Archives for January 2015

California Groups Demand ‘Trust’ Implementation

Across the Golden State protestors this week are asking state officials to fully implement a 2014 law that protects undocumented immigrants reporting crimes or becoming witnesses to wrongdoing. The “Trust Act” was aimed at allowing those immigrants to testify in court or report crime without fear of deportation, but activists say it has not been followed.

The NBC affiliate in San Diego covered protests there and explained that “… the law decreased immigration “holds” in California, which in turn decreased deportations of undocumented immigrants. The law also provided expanded protections for undocumented immigrants. Protesters claim law enforcement officers have violated the state law instead of implementing it.” The immigration holds are actually civil actions, not criminal, so they do not always include safeguards like legal representation.

Watch the NBC 7 San Diego video coverage:


Central American Cases Push Others Aside

One way to respond to the immigration courts crisis highlighted by those unaccompanied minors from Central America would be to overhaul the system and increase capacity. Another would be to push those cases ahead of others in hopes of discouraging other migrants from coming. Guess which one we’re doing?
The Houston Chronicle has a strong story about “… a startling turnaround for a clogged immigration court system that usually takes about six months between just these first steps [as opposed to 30 days], reflecting the government’s effort to push Central American cases through the pipeline to deter other migrants from coming. The aggressive effort, however, has ramifications for others in the system, which is facing a record backlog of more than 430,000 cases nationwide. Some immigrants’ hearings have been delayed indefinitely, which can impede time-sensitive cases and jeopardize their chances of gaining legal residency. Mexicans, who make up the largest portion of immigration courts’ caseload, saw their disposition times increase by about 13 percent to 533 days, according to a new analysis of court records by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.”
“The Central American cases have completely taken over the docket,” immigration attorney Salvador Colon told the paper, while another noted that “they’re shoving all the Central Americans in front saying, ‘Go home and tell everyone else not to come because you’re going to be deported. The immigration court here looks like a day care because there are so many little kids hopping around.”

Undocumented Residents Get Cal. Drivers License

The Golden State is muddling through its first month of offering drivers licenses to undocumented residents, expecting to process nearly 1.5 million applications over the next several years. The Sacramento TV station KCRA reports on one challenge: … immigrant advocates have urged applicants who previously used someone else’s Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license to check with a lawyer before applying. Advocates say they have seen a handful of cases where immigrants who previously had licenses were told they would need to meet with a DMV investigator to complete their applications.”
The report notes that “… immigration attorney Patricia Corrales said three of her clients who went to DMV offices to apply for the licenses were frightened after they were told they needed to sign an affidavit acknowledging fraud.” She added that seems to work against the idea of the program, which is to get more undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses.

How Is BP Trial Remaining Low-Profile?

 There was a time when the eventual BP trial over its Deepwater Horizon oil spill would have been the stuff of 24/7 coverage, sort of an environmental Trial of the Century. That was then, and this is now. And now the BP case is launching with attention pretty much limited to the business pages – but it’s still an early favorite for environmental trial of the century.

Bloomberg’s Businessweek has a good “things to know” piece on the case, including the reminder that “… U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier blamed the company’s “gross negligence” for the eruption that killed 11 rig workers and spewed more than three million barrels of crude along the Gulf coast, from Louisiana to Florida. Now Barbier, acting without a jury, will apply a series of eight factors identified by the act to determine the pecuniary penalty. The potential price tag could range from several billion to nearly $14 billion.”

That federal case is in addition to other lawsuits, including some private actions. There’s no real timeline for all the legal issues, but this specific federal case is expected to wrap up this year. One of the more interesting arguments: BP should pay less because the price of oil has tanked of late. For the Bloomberg take see the following link, Five Things to Know About the Latest BP Gulf Oil Spill Trial, and for a highly partisan (but insightful) take, see the Stuart H. Smith blog (link follows.)

From Stuart H. Smith: BP Oil Spill

In First, 2014 ‘OTM’ Out-Paced Mexican Immigrant Detention

For the first time, the OTM, or “other than Mexican,” immigration out-paced Mexican nationals apprehended at the U.S. Mexico during 2014, a Texas ABC News affiliate is reporting. Citing a Pew Research Center study, KRGV in the Rio Grande valley says that “… [in] 2014, the number of Mexican nationals detained was 229,000, compare to nearly 260,000 OTMs. A surge of Central American children made up a large part of the immigration picture last summer. The numbers are lower than in years past, but the open border raises many questions nationally and locally.”
The OTM designation offers a different path for would-be migrants, including an immigration court review before they can be sent back. The bigger numbers come as the U.S. faced a surge from Central American companies, especially among minor children seeking refuge here. The TV station speculates that “… it is possible immigration courts will be busy with thousands of people filing documents. In the next few weeks, it is possible those same courts will likely handle hundreds, possibly thousands, of cases involving new illegal immigrants.” The story outlines border issues involving social services, property insurance and other impacts. See it here.