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Archive for May, 2010

LGBT Community Demands Same Sex Marriage be Recognized by U.S. Immigration Laws

May 31st, 2010 No comments
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The NYCLU, in collaboration with the LGBT Community Center and the Office of Congressman Jerrold Nadler, looks at discrimination against LGBT families in our immigration system and the ongoing efforts to reform the system in Congress through the Uniting American Families Act and comprehensive immigration reform.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler has been inspired to reform the system in Congress, just by watching people get hurt because same sex marriages are not recognized by the Federal Government, including for Immigration purposes.  Additionally, he said that keeping couples apart is grotesquely cruel, and that sometimes the government has to act in ways that are cruel to people unavoidably, but government should never be cruel for no purposes.

Since there are many countries that can even punish LGBT by law, and other countries that have no legislation on their books to protect them, many LGBT come to the U.S. seeking freedom and safety.

Gay Man Could Face Death in Home Country of Iran if Deported

May 29th, 2010 No comments
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Mohammad Abdollahi was putting his life on the line when he lobbied for immigration reform in Arizona this week, experts say.

The undocumented Ann Arbor resident, along with three other students, was arrested Monday and later detained by immigration officials in Arizona when he refused to leave Sen. John McCain’s office. The incidents spawned a response across the country, including two vigils, a protest and hunger strike among some Michigan students.

Though the four have been released, they now face deportation hearings in immigration courts in their home states, officials said Wednesday.

But what makes Abdollahi’s case unique is he is gay, and deportation for him could mean death in his native country of Iran.

“His safety and well-being would be in immediate jeopardy if he is returned to Iran,” said Steve Ralls, spokesman for Immigration Equality, a New York-based legal aid organization for gay immigrants. “It is a notorious homophobic country where lesbians and gays routinely face torture, violence and even execution. It is among the most dangerous countries on the globe for lesbian and gay people.”

But Abdollahi could seek asylum because of the violence in Iran, Ralls added. A policy in place since the mid-1990s requires that asylum seekers file paperwork within a year of their arrival in the U.S.

“His case presents some challenges,” Ralls said. “It is a high bar to meet but it is not an impossible one.”

Abdollahi, who came to the U.S. when he was 3 with his family, said he was aware of the risk he was taking when he refused to leave McCain’s office. But he thought it was critical to be part of civil disobedience to pressure lawmakers to pass the DREAM Act — federal legislation that would create citizenship for undocumented youths and give them higher education access — even if it means he could get deported to Iran.

“It’s a worry,” said Abdollahi, 24. “But if we can get the DREAM Act passed it would help so many lives, it would be worth it. I have seen too many friends get deported.”

Abdollahi’s father came to the U.S. on a student visa 21 years ago, and the family lost their legal status when Abdollahi was 8 or 9 years old, he said. He graduated from Huron High School, and went to Washtenaw Community College.

In 2007, he sought to transfer to Eastern Michigan University to train to be a social worker. A counselor gave him an acceptance letter, and five minutes later took it back after they became aware of his citizenship status, he said.

Immigration Enforcement without Comprehensive Immigration Reform Will Not Work.

May 28th, 2010 No comments
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This week, the Senate will consider amendments to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill that would add thousands of additional personnel along the border (including the National Guard), as well as provide millions of dollars for detention beds, technology, and resources.  Yesterday, bowing to pressure, President Obama announced that he would send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border and request $500 million for additional resources.  All of this attention on resources for the border ignores the fact that border enforcement alone is not going to resolve the underlying problems with our broken immigration system.

For more than two decades, the U.S. government has tried without success to stamp out unauthorized immigration through enforcement efforts at the border and in the interior of the country, but without fundamentally reforming the broken immigration system that spurs unauthorized immigration in the first place.  While billions upon billions of dollars have been poured into enforcement, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has increased dramatically.

The only way to stop illegal immigration is to punish the employers who hire unauthorized workers. The best way to stop employers from hiring illegally is by offering lawful permanent residence to illegal immigrants that cooperate with federal authorities in prosecuting the employers that hire them. If an employer hires an unauthorized worker and the worker reports the hiring to the federal government and cooperates with the prosecution, the worker should be granted lawful permanent residence. This would stop employers from continue the practice of hiring undocumented workers. If the US government was serious about stopping illegal immigration, they would start with the source of the problem, which is the pull effect of illegal employment in the US.

Study Shows that Immigrants Do NOT Steal Jobs from Americans

May 28th, 2010 No comments
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A coalition of groups that want to limit immigration, legal and illegal, has an ad claiming that illegal immigrants steal jobs from Americans. That’s a popular talking point among the build-the-fence, seal-the border types, but it’s just not so.

The truth is that immigrants don’t take American jobs, according to most economists and others who have studied the issue.

