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The immigration court system currently has a backlog of more than 1 million cases, according to data released on Wednesday (September 18) by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), CNN reports.

Per TRAC: “The latest case-by-case court records through the end of August 2019 show the court’s active case backlog was 1,007,155…. If the additional 322,535 cases which the court says are pending but have not been placed on the active caseload rolls are added, then the backlog now tops 1.3 million.”

Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told CNN that the immigration courts, which are managed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), are severely damaged. “If nothing else, the continuing rise of the backlog shows that the immigration court is broken,” she said. “Until we fix the design defect of having a court in a law enforcement agency, we will not be able to address the backlog in a fair and effective manner.”

A spokesperson for the DOJ sent a statement to CNN, but did not verify the information included in TRAC’s report. “[The DOJ] does not certify data from third parties,” the statement reads. “This report and DOJ’s own data further confirms there is a crisis at the border. This administration is taking aggressive steps to increase productivity, close loopholes and hire a record number of judges to address the backlog with our existing authorities.”

As Colorlines previously reported, the Trump administration set up tent courts in Texas this month for “asylum-seekers impacted by the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program.” Over 40,000 migrants have been sent to Mexico under the MPP. However, as TRAC’s report on Wednesday notes, they represent a small fraction of the court’s backlog. 

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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A new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) digs into the connection between school suspensions and adult incarceration. As Harvard Graduate School of Education reports, this paper—written by Andrew Bacher-Hicks and David Deming of Harvard University and Stephen Billings of the University of Colorado–Boulder—is “the first causal evidence that strict schools do indeed contribute to the so-called school to prison pipeline.”

The research focuses primarily on the Charlotte-Mecklenberg school district in North Carolina, where 23 percent of middle school students are suspended every year. A majority of the kids suspended are students of color, and boys make up the majority of those students.

The study’s authors found that young people who attend schools with high suspension rates are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated later in life, and less likely to attend a four-year college. From the Harvard article:

“One of the arguments in favor of suspensions is that if a student is removed from the classroom, they’re no longer causing disruptions, and so removing disruptive students could have positive benefits on those who remain in the classroom,” says Bacher-Hicks, a Ph.D. candidate in public policy at Harvard. “But we found for all students, there are large negative impacts on later-life outcomes, related to attending a school with a high suspension rate. That suggests there are not overwhelmingly positive benefits of removing disruptive peers from the classroom.”

The research ultimately shows that there are virtually no long-term benefits associated with suspension. “We tested a range of variables, and only one short-run benefit popped out for any subgroup: There was some evidence that test scores increased for non-minority males,” Bacher-Hicks says. “But even for that subgroup, we find negative long-run outcomes in terms of arrests and incarcerations.”

You can read the full study here.

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Monday (September 23) that next week will mark the end of its so-called “catch and release” immigration policy, NPR reports. Catch and release refers to the practice of letting migrant families detained at the United States border enter the country while they await the completion of asylum proceedings.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan made the announcement while speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.:

“With some humanitarian and medical exceptions, DHS will no longer be releasing family units from Border Patrol Stations into the interior,” McAleenan said in his prepared remarks. “This means that for family units, the largest demographic by volume arriving at the border this year, the court-mandated practice of catch and release due to the inability of DHS to complete immigration proceedings with families detained together in custody—will have been mitigated.”

In an official statement, a DHS spokesperson explained the shift in policy as, “part of the Trump administration’s strategy to mitigate the loopholes that act as a ‘pull factor’ for family units seeking to cross illegally at the Southwest border.” 

DHS also explained how it will implement the changes: “If migrant family units do not claim fear of return, they will be quickly returned to their country of origin, in close collaboration with Central American countries,” the statement reads. “If they do claim fear, they will generally be returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).”

MPP, also called “Remain in Mexico,” sends migrants who seek asylum at the United States-Mexico border to wait for their hearing dates in Mexico. The program has been rife with confusion and disorganization.

This news follows a Supreme Court decision earlier this month that allows the Trump administration to require migrants to first seek asylum in “a third country,”—a country they traveled through on their way to the U.S. border—before they are allowed to seek asylum in the United States.

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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A group of five women separated from their children after migrating to the United States to seek asylum have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, NBC News reports. The suit says the federal government caused their families “extraordinary trauma” via its “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

Zero tolerance, which started in summer 2017, included forcibly removing nearly 4,000 children from parents who crossed the border in a manner the government deemed “illegal.” Those children were later sent to migrant children shelters, foster homes and detention facilities.

