immigration crackdown
October 30, 2019

The White House may have found a workaround to appoint immigration hardliner and acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services chief Ken Cuccinelli to head the Homeland Security Department, but Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) isn't buying it.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump administration, through some complicated maneuvering that would involve tabbing Cucinnelli (or someone else who falls in line with President Trump's immigration policies) first as the assistant secretary of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office before vaulting him to homeland security secretary, might be able to get the job done even though Cucinnelli is ineligible for the role because of the federal Vacancies Act.

Grassley, though, wasn't aware of any such plans, and doesn't think it will hold up legally, anyway. "I have not heard anything about some go-around," he told Politico. "But it's my understanding that the existing law would not permit him to" lead the department. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

October 19, 2019

Three of New Mexico's seven federal district judgeships are vacant, and that's causing a lot of issues for the state's courts and those awaiting their cases, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The court system in New Mexico was reportedly already in danger of being overwhelmed before the Trump administration ramped up its efforts to curb illegal immigration at the U.S.'s southern border. But now hundreds of migrants facing charges of entering the U.S. illegally are crowding into courtrooms in New Mexico every day. That means many of the migrants are having their cases heard in just a matter of minutes, as the courts simply don't have the capacity to handle the situation as it stands, especially considering judges also have to attend to non-border related cases.

The average amount of felony cases per judge in New Mexico was 983 between June 2018 and June 2019, whereas the national average was 125 cases per judge. A number of judges from outside of New Mexico have been called in to the state to lend a hand. "It's not an unusual day in New Mexico where I am doing 30 to 40 sentencings, when I might not do 30 sentencings in a year in Kansas," said Senior Judge J. Thomas Marten, who normally sits in Wichita, Kansas, but spends a few weeks in New Mexico every year.

The situation is also reportedly leading to longer stays in jail for some migrants as they await their hearings. One nominee to the New Mexico bench is waiting for a confirmation vote in the Senate, and another is being vetted by New Mexico's Democratic senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, who are still interviewing candidates for the third vacancy. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

October 5, 2019

In what is considered the Trump administration's latest attempt to curb immigration to the United States, the White House issued a proclamation Friday saying it would require immigrants applying for a U.S. visa to prove they either have health insurance or can afford to cover their own health care costs before entering the country starting Nov. 3.

President Trump said the White House wants to "protect the availability of health care benefits for Americans" as "taxpayers bear substantial cost" in paying for medical expenses of people who lack health insurance. "Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our health care system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs," Trump said.

The proclamation would affect many immigrants, including those with family ties in the country, but it does not include noncitizen children of U.S. citizens or those who have been granted asylum, The Wall Street Journal reports. While the proclamation says it will allow migrants with the "financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs," it reportedly does not list a threshold for those resources. Either way, it is expected to be a major hurdle for low-income families seeking U.S. visas.

"It's a classic catch-22 for low-income immigrants," said Larry Levitt, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "They're eligible for subsidized health coverage through the [Affordable Care Act], but applying for that subsidized coverage means they can't legally be in the country."

The proclamation is expected to face swift legal challenges, The Washington Post reports. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

August 26, 2019

Federal immigration officials have told immigrant medical patients who have "medical deferred action" to leave the U.S. within 33 days, Commonwealth Magazine reported on Monday, citing attorneys from the Irish International Immigrant Center representing the families. The Trump administration reportedly ended the medical deferred action program on Aug. 7.

The patients, many of whom are children, are reportedly being treated for serious illnesses such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and epilepsy.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was quick to respond, blasting the Trump administration for its "inhumanity."

Markey reportedly called the decision a "new low" for Trump, arguing that the government is "literally deporting kids with cancer." Dr. Sarah Kimball, who works with immigrant patients at Boston Medical Center, said her patients seeking medical deferred action are "desperate."

As for the rule change, the chair of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said it happened quietly, without a public statement or advanced notice. Similar denial notices have been reported in California and North Carolina.

The American Civil Liberties Union has pledged to fight the situation in court. Tim O'Donnell

August 17, 2019

As early as 2017, the Trump administration tried for months to grant states the power to deny undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools, Bloomberg reports.

