Thursday, April 26, 2018

DACA Update #5: What Does the Latest Ruling Mean?

On April 24 DC District Court John D. Bates issued a complicated decision on DACA which many people seem to misunderstand. The short version is that the judge ordered a complete reinstatement of DACA unless the Trump administration comes up with a better reason for ending it. The government has 90 days to improve its original claims, and of course a higher court could overrule Bates. So the decision definitely doesn’t mean DACA recipients are safe.
DACA supporters march in San Francisco. Photo: David Bacon
Bates objected to errors in the grounds Jeff Sessions gave last September for rescinding DACA (see DACA Update #2 for other issues with Sessions on DACA). Basically Sessions' problem was that the DACA termination was going to be unpopular, so he wanted to find statutory and constitutional objections to the program instead of admitting the administration just didn't want it. But he botched the job.

Presumably the administration could use the 90 days to find a competent lawyer who could construct a better case for ending DACA.

Here’s a link to Bates’ decision, which is long and closely reasoned:

And here’s the letter Sessions wrote in September to justify ending DACA: https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/file/994651/download

This is a news article on the decision from Vox’s Dara Lind:

And here’s a news article on the administration’s response initial response to Bates; it’s as sloppy as Sessions’ original memo:

Finally, this is TPOI  co-author Wilson’s comment on the New York Times article about Bates’ rejection of  Sessions’ rationale for terminating DACA: 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border

Officials presented Mr. Trump with a list of proposals, including the plan to routinely separate immigrant adults from their children. The president urged Ms. Nielsen to move forward with the policies, the person said.
Photo: Jennifer Whitney/NY Times 
By Caitlin Dickerson, New York Times
April 20, 2018
On Feb. 20, a young woman named Mirian arrived at the Texas border carrying her 18-month-old son. They had fled their home in Honduras through a cloud of tear gas, she told border agents, and needed protection from the political violence there.

She had hoped she and her son would find refuge together. Instead, the agents ordered her to place her son in the back seat of a government vehicle, she said later in a sworn declaration to a federal court. They both cried as the boy was driven away.[…]

Read the full story:
Also see: 

Monday, April 16, 2018

NYC, 4/18/18 and 4/19/18: Migrants, Justice and Solidarity

Trump calls for militarizing the border—how should we answer him? School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) and local organizations are sponsoring two events in New York City this week about ways to build solidarity with Mexican and Central American migrants and activists.

Justice for Migrants:
From Central America and Mexico to the Border
Wednesday, April 18th, 7pm
Holyrood Episcopal Church
(at 179th St. & Ft. Washington Avenue, Washington Heights)

Eduardo Garcia, a national organizer of the School of the Americas Watch, will discuss the transnational solidarity being built around the Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos in Oaxaca, which is an initiative of more than 100 organizations grassroots and popular organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean that seeks to monitor, document, disseminate, promote and demand the exercise of Peoples' Human Rights, Democracy and Social Justice from a perspective of construction and deepening of resistance, rebellion, memory and popular power.

Eduardo will show about 10 minutes of his documentary project, being co-produced with Samantha Demby, about the People’s Observatory and its caravan to the 2017 Border Encuentro in Nogales Sonora-Arizona, highlighting the importance of indigenous and women’s leadership in Observatory and its national and international solidarity actions. He will also talk about a delegation of observers for the upcoming Mexican elections, being co-organized by SOAW and the Observatorio, and how to be a part of it.

Sponsored by: NYC SOA Watch & NY CISPES. For more info., call 917-214-4870

Solidarity Knows No Borders!
From SOA Watch to the People's Human Rights Observatory

Thursday, April 19th, 7:00pm
War Resisters League
168 Canal Street, #600, Manhattan
(6, J, Z, N, R, Q, W trains to Canal Street)

The People's Human Rights Observatory is an initiative of grassroots and popular organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Palestine that seeks to monitor, document, disseminate, promote and demand the protection of Latin American communities Human Rights, Democracy and Social Justice from a perspective of constructing and deepening of resistance, rebellion, memory and popular power. This is an effort of more than 100 organizations, with representation from indigenous leaders, Nobel Peace Prize recipients, feminist groups, agrarian movements, academics and journalists. SOA Watch’s presence in the Observatory is the materialization of active solidarity with Latin American movements and an example of resistance against the oppressive systems perpetuated by the US imperialism. This collective effort is an example of the dignity that unites free peoples protecting their historic memory and autonomy.