As Colorlines previously reported, experts have weighed in on the emotional trauma that comes with separating children from their guardians:

“If you take the moral, spiritual, even political aspect out of it, from a strictly medical and scientific point of view, what we as a country are doing to these children at the border is unconscionable,” Luis H. Zayas, dean of the school of social work at The University of Texas at Austin, told The Washington Post. “The harm our government is now causing will take a lifetime to undo.”

Trina Realmuto, directing attorney at the American Immigration Council, represents the five mothers in the lawsuit. She spoke to NBC about her clients and this groundbreaking case. “The separations are going to harm them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “This is about putting a human face to both the human cost and the financial cost of implementing these policies, as well as seeking the monetary compensation needed to recover from this trauma.” They also want to ensure “that this does not happen to anyone else,” Realmuto said.

NBC reports:

One of the mothers suing the Trump administration was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a psychologist at a detention center in Texas, the lawsuit says, adding that she lives “in a constant state of fear and worry” after her son was sent to an immigration facility in New York while she was still detained at the border.

Her 14-year-old son also continues to manifest symptoms stemming from the trauma of being forcefully separated from his mother for two and a half months. A year after the separation, the teenager shows indications of severe emotional distress, such as outbursts of inexplicable anger, as well as a refusal to eat or discuss the separation, the lawsuit says.

Realmuto says these are all signs of “clear abuse,” and that the United States is essentially terrorizing people who are already fleeing dangerous, life-threatening situations. “When people are fleeing horrible persecution, they see the U.S. as a place of refuge where they can seek safety,” she said. “We don’t think of the U.S. as the place that inflicts pain and suffering, but that is exactly what is happening.”

According to NBC, immigration authorities declined to comment because this lawsuit is “pending litigation.”

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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Actor Kal Penn’s (“Harold and Kumar”) new sitcom “Sunnyside”—which centers on immigration and American citizenship with one of the most diverse casts on primetime television—debuted on Thursday (September 26).

“Joel [Kim Booster] is Korean American, Poppy [Liu] is Chinese American; obviously, we’re not fans of the ‘[All Asians] look the same’ statement, so we thought, ‘How do we ground this?’” Penn said in an interview with Deadline.

In the pilot, which NBC describes as “former New York City councilman [Penn] finds his calling when he meets a group of immigrants in search of the American dream,” viewers are introduced to a colorful cast that includes Booster and LiuDiana-Maria RivaKiran DeolMoses Storm and Samba Schutte. Though immigration is a politicized issue in the United States, Penn says he wants audiences to find the show to be more funny than political.

“They don’t just want something that’s like, ‘Oh, this is diversity and we’re checking the box.’ They want compelling characters that are reflective of the world that we live in, and the people that we know,” Penn told Deadline. “It’s really amazing that there are opportunities right now to develop comedy in this authentic space that’s also very inclusive.”

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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The Trump administration can no longer move forward with its plan to expand the group of people who are subject to its “expedited removal” process, NPR reports. A federal judge on Friday (September 27) blocked the policy change that would allow the United States to deport migrants of undocumented status who have been in the United States for less than two years without giving them an opportunity to appear in immigration court. 

In the past, “fast-track deportations” were reserved for migrants of undocumented status who crossed the U.S. border and were arrested within 100 miles of the border and within two weeks of their arrival. The Trump administration’s decision to expand the policy is unlawful, according to U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. She issued a 126-page report and a temporary injunction to halt the policy expansion until the court can finish litigating the matter.

According to NPR, the judge said the administration likely violated federal law by failing to “follow the correct decision-making procedures, such as the formal notice-and-comment period required for major federal rule changes.” In her report, Judge Brown Jackson said, “no good cause exists for the agency to have not complied with these mandates in this instance.” She also referred to the policy expansion as “arbitrary and capricious.”

The judge writes in her report

Put in common parlance, if a policy decision that an agency makes is of sufficient consequence that it qualifies as an agency rule, then arbitrariness in deciding the contours of that rule—e.g., decision making by Ouija board or dart board, rock/paper/scissors, or even the Magic 8 Ball—simply will not do. There are well-established legal constraints on the manner in which an agency exercises its discretion to make discretionary policy decisions, and there are also legally established consequences if an agency does not adhere to these procedural requirements when it determines the policies that it imposes.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice responded to the judge’s ruling in a comment to NPR on Saturday (September 28):

Congress expressly authorized the Secretary of Homeland Security to act with dispatch to remove from the country aliens who have no right to be here. The district court’s decision squarely conflicts with that express grant of authority and vastly exceeds the district court’s own authority. This ruling undermines the laws enacted by Congress and the Trump administration’s careful efforts to implement those laws.