President Trump's senior adviser, Stephen Miller, who is known for his hardline stance on immigration, spearheaded the effort, people familiar with the situation said. Ultimately, however, the contingent supporting the measure abandoned the idea upon realization that the plan would likely violate Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 Supreme Court case that prohibited states from denying free public education based on immigration status. The court ruled that punishing children for their parents' actions "does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice."

Miller's efforts reportedly included consideration of a guidance memo issued by the Education Department that would tell states they had the option to refuse students with an undocumented status to attend school, but it was never issued. Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said it was never issued because it would never have even been considered.

While nothing came of the efforts, it fits in with the White House's larger efforts to discourage illegal crossings at the southern border. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

July 30, 2019

The Trump administration is handing out massive fines to undocumented immigrants taking sanctuary in churches, The Associated Press reports.

Maria Chavalan-Sut, an indigenous woman from Guatemala, has been staying in a United Methodist church in Charlottesville, Virginia, as she attempts to avoid complying with a deportation order. Her efforts have made her one of several immigrants taking refuge in churches to receive letters from immigration authorities threatening them with fines. Chavalan-Sut's fine is currently up to $214,132. At least six people have received letters so far, with two of those fines reportedly costing $295,630 and $497,777.

Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that Chavalan-Sut failed to appear for an immigration hearing in July 2017, though Chavalan Sut's immigration attorney, Alina Kilpatrick, said that the order did not have a date and time, which she says is common practice. Regardless, Cutrell said the Immigration and Nationality Act allows ICE to impose fines on individuals who fail to leave the U.S. after removal orders.

Chavalan-Sut, who fled Guatemala after her house was set on fire while she, her children, and their father were inside, says there's no way she could ever pay the sum. "Where am I going to get that money from?," she said. "I don't know." Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

July 27, 2019

Francisco Galicia, a Dallas-born 18-year-old, who was detained by Customs and Border Protection despite being a U.S. citizen, is suing both the CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, The Guardian reports.

Galicia, who is from Edinburg, Texas, was detained for 23 days before being released earlier this week. He said he was held in a crowded space and lost 26 pounds, adding that he wasn't allowed to call his family or a lawyer and was unable to brush his teeth, or get access to a toilet, shower, or bed.

Galicia's lawyer, Claudia Galan, said she believes Galicia was a victim of racial profiling, while Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement at the U.S. Border Patrol, testified on Thursday that Galicia "claimed to be a citizen of Mexico with no immigration documents to be in or remain in the U.S."

Galicia's family and Galan are also working to get Galicia's brother, Marlon, a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant who was traveling with Francisco when they were detained, back to the U.S. The younger Galicia voluntarily agreed to be deported to Mexico so he could alert their mother to what happened.

"We're conflicted," the Galicias' mother, Sanjuana, said. "Overjoyed that Francisco is home, but half our heart is in Mexico. We talk to Marlon every day, but we want him here at home." Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

July 23, 2019

An 18-year-old is being held in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite the fact that he's a Dallas-born U.S. citizen, The Dallas Morning News reports.

Francisco Galicia has reportedly been detained for more than three weeks, his attorney said.

Galicia and his 17-year-old brother, Marlon, were detained at a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, on June 27 after traveling for a soccer scouting event. Marlon, who was born in Mexico and lacked legal status, was only carrying a school ID and after two days in detention signed a voluntary deportation form so he could communicate with his mother.

Galicia was carrying his Texas ID, which requires a social security number to obtain, but he said he was still detained because he did not have a U.S. passport on him. His attorney presented CBP officers last week with Galicia's birth certificate, a congratulatory certificate his mother received from Dallas hospital staff after he was born, a high school ID, and a health insurance card. CBP reportedly did not budge, and reportedly didn't give him phone access for weeks.

"He's a U.S. citizen and he needs to be released now," said his attorney, Claudia Galan, who is planning on presenting the same documents to ICE officers later this week. Neither ICE nor CBP commented on Galicia's case.

Between 2006 and 2017 ICE wrongfully detained more than 3,500 U.S. citizens in Texas alone, The New York Times reports. Now, many U.S. citizens say they constantly carry their passport out of fear of detention or deportation. Read more at The Dallas Morning News. Tim O'Donnell

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