSally (Ariz.)
Pat Meehan (Pa.)
Devin Nunes (Calif.)
Dave Reichert (Wash.)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) Chris Smith (N.J.)
Fred Upton (Mich.)
David Valadao (Calif.)
January 14, 2015
Not a surprise, but today, the House of Representatives passed a DHS funding bill that defunded executive action. The House approved five amendments to the bill before passing the entire amended measure by a vote of 236-191. AILA submitted a letter opposing four of these amendments.
The one bright spot in the voting this morning was just how close one of the amendments came to failing. Twenty-six Republicans voted against Rep. Blackburn's amendment defunding the 2012 DACA initiative - well more Republicans than voted against any other amendment. With 218 votes needed to pass anything in the House, this amendment ONLY received 218. Yay DREAMers!! Here's the National Journal's take on the significance of these votes by House Republican moderates.
The next stop for this bill is the Senate, and as it stands right now, it doesn't seem likely to garner the 60 votes necessary. This will probably be the first chance for immigration debate in the new Senate, however, so all eyes will be on this process.
AILA continues to call press attention to the travesty of family detention. Christina Brown, Lead Attorney for the AILA-Council Artesia Pro Bono Project, participated in a press call today about family detention. Christina and others toured the new family detention facility in Dilley, Texas yesterday - this is will be largest immigration detention facility in the country at 2,400 beds! Christina spoke brilliantly and passionately about two heartbreaking cases she's seen on the ground. Here's the link to the audio file.
Tomorrow, a federal district court will hear oral argument on Texas v. United States - the lawsuit brought by 25 states challenging the president's executive action. This will be a preliminary injunction hearing. So the court will be determining whether it will block DAPA and Expanded DACA or not. Stay tuned for updates tomorrow about what the decision was, and what it might mean for the future of DAPA/DACA.
Lawsuit or no lawsuit, however, Congressman Luis Gutierrez - perhaps the most animated proponent of immigration reform in Congress - is going on the road! Tonight, the Congressman and other officials are kicking off a nationwide "what-does-executive-action-mean-for-you educational tour."
Lastly, Senator Hatch has reintroduced his very important high-skilled immigration bill. Among other key changes, the Immigration Innovation Act - or "I-Squared" - would raise the yearly cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to up to 195,000 and remove limits on the number of high-skilled visas for employees with advanced degrees and increase the number of green cards available. See our press release for AILA's take. Clearly, these are much needed business immigration reforms. Not so clear are the prospects for this measure to move forward in the 114th Congress so please stay tuned to IP2015 for updates.
January 13, 2015
On the opening day of the new Congress (this past Tuesday), John Boehner was re-elected Speaker of the House. But he faced a major defection: 25 Republicans voted for someone else, double the number who launched a failed coup attempt against the Speaker two years ago. “In recent history, no sitting Speaker has seen so many defections from his or her own party in the first vote of a new Congress,” Scott Wong of The Hill reports. In the aftermath, two of the defectors were removed from the powerful Rules Committee, and the Speaker announced that he will be initiating a “family conversation” to ease divisions within the House GOP conference.
The big news on Capitol Hill this week is the showdown over DHS funding. The White House has threatened to veto the funding bill if it includes language gutting the President’s executive action on immigration. Tomorrow, the House will vote on amendments designed to do just that. But the bill must still go to the Senate – and a bill that takes aim at executive action has little chance of getting the necessary 60 votes in the Senate. Today, AILA wrote to Representatives to oppose these attempts to undo DACA and DAPA as well as other much-needed reforms that were part of executive action and criticized the strategy of playing politics with DHS funding.
In other news, New York launched its municipal ID program! The IDNYC program will help the city's estimated half a million undocumented immigrants and others who have been unable to get the identification – AILA NY’s chair Neena Dutta blogged on this great development.