Advocates at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Immigration Council and Simpson Thacher and Bartlett filed for the injunction, according to NPRACLU attorney Anand Balakrishnan argued the case in front of Judge Brown Jackson and released a statement to NPR following the decision. “The court rejected the Trump administration’s illegal attempt to remove hundreds of thousands of people from the U.S. without any legal recourse,” Balakrishnan said. “This ruling recognizes the irreparable harm of this policy.”

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It’s been 25 years since Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994—also known as the ’94 Crime Bill. Signed into law by President Bill Clinton and authored by now-presidential hopeful Joe Biden, it was designed to send a political message that Democrats could be just as tough on crime as their Republican counterparts. It was supposed to reduce “violent crime” by imposing longer jail sentences, creating more death penalty-eligible offenses, cutting higher educational opportunities for incarcerated people, and providing billions of dollars to states to build more prisons and hire 100,000 new police officers. In short, the plan was to lock up more people, lock them up longer, and lock them up in more places. It was a brutal strategy that targeted and devastated Black and Brown communities for an entire generation.

The ’94 Crime Bill endorsed a false view that punitive and retributive systems of policing and incarceration can advance public safety. In reality, both perpetuate racial disparities, family separation, community destabilization, voter disenfranchisement, misdirected spending of limited public resources and systemic state violence.

The bill and the systems it promoted have wreaked deep damage on our democracy and on public safety. Its approach is immoral and ineffective, and it fails to address how a lack of investment in low-income and working-class communities perpetuates social harms and violent crime.

As a key part of the ballooning prison industrial complex, the ’94 Crime Bill incentivized states to increase prison sentences, create three-strikes laws, enact mandatory minimums and eliminate parole. Twenty-five years later, government agencies, financial institutions and corporations increasingly use surveillance, violent policing and incarceration as supposed solutions to economic, social and political problems.

Nearly five million people are arrested, taken out of our communities and jailed every year. There are currently more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States, languishing in federal facilities, state prisons and local jails. People of color make up 37 percent of the U.S. population, but 67 percent of the prison population. Every year, more than a quarter of a million students are arrested or referred to law enforcement at school—70 percent are Black boys. Black girls are also increasingly criminalized and suspended at school. In all, half of all U.S. adults have a family member who has been incarcerated, which studies show destabilizes families and whole communities.

The largest crime reform bill in our nation’s history also undermines public safety by disregarding the resources that actually keep our communities safe. Consider funding for mental health services. Cities and counties nationwide often choose to build new jails instead of developing public healthcare and housing facilities where people can receive shelter and treatment for mental illness, trauma and substance use. For example, Milwaukee currently invests less than 2 percent ($25 million) in the city’s public health department, while 50 percent of the city’s personnel budget—more than $311 million—goes to pay Milwaukee Police Department officers. Connections between investing in policing versus public services becomes more apparent when you consider that people suffering with untreated or undertreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police, with 1 in 4 of them actively experiencing mental distress at the time of their death.

This is not justice. This is not public safety. This is a crisis of criminalization and incarceration, a man-made mess borne out of history, racism, public policy and disordered priorities. Like the calls to address our healthcare and climate crises, we must respond with the bold and transformative vision that justice requires and communities deserve. Twenty-five years later, the nation is in desperate need of a new federal vision for public safety and justice.

This is why a coalition of organizations representing formerly incarcerated and convicted people, racial justice advocates and grassroots organizations have come together as the People’s Coalition for Safety and Freedom with one clear message: it is time to dismantle the ’94 Crime Bill and create a new federal vision for public safety and justice transformation.

The first step is to dismantle the ’94 Crime Bill and acknowledge and address the decades of harm it left in its wake. This will require elected officials at all levels, progressive organizations and politicians on both sides of the aisle who supported this dangerous legislation to join forces with the people most harmed by policing, criminalization and incarceration who have long been fighting for safety and freedom in their communities to develop new public policy. Finally, elected officials and candidates must commit to a public safety agenda that prioritizes decarceration and decriminalization and centers sweeping investments in housing, substance use treatment, youth services, education, infrastructure and jobs.

