Massachusetts’ Top Court Nixes Immigration ‘Holds’

Photo Credit: The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017.
Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

The top Massachusetts court has ruled that police and court officers do not have authority to detain undocumented immigrants until federal law enforcement officials can take them into custody, a controversial practice called a “hold” that is debated around the country. It is believed to be the first time a state supreme court has ruled to ban the practice and the Reuters news service says the “… decision amounts to a rejection of requests by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for courts and law enforcement agencies to hold illegal immigrants, who are facing civil deportation orders, in custody for up to 48 hours after their cases are resolved.”

The court ruled that ordering the hold amounts to a “fresh arrest” and said there is no authority to do so. News organizations quoted ICE officials as saying they are reviewing the decision.

Read the Reuters story here: Massachusetts cannot hold immigrants so U.S. can detain them: state top court

Report: Half of Californians Worry Somebody They Know Will Be Deported

A new report by the Capital & Main group, published at Newsweek, outlines how deeply the immigration and deportation issues are felt in California. The report also notes that”… fifty-one percent of California adults said increased federal immigration enforcement left them worried that someone they know could be deported, according to the survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Thirty percent said they worry ‘a lot’ about it, according to the poll.

The report also notes that, under President Trump, “… deportations have actually fallen…compared with the same time period last year, but the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants has increased. Some of those people are owed a day in court, and the immigration courts are backlogged with pending cases.”

The immigration cours are designated as “civil” cases, as opposed to criminal cases. One difference is that people in civil cases lack the guarantee of a lawyer.

See the story here: http://www.newsweek.com/half-california-adults-believe-someone-know-deported-trump-619282

Amid ICE Raids, Courts Are Even More Backed Up

Reporting on immigration raids and related issues often overlook the ongoing backlog at the nation’s immigration courts, where more than a half-million cases are already awaiting hearings and wait times can reach into years. But do not count the CBS Austin TV affiliate among those missing the story.

CBS Austin reports that U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, has introduced legislation to freeze funding to ICE and Border Protection until immigration court funding is increased. The “courts” are not actual federal courts. They are civil hearings conducted by the U.S. Justice Department; judges are employees of the Justice Department and have no authority to hold federal agents in contempt.

Read the story here:
As ICE enforcement grows, immigration courts can’t keep up

U.S. Dodges International Move To Free Refugee Children

22 women who are being held at Berks County Residential Residential Center started a hunger stike on August 8. They are asking to be released from detention as their cases for asylum move through the courts. Credit: Valeria Fernández/PRI

22 women who are being held at Berks County Residential Residential Center started a hunger stike on August 8. They are asking to be released from detention as their cases for asylum move through the courts. Credit: Valeria Fernández/PRI

The New York Times coverage of this week’s United Nations discussion about refugees, which includes a “summit” hosted by President Obama, including spotlighting that ” … the U.S. and a number of other countries also objected to language in the original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.”

That may be because the U.S. has more than a half-million pending Immigration Court cases backed up for years and has detained some refugee families for more than a year. The detention camps have been found illegal by a federal court, and some moms have resorted to hunger strikes. Some 45 countries are expected to agree to new, non-binding goals for the international refugee crisis this week.

In the U.S., immigration regulation is enforced at immigration courts as s “civil matter,” meaning those under detention do not have the same rights as criminal defendants, which would include the right to representation by a lawyer.

Read about the hunger strikes here:
Moms go on a hunger strike to get themselves and their kids out of immigration detention

Shifting Immigration Sands Catches NC Teen in Kafka-esque Purgatory

For one North Carolina teen, seeing his mom again meant a difficult, six-month journey through ICE, the courts and the ever shifting immigration waters. Having fled two powerful Honduran gangs – Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street Gang – seeking to add him to their ranks, Wildon Acosta became the face of the immigration crisis for the small Durham community who rallied to support his cause.

ABC News Reports (8/16/16): Masked members of the 18th Street gang give a press conference inside the San Pedro Sula prison in Honduras, May 28, 2013.

ABC News Reports (8/16/16): Masked members of the 18th Street gang give a press conference inside the San Pedro Sula prison in Honduras, May 28, 2013.

Part of the ongoing Border Kids crisis, Acosta feared the consequences of not joining one of the two gangs. ABC News recently reported, “Those two gangs are major contributors to the violence that has made Honduras the country with the highest homicide rate in the world according to the World Bank, forcing thousands to flee their homes. The government of Honduras, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, estimates that 174,000 people were internally displaced within the country between 2004 and 2014 because of violence and insecurity.”

When federal agents arrested him on his way to school, the story continued, Acosta had gone from speaking only Spanish to earning a B average in English-only courses. He was even held a part-time job.

Acosta is hardly the only minor fleeing the violence, either, to build a new life here in the U.S. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that more than 63,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended while attempting to cross the border between October 2013 and September 2014 as the gang violence was reaching a crescendo in Central America.

The issue of overhauling the immigration system has been on the front burner since George W. Bush was president. A former Governor of a border state, President Bush attempted to overhaul the system under his tenure, but was blocked by his own party. Subsequent attempts have come close, but real reform has failed each time.

In 2014, President Barack Obama announced he was using his executive order power to bring about sweeping immigration changes. During his tenure, he has stepped up deportations, putting Border Kids at the front of the line, while also attempting to protect so-called DREAMERs. His executive orders have been stayed by the courts as states challenged his authority to implement immigration changes by executive order.

This policy uncertainty has led to myriad stories of young people caught in a shifting web of changing rules, leading to a legal purgatory that Kafka would find surreal. Were it not for the community pressuring their local member of Congress to act on his behalf, Acosta would have been deported already. With $10,000 in bail money raised in two days, he is grateful to back in his community with his family, but his future remains uncertain as he works to file a petition for asylum. The support from his community undoubtedly means that he will have legal representation to aid him in making his case to become a legal, permanent resident of the U.S.

For minors and youth with legal representation, their chances of being granted asylum are significantly better. But, as we reported back in May, Sen. Patrick Leahy said, “In immigration court, in case after case, a trained federal prosecutor represents the interests of the government while too many children facing deportation are forced to proceed before a judge without a lawyer.”

For more on the Acosta case, be sure to check out the in-depth ABC News report. You can follow along with our two-year project tracking the Border Kids crisis here.