With Eduardo ‘Lalo' García, Organizer with School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), speaking against border militarization and for cross border solidarity

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Anti-Immigrant Agenda Advances: Don’t Be Distracted by Trump’s Rants

Prayer vigil in Morristown, TN, elementary school after raid. Photo: CNN
Update 4/26/18: At an April 25 congressional hearing, Jeff Sessions announced that he had changed his mind and wouldn't suspend the Legal Orientation Program, at least for now.

In a major raid on April 5, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained 97 employees at a family-owned meat-processing plant in Bean Station, Tennessee. The detentions devastated the rural area’s immigrant community. Local sources reported that some 600 children failed to attend school the next day, and churches were providing shelter for dozens of minors left without caregivers. More than 1,000 people gathered at a local elementary school on April 8 to show support for the detainees’ families. This was reportedly the largest workplace raid since the administration of George W. Bush, which carried out a number of massive raids, culminating in the May 2008 detention of 389 workers at a meat-processing plant in Postville, Iowa

The dramatic raid in Tennessee was hardly more than a blip in most national media. Immigration coverage that week had been overwhelmed by a burst of incoherent and fact-free rants from Donald Trump about borders and what he called “ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release.” But the raid is an important example of the extent to which the Trump administration has already been able to implement a hard-line anti-immigrant agenda without the need for Congressional approval—and without attracting a lot of attention from the media or the groups that focus on lobbying and electoral politics.

Making Bad Courts Worse

One area where the administration has concentrated its efforts is the immigration court system.

Despite the name, these courts aren’t part of the U.S. judiciary system; they’re administrative courts operated by the Department of Justice. In other words, an immigration judge is employed by the same executive branch which comes to the court seeking an immigrant’s deportation. This essential unfairness has been detailed neatly by TV satirist John Oliver. But now Attorney General Jeff Sessions is working to make the system even worse.

The immigration courts suffer from a massive backlog of more than 650,000 cases, one aggravated by the administration’s decision to step up detentions and deportations. Congress has provided funds to hire 100 additional immigration judges to help with the backlog, but this isn’t enough for Sessions. In a memo sent out at the end of March, the attorney general set a quota for immigration judges: starting in October each judge is expected to clear 700 cases a year. What this will produce is “an assembly line, not a judicial system,” according to a Los Angeles Times editorial, with “the very real risk of subverting due process rights as individual judges place their job security ahead of justice.”

Jeff Sessions. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Since the cases brought before immigration courts are civil, not criminal, the government isn’t required to provide the immigrant defendants with lawyers. Since 2003 the Justice Department has sponsored a program (the Legal Orientation Program, LOP) which gives  some relief by offering legal advice to about 50,000 immigrants each years. A 2012 Justice Department study found that the LOP actually saves the government money and helps reduce the courts’ backlog, but as of April 10 the department had suspended the program, ostensibly in order to audit its cost-effectiveness. “This is a blatant attempt by the administration to strip detained immigrants of even the pretense of due-process rights,” Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, told the Washington Post.

Sessions is also working to reduce the independence of the immigration court system’s appellate unit, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The attorney general has the authority to rule on cases and even to overturn BIA decisions, but Sessions’ predecessors used the powers sparingly. In contrast, the current AG has taken over three cases this year alone and has already decided one in a way that threatens the due process rights of asylum seekers. Stephen Legomsky, a former lead counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, calls the attorney general substituting his decisions for those of the BIA “analogous to a prosecutor in a criminal case deciding the case.”

Republican “Family Values”

The executive branch also has a great deal of leeway in how it handles the detention and deportation of immigrants it targets. There have been many abuses of this power in the past, but the present administration seems on track to set a record.