Let’s chart a new path forward so that in 25 years, we can celebrate a new paradigm that embraces public safety and our collective freedom to thrive.

DeAnna Hoskins is president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA (@JustLeadersUSA), which is dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in #HalfBy2030. Follow Hoskins on Twitter @MzDeHoskins.

Andrea C. James is executive director of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls (@TheCouncilUS)which works to shift from a criminal legal system to community-led human justice.

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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New Monument Honors Mexican Braceros

A new statue called Bracero Monument was unveiled in Los Angeles’ Migrant’s Bend Plaza on Sunday (September 29). Braceros were workers who temporarily migrated to the United States to work on farms, mines and railroads, helping to fill labor shortages as a result of World War II. The monument highlights the 4.5 million Mexican nationals who worked in L.A. from 1942 to 1964.

Created by artist Dan Medina, the 19-foot bronze statue shows a worker holding a hoe—“el cortito”—for field work, while standing beside his wife and young child. Medina completed the scene with a pile of workers’ tools. For the L.A.-native artist, whose stepfather was a bracero, this work is personal. “The immigrant has been demonized,” Medina told the Los Angeles Times. “Although many complain about the immigrant, if you look at history through the scope of honesty, we wouldn’t be here without their contributions.”

L.A. City Council member Jose Huizar also feels connected to the work. “My father was a bracero. All my uncles were braceros. And they tell me many stories of the time they would come,” Huizar reportedly told KTLA. “They tell me about the sacrifices they made, sometimes they would go without water during the day, the barracks they put them in, terrible barracks, the living conditions were horrible. But despite these sacrifices, they were appreciative of the opportunity, because they were able to get a little money [and] send it back to their families.”

The monument is part of a larger project that will also highlight Indigenous, Black and immigrant cultures from many L.A. communities. 

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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Immigration and privacy advocates are ringing alarm bells over the U.S. government’s plan to forcibly collect DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of detained immigrants for entry into a national criminal database, The New York Times reports. Critics say this latest move from the Trump administration targets a population that is already criminalized by immigration detention, raids, stops and deportations. 

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) representative spoke to reporters about the new rule on a call that was joined by The Times. The rep insisted that a 2005 rule that exempted immigrants from DNA collection is outdated and has to be removed. The new Trump administration rule would also allow immigration agents to collect DNA “from children as well as those who seek asylum at legal ports of entry.” Immigration detention facilities across the country are currently holding more than 40,000 people. 

After agents collect the DNA, the samples will be entered the F.B.I.’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). According to its website, CODIS “blends forensic science and computer technology into a tool for linking violent crimes. It enables federal, state, and local forensic laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically.” 

Vera Eidelman, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told The Times this shift has to be taken seriously. “That kind of mass collection alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation basically to population surveillance,” she said. “[That] is basically contrary to our basic notions of a free, trusting, autonomous society.” Eidelman added that because genetic material also carries family connections, the collected DNA data could also impact family members who may or may not be legal residents of the U.S.

Erin Murphy, a professor at New York University School of Law says this new rule could go a long way reinforcing the Trump administration’s running narrative that immigrants are directly linked to crimes. “We don’t have a statistical database of how many businesses immigrants create, or the ways they enrich our communities,” she said. “But if the government has a way to say, ‘This is the number of immigrants we’ve linked to crimes,’ and this is something we already see anecdotally, we might lose sight of all the positive benefits.”

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appeared in federal court on Monday (October 7) to fight a Florida law that requires formerly incarcerated Florida residents to pay fines before they can have their voting rights restored, according to a statement emailed to Colorlines.

The law at the center of this fight establishes wealth-based roadblocks to voting and goes against overwhelming support for the Voting Restoration Amendment, also known as Amendment 4, which voters passed during the midterm elections.

An emailed statement from the ACLU explains:

Floridians voted in 2018 to amend their state constitution to restore voting rights to people convicted of most felonies once they’ve completed their sentences. It was the single largest expansion of voting rights in the United States since the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971. In response, the legislature passed a bill to limit Amendment 4’s reach, requiring people to repay any fines, fees and restitution before their voting rights are restored—effectively, a poll tax. 

With Gruver v. Barton, attorneys for the ACLU seek to challenge the limits placed on Amendment 4. “Over a million Floridians were supposed to reclaim their place in the democratic process,” reads the ACLU statement. “[However,] some politicians clearly feel threatened by greater voter participation. They cannot legally affix a price tag to someone’s right to vote.”