Policy analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, Madeleine Sumption, claims that Immigrant workers create almost as many jobs as they occupy. Additionally Sumption added that Immigrant workers often create the jobs they work in and they also buy things making the economy bigger.

As she and a co-author wrote in a report last year for a group created by the British government:

Somerville and Sumption: The impact of Immigration on a nation’s economy remains small, for several reasons. Immigrants are not competitive in many types of jobs, and hence are not direct substitutes for natives. Local employers increase demand for low-skilled labor in areas that receive low-skilled immigrant inflows. Immigrants contribute to demand for goods and services that they consume, in turn increasing the demand for labor. And immigrants contribute to labor market efficiency and long-term economic growth.

Of course, none of that matters to the folks who don’t live in the reality-based universe.

President Obama to send National Guard to Southwest to Secure Border

May 27th, 2010 No comments
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President Obama will dispatch 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border and seek increased spending on law enforcement to combat drug smuggling after demands from Republican and Democratic lawmakers that border security be tightened.

The decision was disclosed by a Democratic lawmaker and confirmed by administration officials after President Obama met on Tuesday with Republican senators, several of whom have demanded that troops be placed at the border. The lawmakers learned of the plan after the meeting.

But the move also reflected political pressure in the president’s own party with midterm election campaigns under way and with what is expected to be a tumultuous debate on overhauling immigration law coming up on Capitol Hill.

The issue has pushed Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, into a corner. As governor of Arizona, she demanded that Guard troops be put on the border. But since joining the Obama administration, she has remained noncommittal about the idea, saying as recently as a month ago that other efforts by the President had made the border “as secure now as it has ever been.”

The troops will be stationed in the four border states for a year, White House officials said. It is not certain when they will arrive, the officials said.

Rally in Seattle Demands President Obama Pursue Immigration Reform

May 26th, 2010 No comments
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SEATTLE — A rally for immigration reform that started at Seattle’s Federal Building lasted for more than two hours and blocked three intersections Thursday afternoon.

More than 250 people gathered at the rally, including the groups Church Council of Greater Seattle, OneAmerica and the Washington Immigration Reform Coalition.

Demonstrators in white shirts, who were protesters willing to be arrested, locked arms in the lobby of the building in an attempt to block the elevators. That group sang as protesters chanted, “Obama, you promised; you’ve got to keep your promise!”

“I’m supporting these people. They need immigration reform, they’re human like us, and they are not treated the right way,” said demonstrator Carlos Hernandez.

Many protesters carried signs that said “Immigration Reform Now” and “America Show Your Morals.”

Is Immigration the New Rock ‘n’ Roll?

May 26th, 2010 No comments
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Forget sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll; immigration is a new generational fault line.

In the wake of the new Arizona law allowing the police to detain people they suspect of entering the country illegally, young people are largely displaying vehement opposition.
Meanwhile, baby boomers are siding with older Americans and supporting the Arizona law.

This emerging divide has appeared in a handful of surveys taken since the measure was signed into law. The generational conflict could complicate chances of a federal immigration overhaul any time soon.

Immigration, which census figures show declined sharply from the Depression through the 1960s, reached a historic low point the year after Woodstock. From 1860 through 1920, 13 percent to 15 percent of the country was foreign born — a rate similar to today’s, when immigrants make up about 12.5 percent of the country.

Boomers and their parents also spent their formative years away from the cities, where newer immigrants tended to gather — unlike today’s young people who have become more involved with immigrants, through college, or by moving to urban areas.

“It’s hard for them to share each others’ views on what’s going on,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “These older people grew up in largely white suburbs or largely segregated neighborhoods, while the young people have grown up in an interracial culture.”

In a new report based on census figures titled “The State of Metropolitan America,” Mr. Frey found that Arizona has the largest cultural generation gap, between older Americans who are 83 percent white and children under 18 who are increasingly 57 percent of minorities.

Florida ranks sixth on Mr. Frey’s cultural generation gap list, with a 29 percentage point difference between the percentage of white people among its older residents and the percentage that whites make up of its children.

Some young people agree just as many baby boomers support more open immigration policies. In the poll, a majority of Americans in all age groups described illegal immigration as a serious problem.

Still, divisions were pronounced by age: while 41 percent of Americans ages 45 to 64 and 36 percent of older Americans said immigration levels should be decreased, only 24 percent of those younger than 45 said so.

Still, in interviews across the nation, young people emphasized the benefits of immigrants. Andrea Bonvecchio, 17, the daughter of a naturalized citizen from Venezuela, said going to a high school that is approximately 98 percent Hispanic meant she could find friends who enjoyed both Latin music and her favorite movie, “The Parent Trap.”

Nicole Vespia, 18, of Selden, N.Y., said old people who were worried about immigrants stealing jobs were giving up on an American ideal: capitalist meritocracy.

