Archives for September 2014

Amid Gridlock, California Comes To Border Kids Representation Rescue

The U.S. Congress inactive due to gridlock and campaign season. President Obama inactive, while cynically delaying action until after November’s midterm voting. The Justice Department relatively inactive over the very immigration court system it manages as the U.S. attorney general resigns. But the state of California is stepping up, setting aside $3 million for immediate legal assistance to the tens of thousands of Central American children showing up to see refuge in the United States.

Gov. Brown signed the law over the weekend and it includes assistance to keep some students in school who “defied” authority. In a Los Angeles Times story, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who backed the measure, said that “… the $3 million to help the immigrant children, said , will provide due process in the United States that will rescue some of them from the “virtual death sentence” they would face if deported to unsafe home countries.” Later, she added in a statement that “… with the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reaffirmed California’s commitment to doing its part to address the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at [the] border involving Central American youth.”

Read the Times story, which also covers other legislation signed ahead of Tuesday’s end-of-month deadline, here: Gov. Brown signs bills aiding immigrant children, troubled students

A.G. Holder Exiting Amid ‘Unfinished’ Work With Immigration Courts

While praising his actions to bring the first Justice Department action against states over immigration laws, a leading immigration activist says U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – or his replacement – has work to do on the nation’s immigration courts. The civil immigration system is operated by Holder’s Justice Department, and the judges are Justice Department employees.
The ongoing immigration court crisis, with its 400,000-case backlog and fast-tracking of suddenly high-profile Central American children seeking entry to the United States, is not gaining widespread coverage as news organizations ponder the Holder legacy. But Marielena Hincapié, director of the National Immigration Law Center, noted the issue after first praising the A.G. for “helping to establish immigration as an important area of civil rights.”
She told The Washington Post that “… we really saw an attorney general and a department of justice that was willing to lead on these issues and to take risky moves.” But, the Post added, “… yet she added that Holder (or his successor) still has some important unfinished business with regard to the country’s immigration courts, which are overseen by the Justice Department and are overwhelmed with cases.”

AP: Budget Bill Ignores Immigration Courts, Boosts Detention

The Associated Press is reporting that “… Congress’ must-pass budget bill ignores the Obama administration’s request to accelerate spending on immigration courts to handle the flood of unaccompanied minors at the border — even as it boosts spending flexibility for Border Patrol agents and detention centers.”

The budget bill has created an odd double-speak for Democrats, who on the one hand key party leaders convinced President Obama to delay immigration action until after the November elections, and on the other blame the GOP for inaction. The AP reports that “… meanwhile, Senate Democrats barely prevented Republicans from blocking President Barack Obama from fulfilling a promise to issue an executive order before the end of the year that might protect from deportation possibly millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

The same story adds that “… immigrant advocates complained that House Republicans who wrote the bill focused on detaining Central American youths and families who crossed the border while ignoring the need for more immigration judges to hear their cases, and lawyers to represent the youths.”

Read the full AP report, via ABC News, here: Spending Bill Leaves out Immigration Courts

U.S. Seeking Lawyers To Help Border Children In Courts?

The U.S. Justice Department is “trying to find lawyers who are willing to represent” those border children facing immigration court and the Obama administration is working to improve that New Mexico detention center, according to Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who addressed the issues this week.

He also cautioned about considering the crisis “over” just because the number of Central American children arriving at the border has slowed. It could resume a higher rate, he explained. Some 400,000 cases are backlogged in the system, according to immigration court observers. Because immigration cases are civil, those facing the government are not guaranteed representation.

In a report, USA Today also notes that “… civil rights groups have sued the federal government over conditions at the Artesia center. The suit, filed in federal district court in Washington, says immigration officials are trying to rush deportations while creating legal hurdles to discourage migrants from seeking asylum and making it difficult for them to meet with attorneys.”

Homeland Security Chief Says ‘Worst Is Over’ In Border Kid Crisis

In what’s being spun as good news, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says “the worst is over” for the border kid crisis, with the number of child migrants picked up at the southern borders dropping to the lowest levels in a year and six months.

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

The New York magazine was among those scoffing at the downplaying of the crisis, writing that “… that’s right, only — only?! — 3,141 desperate Central American children found their way to the U.S. last month, down from the 10,000 our borders saw each month in May and June. Over 132,000 undocumented immigrants total have entered the U.S. in the last year.

The immigration courts backlog for the children is believed to be around 400,000 cases and advocacy groups are protesting both the lack of legal representation for many of the migrants along with a “rocket docket” policy that moves the children ahead of others awaiting their day in the Justice Department courts.

Read the New York Mag report here: DHS Chief: ‘Worst Is Over’ in Border Crisis