The hearing is expected to last several days.

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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More than 30 civil rights groups—including RAICESMedia JusticeFight for the Future and National Immigration Law Center—came together to protest Amazon Ring’s partnerships with police forces across the country, according to a Vox report. The group published a joint letter on Tuesday (October 8) that says the collaboration “[threatens] civil liberties, privacy and civil rights, and [exists] without oversight or accountability.”

Amazon Ring, a wi-fi powered home security system, includes doorbell video cameras, floodlight video cameras and in-home security cameras. According to Vox, Amazon has established more than 500 partnerships that permit law enforcement organizations to contact Ring owners directly and request access to video footage that they think can assist in official criminal investigations. In some cases, police actually distribute free or discounted Ring products to residents to further their aims.

The letter breaks down the coalition’s concerns about the partnerships:

Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely. In the absence of clear civil liberties and rights-protective policies to govern the technologies and the use of their data, once collected, stored footage can be used by law enforcement to conduct facial recognition searches, target protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, teenagers for minor drug possession, or shared with other agencies like ICE or the FBI.

Homeowners can also post footage from their security systems directly to Neighbors by Ring, a neighborhood watch-type app run by Amazon that lets users view and comment on video posts. But history shows these types of apps negatively impact people of color.

Chris Gilliard, a professor of English at Macomb Community College, talked to Vice about the ramifications of platforms like Ring’s app that reinforce racism. “We know from a bunch of high profile incidents in the past, and even when people live in a particular neighborhood, often their White neighbors don’t identify them as neighbors or belonging in those spaces,” Gilliard said. “So there’s a way that Blackness can be seen as foreign, even when you ‘belong.’ And those systems codify that in a way that makes me really uncomfortable.”

The civil rights activists behind the letter are pressuring elected officials to either end the practice of Amazon partnering with law enforcement or launch an investigation into the practice. Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, told Vox, “I don’t think they should have for-profit surveillance partnerships with companies like Amazon without getting express permission from the city council or mayor or without having some community input.” Greer added, “Amazon has found the perfect end run around the democratic process: Getting the police to market their products to private individuals and then giving the police a seamless process for accessing the footage those individuals are collecting, with no meaningful oversight from the community.”

In its response to the letter, Amazon claimed that the Ring is not a threat to civil liberties:

The Neighbors app has strict community guidelines, trained moderators, user flagging capabilities and other tools in place to create a safe place for all members of the community to talk about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. All content submitted to our app is reviewed to ensure that it adheres to our community guidelines, including our policies against racial profiling and prohibiting hate speech or other forms of prejudice before it goes live on the platform. We take this very seriously and have invested many resources, tools and human power to ensure we uphold a standard of trust and civility.

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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On Tuesday (October 15), Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) reintroduced the “groundbreaking, intersectional” Health Equity and Access Under the Law for Immigrant Women and Families (HEAL) Act with the support of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and more than 120 other organizations, per a statement from NAPAWF.

HEAL, which extends healthcare coverage to immigrants, would get rid of the five-year wait that immigrants must endure before they can apply for Medicaid. It would also allow immigrants of undocumented status to purchase healthcare through the Affordable Care Act

Jayapal spoke to the heart of this bill in a statement

Immigrants, even those here lawfully, have had a limited ability to access affordable health insurance for two decades. When women lack access to health care coverage, it takes a toll on families and entire communities: it leads to delayed treatment of preventable diseases and early interventions, more visits to emergency rooms and even premature death. And when women are healthy, their entire family benefits.

“This legislation would allow immigrant families to better meet their financial needs, and would likely offer some peace of mind. [It] allows immigrants to access the benefits they already pay for,” said Haaland in that statement. “Under this administration, people in our country are denied access to health care because of where they come from—it’s not what we stand for. I’m leading this bill with Congresswoman Jayapal, because everyone in this country should be able to go to the doctor when they’re sick without having to weigh the cost against groceries or paying for electricity.”

“Our collective voices are what will make real change,” added NAPAWF Executive Director Sung Yeon Choimorrow. I am hopeful that with our communities and members of Congress, we can ensure health care coverage for all immigrants, regardless of their status.”

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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The United States government is set to collect DNA samples from asylum-seekers detained at the southern border, The Associated Press reported Monday (October 21). A spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) told The AP that officials will add information from the samples to a large FBI database used to track and investigate criminal activity. The DOJ’s amended regulation will reportedly “mandate DNA collection for almost all migrants who cross between official entry points and are held even temporarily.”