“If someone works better than I do, they deserve to get the job,” Ms. Vespia said. “I work in a stockroom, and my best workers are people who don’t really speak English. It’s cool to get to know them.”

Her parents’ generation, she added, just needs to adapt.

Couple Suffers Due to Strict Reading of Immigration Laws

May 25th, 2010 No comments
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They met on the eHarmony dating site — Diana Ali, 27, a psychologist from Los Angeles and Karsten van Sander, 33, a German theologian at Kings College, London.
Their wedding last June capped more than two years of trans-Atlantic trips for the couple who settled in Plainsboro, N.J.

But all that harmony was abruptly broken last week, when three immigration agents arrived at their apartment and took Mr. van Sander away in handcuffs. Held in an immigration detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., Mr. van Sander, a dual British and German citizen, faced deportation without a hearing.

Reason: an error in his green card paperwork, which he filed after he entered the country under the visa-waiver program, which enables citizens and nationals from 36 countries, including Germany and Britain, to travel to and enter the United States for business or visitor purposes for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. However, the program includes a rarely noticed provision requiring foreign visitors to give up any right to contest summary deportation, except in a claim for asylum.

In practice, however, a more lenient law has long governed the way immigration authorities treat foreigners who marry American citizens: Even if they overstayed, as long as they originally entered the country legally, they had been allowed to adjust their status to legal permanent resident.

Mr. van Sander, whose original paperwork would have stopped the 90-day clock if it had not been flawed, seemed to be on track for such an adjustment in March, when the couple refilled all the papers on the advice of an immigration officer.

But on April 22, a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in a separate case changed the legal landscape for many couples in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the Virgin Islands. Lawyers say the van Sanders are among thousands of couples who could be adversely affected by the decision, leaving the foreign spouses no defense against deportation if immigration authorities decide to expel them.

The decision echoes and sharpens recent rulings in 6 of the 12 regional circuits across the country (but not the one that covers New York), holding that after a 90-day stay, foreigners who enter the country under the visa-waiver program cannot fight summary deportation based on their marriages to American citizens.

“It’s surreal,” said Ms. van Sander, who went to immigration court with the Princeton chaplain and a lawyer on Tuesday to plead for her husband’s release. The judge told them that the appeals court’s decision left her no jurisdiction over Mr. van Sander, and that he was not entitled to a bail hearing.

But on Friday, Mr. van Sander’s 10th day in jail, the government responded to inquiries from The New York Times by announcing that he would be released. Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency was using its discretion to let Mr. van Sander try to repair his case.

Under the appeals court’s decision, the larger issue remains. In the Third Circuit, Citizenship and Immigration Services will no longer approve green cards based on marriage if the application is made more than 90 days after the foreign spouse entered on a visa waiver, officials said.

Until now, even in states in other circuits that have issued similar rulings, immigration authorities have generally used the more-lenient law and their discretion to approve such cases, rather than order deportation, immigration lawyers say.

Coming as the Obama administration says its immigration enforcement priority is deporting dangerous criminals, Mr. van Sander’s arrest bewildered many in the couple’s 40-member Christian fellowship group, said the chaplain, the Rev. B. Keith Brewer.

In light of 9/11, the chaplain said, he cannot blame the government for following the letter of the law. But, he added, it was absurd to lock up the young theologian, without his books, at a cost of $175 a day.

“Our tax dollars are paying to fly him back to London,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Unlike the plaintiff in the Third Circuit case, Heathcliffe John Bradley, a New Zealander who arrived in 1996 and had overstayed his visa by 10 years by the time he married, Mr. van Sander always returned to Britain or his parents’ home in Solingen, Germany, before the 90 days were up, his wife said.

After their wedding, they visited his parents, returned to the United States in August and filed his immigration paperwork in September, which should have stopped the 90-day clock. All seemed to be in order, Ms. van Sander said, because her husband was sent a work authorization, and began teaching at a local Christian college.

Not until their immigration interview on March 9, she said, were they informed that they had omitted a crucial document known as the I-130, her petition as an American citizen on his behalf. Without it, his application to become a permanent resident was not valid, and the clock had been running; officially, he had overstayed by four months. They tried to file all the correct forms without a lawyer, however if two PH.D students can’t figure it out, it shows the paperwork is really confusing.

The couple quickly refilled, paying the $355 in fees a second time, and canceled a trip to London, as the immigration officer directed.

He told them that as long as they filed immediately and as long as Karsten entered legally (which he did), that they were safe.

Instead, the case was apparently referred to agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On May 4, Ms. van Sander received a text message at work from her husband saying he was in immigration custody.

Daniel L. Weiss, a lawyer the couple hired Thursday evening, said he was grateful that by Friday afternoon officials in both agencies were scrambling to reopen it and fix it. By 3:30 p.m., a shaken Mr. van Sander walked out of jail into his wife’s arms.