On April 10 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class action suit in federal court in Boston challenging what it charged was a pattern of the government detaining immigrants as they were applying to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  to gain legal status as spouses of U.S. citizens. The suit cites seven cases in January alone of immigrants arrested while they were visiting USCIS offices in Massachusetts or Rhode Island while engaged in the application process.

The government can be equally harsh in the way it treats immigrants once they are detained. Before last December, immigration authorities released most pregnant immigrants while their cases were pending. The Trump administration ended the policy in December, and 506 pregnant women were placed in detention during the first three months of this year. Meanwhile, advocates say the Border Patrol has instituted a policy of separating the families of asylum seekers, leaving even very small children in isolation from their parents.

The Department of Homeland Security denies that there is a policy “that encourages the separation of parents from their children as a punitive or deterrence measure,” but advocates say there are “hundreds of cases.” This is from an administration led by a political party claiming that “family is the bedrock of our nation.”

“Thank You for Your Service”

But Trump’s immigration apparatus follows policies still more incompatible with his party’s supposed values. Sometimes it’s hard to see any motive for the government’s actions other than an eagerness to meet arrest quotas—or maybe just nastiness on the part of empowered bureaucrats.

The president claims to want “merit-based” immigration, but his immigration agents seem to have no problem targeting well-educated professionals who are already living here. In early April ICE seized a New Jersey physics teacher named Ahmed Abdelbasit and threw him into detention. If deported, Abdelbasit would face a death sentence in his native Egypt resulting from political activism. Earlier in the year ICE agents detained Syed Jamal, a chemistry teacher in Kansas, and an Illinois doctor, Lukasz Niec. Both are longtime residents with U.S. citizen children.

Deported veteran Miguel Perez
Republicans routinely call for “supporting our troops,” but this apparently doesn’t include Miguel Perez, a Mexican-born green card recipient, who served two tours in Afghanistan. Diagnosed with PTSD after his return, Perez fell into drug abuse, was convicted for an attempted cocaine sale, and served half of a 15-year sentence. The Obama administration began deportation proceedings against Perez in 2016, but the Trump administration finished the job—despite pleas from supporters, including Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). The veteran was deported to Mexico on March 24 with little more than the clothes on his back.

And what about the president’s claim to be protecting U.S. citizens from the MS-13 gang? In 2015 a Salvadoran youth on Long Island decided to quit the gang and help the authorities arrest other members. We might expect the U.S. government to shield the teenager, possibly putting him in the witness protection program in order to encourage future cooperation from others. Instead, immigration authorities placed him in detention and are now attempting to deport him to El Salvador, where he feels sure he’ll be murdered as an informant.

Such practices have of course met a great deal of criticism. Last year White House chief of staff John Kelly, then the DHS head, had an answer for critics in Congress: “If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,” he said. “Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”

Monday, April 9, 2018

Grassroots Resistance to the Deportation Machine: Further Considerations

 Joana Toro /VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images
An April 5 Los Angeles Times opinion piece explains some of the avenues for large-scale, coordinated grassroots resistance to Trump’s immigration agenda. In “The case for non-governmental sanctuary for immigrants,” law professors Rose Cuison Villazor and Pratheepan Gulasekaram note the “bold steps” that “many institutions of everyday life — churches, schools, employers, businesses and nonprofits of every stripe — are taking…to protect undocumented immigrants.”

In a draft article last revised on April 4, law professor Bill Ong Hing, the author of Defining America Through Immigration, notes that many major corporations have denounced the Trump government’s rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Could they follow through on their denunciations by continuing to employ DACA recipients after their work permits expire?  Professor Hing considers the legal and moral implications of civil disobedience by employers.—TPOI Editor

The Case for Nongovernmental Sanctuary for Immigrants

By Pratheepan Gulasekaram and Rose Cuison Villazor, Los Angeles Times
April 5, 2018
The Trump administration intensified its fight with California last month when the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit arguing that the state's so-called sanctuary laws undermine federal immigration enforcement and are therefore unconstitutional. A few cities and counties in California have also opposed the policies in recent weeks. Despite all the bluster, California is likely to prevail. The Supreme Court's governing interpretation of the 10th Amendment protects the autonomy of states and prevents them from being conscripted into federal enforcement programs.

Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, a new development could undercut the DOJ's anti-sanctuary campaign. Across California and the country, many institutions of everyday life — churches, schools, employers, businesses and nonprofits of every stripe — are taking bold steps to protect undocumented immigrants.[…]

Read the full article:

Beyond DACA – Defying Employer Sanctions Through Civil Disobedience

By Bill Ong Hing (draft essay)
Last revised April 4, 2018
The fact that DACA recipients — and essentially all Dreamers — have become part of the conscience of the country and a critical part of the economy is illustrated by the strong support for them exhibited by major businesses in the United States. Dozens of CEOs from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, AT&T, Wells Fargo, Google, and Facebook urged the president to preserve the program. After the Trump Administration announced the rescission of the DACA program on September 5, 2017, even more companies denounced the action and called on Congress to pass the Dream Act before the DACA termination date of March 5, 2018.

Although the statements of support for DACA recipients and Dreamers, and calls for passage of the Dream Act are important, are employers willing to do more?[…]

Read the full draft article:

Friday, April 6, 2018

Honduras and Immigration: An Unfortunate Prediction

Hondurans in this year’s caravan. AP Photo/Felix Marquez
In November 2009 Monthly Review’s blog carried an article by Politics of Immigration co-author David Wilson about the likely impact of the June 2009 coup in Honduras on immigration from that country to the U.S.:

So far the military coup that removed Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office on June 28 hasn’t produced any noticeable increase in immigration from the Central American country — probably because Honduran workers and campesinos are actively organizing against the coup regime and so far have held it in check.  But the situation could change quickly if repression against these grassroots movements increases.  More than a half million people fled to the United States from the region during the 1980s, when the U.S. government was funding rightwing forces during civil conflicts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.  And people may remember the effects of a very similar coup in Haiti in 1991: the repression that followed the overthrow of President Jean Bertrand Aristide drove tens of thousands of Haitians to undertake the dangerous sea journey to Florida in overloaded boats.

The article went on to discuss the anti-immigrant rants of James DeMint, then a senator from South Carolina and a favorite of the immigration restrictionist Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). DeMint was a strong supporter of the Honduran coup.

If the coup regime manages to hold on to power, Wilson wrote, and refugees start fleeing their country for exile in the United States, we can be sure Senator DeMint and FAIR will be among the first to ask what part of “illegal” these Hondurans don’t understand.

DeMint has passed into relative obscurity, but his co-thinkers now dictate the White House’s immigration policies. And Honduras' coup regime has held on, solidifying its power last November with an electoral victory questioned by international observers but backed by the government of Donald Trump. This week the rightwing media learned from BuzzFeed that hundreds of Hondurans were fleeing their country’s repressive government in a caravan passing through southern Mexico. Trump reacted with tweets and rants that even the corporate media qualified as “unhinged.” Now he’s moving to send National Guard forces to the border to stop what he incoherently called a “journey coming up” in which he apparently thinks “women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”

Just as predicted, unfortunately. The names have changed, but the hypocrisy hasn’t.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Stand Up, Fight Back: The Rising Militancy of the Immigrant Rights Movement

“The only way we can stop the deportations now is to demonstrate, to commit mass civil disobedience, over and over again. Sanctuary in churches must become militant mass sanctuary in the streets.”

By David L. Wilson, Truthout
April 2, 2018
Activism for immigrant rights may be about to get much more militant.

Some 1.1 million undocumented people -- beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) -- are slated to lose their protection against deportation over the next two years, along with the possibility of obtaining work permits or aid for higher education. The result will of course be devastating for them and for their relatives, friends and communities, but there will also be repercussions for the society as a whole, especially in areas with large immigrant populations.[...]

Read the full article:
May 1, 2017, in San Francisco. Photo: Peg Hunter