According to the official, who spoke to The AP “on the condition of anonymity before the regulations were published,” these new rules would not apply to anyone entering the U.S. “legally” and wouldn’t affect legal permanent residents. Children under the age of 14 are also exempt. The AP says it’s still unclear whether asylum-seekers who cross into the U.S. through legal ports of entry will be forced to give DNA samples. From the outlet:

The new policy would allow the government to amass a trove of biometric data on hundreds of thousands of migrants, raising major privacy concerns and questions about whether such data should be compelled even when a person is not suspected of a crime other than crossing the border illegally. Civil rights groups already have expressed concerns that data could be misused, and the new policy is likely to lead to legal action.

The new regulations are scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday (October 22), with officials hoping to “have a pilot program in place shortly after the 20-day comment period ends and expand from there,” according to the DOJ official. 

Colorlines previously reported on the DOJ’s plan to expand DNA collection at the border. At the time, it wasn’t clear when the program would begin, but advocates expressed outrage over the policy:

Vera Eidelman, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told  The New York Times this shift has to be taken seriously. “That kind of mass collection alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation basically to population surveillance,” she said. “[That] is basically contrary to our basic notions of a free, trusting, autonomous society.” Eidelman added that because genetic material also carries family connections, the collected DNA data could also impact family members who may or may not be legal residents of the U.S.

Immigration officials are currently limited in the amount of DNA they are allowed to collect. According to The APDNA can be collected “when a migrant is prosecuted in federal court for a criminal offense. That includes illegal crossing, a charge that has affected mostly single adults. Those accompanied by children generally aren’t prosecuted because children can’t be detained.”

The FBI database, also called the Combined DNA Index System, “has nearly 14 million convicted offender profiles, plus 3.6 million arrestee profiles and 966,782 forensic profiles as of August 2019.” The AP reports:

Federal and state investigators use the system to match DNA in crimes they are trying to solve. As of August 2019, the database produced about 480,000 hits, or matches with law enforcement seeking crime scene data, and assisted in more than 469,000 investigations.

According to The AP, the FBI will train border officials on how to obtain DNA samples and will supply the necessary cheek swab kits.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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NBC News reported on Monday (October 21) that the largest pension fund in the United States, California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) is divesting from GEO Group and CoreCivic, the two main for-profit prisons that run Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) migrant detention facilities. 

CalPERS is just the latest pension fund to make such a move. According to NBC, in November 2018 the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) pulled more than $13 million in investments from the publicly traded prison firms. Bank of America and Wells Fargo also cut financial ties with private prison companies that maintain contracts with ICE

“California public employees took a stand and made their voices heard after learning that their retirement savings were propping up the very companies that have played a critical role in the migrant abuse crisis, as well as mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Emily Claire Goldman, founder and director of the ESG Transparency Initiative, whose Educators for Migrant Justice campaign pushed CalPERS to divest.

Megan White, a spokesperson for CalPERS, however, insists the group wasn’t moved to divest $10.8 million for political reasons, but for financial ones.

“Ben Meng, our CIO, told the Board in January when he started that he would conduct a comprehensive review of our investments and investment strategy,” said White. “That included a review of benchmarks and indices, as well as an analysis of investments and strategies. Ben’s key focus is on risk mitigation; his goal is to assess what is adding value to the fund, consistent with CalPERS’ investment beliefs, and helping CalPERS achieve its 7 percent target return.”

Meanwhile, the California Faculty Association, which met with CalPERS on Friday (October 18), released a statement to NBC emphasizing its political take on the matter. “Our union was not going to stand by and watch our pension dollars support these terrible corporations, and we’re pleased to see that CalPERS investment analysts have come to the conclusion,” the statement read.

A spokesperson from GEO Group told NBC that the company is being misrepresented. “The divestment efforts against our company are based on a false narrative and a deliberate mischaracterization of our role as a long-standing government services provider,” the statement began. “We have been a trusted service provider to the federal government for over three decades, under Democratic and Republican administrations, and in that time, we have never played a role in setting policy, nor have we ever advocated for or against immigration enforcement policies.”

As Colorlines reported in July, GEO Group and Core Civic faced several lawsuits for alleged human rights violations. GEO Group faced even more controversy when one of the company’s top executives went to ICE to ask the agency, and therefore taxpayers, to cover its legal fees. ICE reportedly denied the request.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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An estimated 200,000 Salvadorans “living and working in the U.S.” will continue to be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), NPR reports. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made the announcement on Monday (October 28):

The Trump administration is extending the validity of work permits for El Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) through January 4, 2021. Additionally, the Trump Administration is providing El Salvadorans with TPS an additional 365 days after the conclusion of the TPS-related lawsuits to repatriate back to their home country. 

