Category: Department of Homeland Security


Executive Action: Using a Band Aid When We Need a Cast

September 15th, 2014 — 2:33pm

For the past 10 years, the debate on immigration reform has only intensified. With Congress repeatedly failing to act on any meaningful legislation for the sake of partisan politics, someone needs to step up and address the problem. And that someone should be President Obama.

With legislative gridlock firmly in place, official policy has been to simply reinforce the same broken laws — to the tune of $18 billion dollars per year. We currently spend over $3.5 billion more on immigration and border enforcement that all other federal law enforcement combined.

But President Obama doesn’t have much room to really make any permanent difference in immigration laws as his options are temporary solutions to a long-term issue. The controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may serve as a model for next steps.

The president has the ability to determine how to enforce the laws, meaning that the Department of Homeland Security — the agency responsible for immigration enforcement — can decide to target higher-risk individuals and focus less on the undocumented parents or other relatives of citizens and the so-called DREAMers.

The president can also create a procedure for these individuals to come forward and seek out temporary relief until Congress can enact permanent reform legislation. This way, undocumented immigrants who are contributing members of our society can remain with family, local economies can stabilize and we can focus on the dangerous individuals trying to make their way into the US.

Since 2001, over 4,000,000 undocumented immigrants have been deported — 2,000,000 during Obama’s administration alone. Expansion of DACA is the first step in the right direction.

It’s important to remember that deferring actions is an administrative decision, meaning that these solutions aren’t the lasting legislation that we so desperately need. The next administration could reverse any decisions made by President Obama. For now though, temporary relief can help ease the burden of a broken immigration system.

 

Comment » | Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration reform

Unaccompanied Minors from Central America: What is Happening on the Ground and Why This is Not a Border Security Crisis But a Crisis Demanding Humanitarian Relief

August 26th, 2014 — 2:39pm

For much of the summer, the immigration news has been dominated by the recent surge of some 60,000 unaccompanied minors and young children with their mothers fleeing the violence and lawlessness in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The Central American humanitarian crisis has resulted in a national debate about how to treat this vulnerable population: send them back to their home countries or grant them humanitarian relief in the United States.  Below is a very brief overview of what the federal government’s response has been thus far, a depiction of conditions on the ground, and a historical perspective on the numbers.

Shortly after the crisis emerged, the Obama Administration marshaled the resources of the numerous federal agencies involved in the apprehension, processing, housing, and repatriation of unaccompanied minor children, and sought emergency funding from Congress. Unfortunately, the Senate and the House of Representatives could not agree before their August 4 recess, and will have to resume negotiations and deliberations when Congress returns after Labor Day. In the meantime, the immigration courts have been instructed to expedite the hearings these immigrants are afforded to determine if their fears are credible, if they are eligible for asylum status, or if they should be deported.

While many of the children have been reunited with other family members who already live in the United States or have been released to sponsors, many others are being detained in detention centers awaiting hearings. One such center is the federal detention center at Artesia, a tiny town in Southeastern New Mexico. Artesia has been thrown into the national spotlight because the federal training center located there was turned into a make-shift detention center for women and children fleeing violence in Central America.

In the wake of the crisis, the immigration bar mounted a massive pro bono effort to ensure that detainees are afforded due process. Teams of experienced immigration lawyers, many of whom are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, are volunteering their time and experience to help these mothers and children. The following dispatches from lawyers who have spent a week at Artesia sheds some light on the conditions in these detention centers:

“I spent last week at the Artesia ‘family detention’ center, a 4-hour drive from both Albuquerque and El Paso. We had a group of roughly ten volunteers (attorneys, translators, and administrative staff) trying to stop the rapid deportations and see that the women and their children get some modicum of due process. This was the first week there has been a full time volunteer attorney presence on site during the month it has been open. 

“The first impression you get . . . is that all the children are sick, with coughs at minimum. They are dehydrated and listless. They are cold — there were two mornings where the temperature was around 60, and there were no jackets or blankets, so mothers and kids walked around with towels wrapped around their shoulders for warmth. Nearly all of them have valid claims for asylum — the majority based on domestic violence or gang issues. An unfortunate number were already deported without the opportunity to even consult with an attorney. Some mothers are giving up and asking to be deported because their kids are so sick.” [Editor’s Note:  Individuals are giving up even though the conditions in their home countries are dire.  For example, five recent Honduran deportees were murdered by gangs upon their arrival in Honduras. NPR, 8/21/2014.]

One pro bono lawyer from Oregon describes her experience in Artesia in this way:

“The lack of justice, due process, and the gross infringement on basic human rights at Artesia is truly staggering. . . . We need to send our members here to see and experience what is happening firsthand, so that they can shed light on this very dark place. . . . These are the most vulnerable people in the world, and our government is using them to send the message that America’s southern border is closed. As advocates, we can’t sit by and allow this voice of hate to be the loudest.”

A third volunteer lawyer reports:

“Women and children detained at length, being refused a chance for a fair hearing and access to counsel, and ultimately being sent back to the danger from which they fled. That’s what we’re seeing at Artesia . . . .

It shouldn’t be like this. But this is what we’ve come to. We need to help these families, to offer them due process and humane conditions, and ultimately address the root cause of this crisis: the conditions in Central America and the smugglers and traffickers who are making money off the misery of others.”

 

The New York Times highlighted a recent lawsuit filed by the American Immigration Council and other groups challenging the governments policies denying a fair deportation process to mothers and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in Central America and come to the United States seeking safety.