“But this is much bigger than just them,” Mr. Weiss said. “The larger question is government policy?” From New Jersey’s Italian- and Irish-American families alone, he added, “there are going to be a hundred stories like this coming into my office.”

The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge has Introduced a New Complaint Procedure for Problematic Immigration Judges

May 24th, 2010 2 comments
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The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) regularly monitors immigration judge (IJ)
performance and conduct through EOIR’s performance management program, and through its
daily supervision of the courts. In instances where concerns regarding an immigration judge’s
conduct arise, the OCIJ is committed to ensuring that any allegations are investigated and
resolved in a fair and expeditious manner.

Complaints against IJs may be initiated in one of two ways.

First, an individual or group may
file a formal complaint with either the Assistant Chief Immigration Judge for Conduct and
Professionalism (ACIJ C/P) or the appropriate supervisory Assistant Chief Immigration Judge
(ACIJ). The complaint may be communicated either in writing or orally, and it may be
anonymous. A written or oral complaint must contain at least a brief statement describing the
IJ’s alleged conduct that gave rise to concern.

Second, OCIJ may itself become aware of information that suggests an IJ may have engaged in
inappropriate conduct. Such information may come to the attention of OCIJ in a variety of
circumstances including, but not limited to, news reports, referrals from other components or
agencies, such as the Board of Immigration Appeals or Office of Immigration Litigation, or
routine reviews of agency and court decisions.

Upon the receipt or identification of a complaint, OCIJ will assign a number to the complaint and
create an entry for it in OCIJ’s complaint tracking database. When the complaint came from an
identifiable complainant who has provided contact information, OCIJ will acknowledge its
receipt of the complaint.

If you are currently in deportation or removal proceedings in immigration court in Los Angeles or San Diego, contact The Nunez Firm to schedule a free consultation. Managing attorney Jay Nunez will personally discuss your case with you and help you better understand the options available to you.

ACLU and Coalition of Civil Rights Groups File Class Action Against Arizona for Anti-Immigrant Law

May 22nd, 2010 No comments
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The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona challenging Arizona’s new law which authorizes police to demand “papers” from people who they suspect are not legally in the U.S.

The coalition filing the lawsuit includes the ACLU, MALDEF, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), ACLU of Arizona, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) – a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

The lawsuit charges that the Arizona law unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution; invites racial profiling against people of color by law enforcement in violation of the equal protection guarantee and prohibition on unreasonable seizures under the 14th and Fourth Amendments; and infringes on the free speech rights of day laborers and others in Arizona.

One of the individuals the coalition is representing in the case, Jim Shee, who is a U.S.-born 70-year-old American citizen of Spanish and Chinese descent. Shee asserts that he will be vulnerable to racial profiling under the law, and that, although the law has not yet gone into effect, he has already been stopped twice by local law enforcement officers in Arizona and asked to produce his “papers” to proof his legal presence in the U.S.

Another plaintiff, Jesus Cuauhtémoc Villa, is a resident of the state of New Mexico who is currently attending Arizona State University. The state of New Mexico does not require proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status to obtain a driver’s license. Villa does not have a U.S. passport and does not want to risk losing his birth certificate by carrying it with him. He worries about traveling in Arizona without a valid form of identification that would prove his citizenship to police if he is pulled over. If he cannot supply proof upon demand, Arizona law enforcement is required to arrest and detain him.

Several prominent law enforcement groups, including the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, oppose the law because the law sends a clear message to communities of color that the authorities are not to be trusted, making them less likely to come forward as victims of or witnesses to crime.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of labor, domestic violence, day laborer, human services and social justice organizations, including Friendly House, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU Local 5, United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW), Arizona South Asians for Safe Families (ASAFSF), Southside Presbyterian Church, Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Asian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, Border Action Network, Tonatierra Community Development Institute, Muslim American Society, Japanese American Citizens League, Valle del Sol, Inc., Coalicíon De Derechos Humanos, and individual named plaintiffs who will be subject to harassment or arrest under the law and a class of similarly situated persons.

According to Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of NDLON day laborers have repeatedly defended their First Amendment rights in federal courts and successfully established their undeniable right to seek work in public areas. Moreover, Alvarado believes that Arizona’s effort to criminalize day laborers and migrants is an affront to the Constitution and threatens to disrupt national unity, and they are confident that federal courts will intervene to ensure the protection of their bedrock civil rights.”

Even prior to the passage of the statute, local enforcement of federal immigration law has already caused an increase on racial profiling of Latinos in Arizona. The ACLU, MALDEF and other members of the coalition have several pending lawsuits against government officials in Arizona because of civil rights abuses of U.S. citizens and immigrants.

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