As Colorlines previously reported, on January 8, 2018, the federal government ended TPS eligibility for Salvadorans who had been “permitted to enter and live in the United States following devastating earthquakes and civil unrest in their native El Salvador.” As NPR notes, TPS is a federal program typically “reserved to help foreign nationals from countries embroiled in wars or facing natural disasters.” The revocation was one in a long line of actions that attempted to end TPS for people from Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, among other countries.

U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Ronald Johnson joined President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador on Twitter to make their own announcements about the TPS extension. “This is recognition of the achievements and good work of the government of Nayib Bukele,” said Johnson.

However, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), says people have the wrong idea about the Trump administration’s latest move. Per NPR:

“A clarification: some reporting has spoken of ‘extending TPS,” Cuccinelli said in a tweet. “That has important legal meaning, and that’s not what happened with the agreements. Rather, work permits for Salvadorans will be extended for one year past resolution of litigation for an orderly wind down period.”

According to the DHS statement, the Trump administration still wants to repatriate people to El Salvador via “an orderly and responsible process,” but there are concerns that “a sudden inflow of 250,000 individuals to El Salvador could spark another mass migration to the U.S. and reinvigorate the crisis at the southern border.”

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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The Trump administration hasn’t been honest about the number of family separations at the southern border as part of its zero tolerance policy, Time reports. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is leading a class action lawsuit against the government on behalf of affected families, learned on Thursday (October 24) that an additional 1,556 children were separated from their parents and guardians. According to Time, that means the total number of family separations since July 2017 adds up to nearly 5,500. The administration admitted to the new number when a judge ordered an accounting of every single case.

Lee Gelernt, the lead ACLU attorney in the lawsuit, spoke to Time about the big reveal. “We—naively, looking back—assumed the government was telling us about all the children they had separated,” he said. “I think what we’ve learned is that we need to continuously press the government to find out what they may not be disclosing.”

As a result of this new information, the ACLU has expanded its original lawsuit to include the additional affected families, Time reports. “At every stage of this case there have been shocking revelations,” Gelernt told Time. “In some ways, the real work is going to begin [now] because we have to try to find all these 1,500 families.”

Time reports:

The newly-disclosed cases deal with the period of July 1, 2017 through June 26, 2018, according to the ACLU—meaning many families were separated months before Sessions’ zero tolerance policy began on April 6, 2018. “There was a lot of public outcry over children who were separated during the zero tolerance policy, but this group of kids never really got that kind of public attention,” says Christie Turner, deputy director for special programs at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which is assisting in locating the families and providing them with legal services.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) still continues the practice of separating children from their parents and citing minor criminal histories as the rationale, Time points out. As Colorlines previously reported in July 2019, the ACLU accused the government of “systematically separating large numbers of families based on minor criminal history, highly dubious allegations of unfitness and errors in identifying bona fide parent-child relationships.” The ACLU specified in its motion at the time that “[the government is] separating young children based on such offenses as traffic violations, misdemeanor property damage and disorderly conduct violations.”

According to Time, DHS has yet to comment on the updated claim. 

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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A judge in Portland, Oregon, just threw another wrench into the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to punish poor immigrants. United States District Judge Michael Simon on Saturday (November 2) issued a temporary restraining order on the administration’s rule forcing immigrants to prove they can afford health insurance before applying for visas, Time reports. The visa rule was scheduled to go into effect on Saturday.

According to Time, seven U.S. citizens filed the federal lawsuit on Wednesday (October 30), saying the visa rule would “block nearly two-thirds of all prospective legal immigrants.” The suit also alleged that the rule would “greatly reduce or eliminate the number of immigrants who enter the United States with family sponsored visas.”

Esther Sung, a senior litigator at Justice Action Center (JAC), argued at Saturday’s hearing on behalf of the plaintiffs. She spoke to Time about the urgency of the case: “We’re very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the health care ban immediately,” Sung said. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped.”

Trump signed the visa proclamation in early October, and it applies to people living abroad who are looking to an immigrant visa. It doesn’t pertain to legal residents, asylum-seekers, refugees or children. It does, however, target poor immigrants who are either unable to afford health care, or don’t have employer-provided coverage.