The August 26, 2014 editorial stated:

“But the treatment of hundreds of these migrants in a makeshift detention center in Artesia, N.M., is appalling evidence that this promise was empty, according a lawsuit filed Friday in Federal District Court by a coalition of civil-rights organizations.

The immigrant detention center was supposed to be a safe haven for mothers and young children as their cases go through court. Though the detainees, as unauthorized immigrants, have no legal right to lawyers, advocates and immigration lawyers have made strenuous efforts to provide representation. The migrants have fled countries racked by gang and drug violence, and many have credible claims to asylum.”

 

 

Comment » | Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration Policy Center, Immigration reform

USCIS Releases New Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9

March 8th, 2013 — 3:50pm

On March 8, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released the official, newly revised Form I-9.

Employers are required to use the Form I-9 to verify the identity and the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees hired after November 1986.

What is Different in the new I-9?

USCIS has finalized the new form with the following major changes:

  • New data fields, including employee’s foreign passport information, telephone and email address;
  • Clarifying the form’s instructions; and
  • Revising the layout of the form and expanding it from one to two pages.

Form I-9 Revision Date

The new, revised Form I-9 will contain a revision date of “(Rev. 03/08/13)N.”  Employers should begin using this new form immediately.

Employers will have a 60-day grace period, until May 7, 2013, to comply by using the new form.  After May 7, 2013, employers who fail to use this new form may be subject to penalties imposed under the Immigration and Naturalization Act.  These provisions, as usual, would be enforced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The M-274 Handbook for Employers is in the process of being updated as well by USCIS in order to correspond to the new Form I-9.  Employers are advised by USCIS to follow instructions on the new Form I-9 until the revised M-274 Handbook for Employers has been updated.

Click here to access the USCIS I-9 website for the I-9 announcement.

Click here to access a downloadable copy of the new I-9

Zulkie Partners is nationally recognized for its command of immigration law. We offer services that cover all aspects of corporate immigration law, including nonimmigrant work visas, permanent residence sponsorship and more.

Connect with us today to learn how we can help you further your hiring goals.

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify, I-9, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Worksite enforcement policies

U.S. Spends More on Immigration Enforcement than the Combined Funds of All Other Federal Criminal Law Enforcement Agencies

February 23rd, 2013 — 2:37pm

In a January 2013 report, the nonpartisan think-tank Migration Policy Institute (MPI) found that the U.S. government spends more on federal immigration enforcement than on all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, with nearly $18 billion spent in fiscal year 2012.  This is approximately 24 percent higher than the collective spending for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. MPI also found that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refer more cases for federal prosecution than all Justice Department law enforcement agencies.

MPI’s comprehensive report offers a detailed analysis of the current immigration enforcement system and traces the evolution of the system, particularly in the post-9/11 era, in terms of budgets, personnel, enforcement actions, and technology. The result is the creation of a complex, interconnected, cross-agency system – in some ways by deliberate design; in others, by happenstance.

Six distinct pillars identify how this modern-day system is organized: border enforcement, visa controls and travel screening, information and interoperability of data systems, workplace enforcement, the intersection of the criminal justice system and immigration enforcement, and detention and removal of noncitizens. “This modern-day system,” says its authors, “extends well beyond U.S. borders to screen visitors against multiple intelligence and law enforcement databases before they arrive and also reaches into local communities across the country via partnerships with state and local law enforcement, information sharing and other initiatives.”

The following are among the report’s key findings:

  • deportations have reached record highs, with more than 4 million noncitizens deported since 1990, with removals rising from over 30,000 in FY 1990 to almost 400,000 in FY 2011.
  • fewer than half of the noncitizens deported are removed pursuant to a formal hearing before an immigration judge; instead the majority are by DHS via its administrative authority.
  • apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border fell to 40-year lows in 2011.
  • immigration enforcement has evolved to be a key tool in the nation’s counterterrorism strategies.

For the last many years, “enforcement first” was sought by successive congresses and administrations as a precondition for reforming the nation’s immigration laws.  The report makes clear that changes to the system accomplished this goal, having focused almost entirely on building enforcement programs and improving their performance. The findings pave the way for comprehensive immigration reform, given that the country’s enforcement priorities have been met.

Comment » | Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify, Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Applicants Under Age 14 or Over Age 79 Do Not Need to Appear for Biometrics for Reentry Permit (or Refugee Travel Document)

October 19th, 2012 — 5:43pm

When a lawful permanent resident plans to depart the U.S. temporarily and does not expect to return to the United States for a year, often he or she is advised to obtain (before departing the U.S.) a Reentry Permit. A Reentry Permit is a travel document that helps to protect an individual from inadvertently abandoning permanent resident status. To obtain the Reentry Permit travel document, the individual must apply while in the U.S. and obtain biometrics (fingerprints and a digital photograph) prior to departing the U.S. Once the biometrics have been taken, the individual can leave the U.S. and the travel document can be mailed to him or her abroad.  The rules regarding fingerprints and photographs have been confusing for those under age 14 or over 79 because these individuals are not required to pay a biometrics fee or have their fingerprints taken. They are, however, being notified by USCIS that they are to appear at application support centers for biometrics. Just recently, however, USCIS has advised that such individuals are not required to attend a biometrics appointment. Instead, applicants under the age of 14 or over 79 can submit two passport-style photographs when applying for the Reentry Permit (in addition to all other required documentation), and USCIS will issue the travel document without requiring the applicant to attend an appointment.

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, Lawful permanent resident

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