Under the government’s visa rule, the required insurance can be bought individually or provided by an employer and it can be short-term coverage or catastrophic.

Medicaid doesn’t count, and an immigrant can’t get a visa if using the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies when buying insurance. The federal government pays for those subsidies.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan immigration think tank, 57 percent of U.S. immigrants had private health insurance in 2017, compared with 69 percent of U.S.-born, and 30 percent had public health insurance coverage, compared with 36 percent of native-born. 

“Countless thousands across the country can breathe a sigh of relief today,” Jesse Bless, director of federal litigation at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told Time. “The court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted without the hold,” he said.

JAC released a statement saying this fight is far from over. The court still has to consider the “full merits of the case, Doe v. Trump, in the coming days and weeks,” the statement read.

It is not clear when the judge will take those next steps.

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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Voters in Tucson, Arizona, gave a resounding “No” in response to Proposition 205, according to Tucson.com. As Colorlines reported on Tuesday (November 5), the measure sought to turn Tucson into the state’s first sanctuary city. It also sought to add restrictions around police questioning residents about their immigration status. 

Tucson.com reports that “58,820 voters, or 71.4 percent, voted ‘no’ on the proposal compared to just 23,562, or 29 percent, who voted ‘yes.’” People’s Defense Initiative, the group behind the movement that became Prop 205, issued a statement to press after the results were announced:

“We are incredibly proud of the hard work and inspiring commitment of our team and the hundreds of Tucsonans who made this campaign their very own,” the statement said. “Through this effort, we were able to uplift an important city-wide conversation that changed Tucson for the better.”

As Tuscon.com reports, lawmakers in Arizona pushed back against the measure, threatening “lawsuits and to withhold tax money to Tucson if the initiative passed.”

The New York Times spoke to Tuscon’s Mayor Jonathan Rothschild ahead of the vote, who said his city is already supporting immigrants. “The city of Tucson,” he said, “in all respects except being labeled as such, operates as a sanctuary city.”

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday (November 12), heard arguments to determine the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and Reuters reports that the justices seem to be divided. This case is “one of the most important of the term,” according to The New York Times, and it will ultimately determine presidential power over immigration policy.

The Trump administration is on a mission to end the program, which is widely supported in Congress and protects roughly 700,000 young immigrants from deportation. Launched by President Obama in 2012, DACA offers protection for people brought to the United States as children. Often referred to as “Dreamers,” they are able to live and work in the U.S. via a renewable temporary status. Currently, there is no path to citizenship for Dreamers. 

According to Reuters, conservative Supreme Court justices appeared to be sympathetic to the Trump administration’s goal to end the program. The news outlet reports:

Several of the five conservative justices appeared skeptical that courts can even review the Republican president’s 2017 plan to end [DACA]…. Even if the court finds that it can be reviewed, conservative justices indicated they think Trump’s administration gave a reasonable explanation for its decision.

Liberal justices, however, were more focused on the hundreds of thousands of people and businesses that have benefited from the program, Reuters reports:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor demanded that U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued the case for the administration, identify whether the administration considered all the harm that ending the program would do, or if it was just a “choice to destroy lives.”

States suing over Trump’s move to end the program include California and New York, according to Reuters. Lower courts found “Trump’s move to rescind DACA was likely ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and violated a U.S. law called the Administrative Procedure Act.”

The Supreme Court is now considering the case. As Reuters reports:

The justices must determine whether administration officials failed to provide adequate reasons for the decision to end DACA. The initial memo rescinding DACA, the plaintiffs said, gave a “one-sentence explanation” and did not spell out why the administration believes the program is unlawful. The justices will also have to decide whether the administration’s action against DACA is even something courts can review.

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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Recently, an email was circulated by anti-immigrant forces saying that they intended to show up “armed” to an immigrants’ rights event at a public library in Georgia, because we as the organizers of the event had dared to challenge law enforcement and “speak [our] minds.” The majority of the speakers, including myself, were immigrants.

As an outspoken immigrant who is often critical of the United States government’s policies, I have often been told to go back “instead of stirring up trouble here.” Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to aggressive and hateful speech in the course of pursuing justice. But this email escalated anti-immigrant rhetoric to threats of violence.

Many immigrants and refugees have left home countries where governments restricted their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. They arrived in a country where such freedoms are protected in the First Amendment of the Constitution. And yet, those who become outspoken community organizers, activists and even elected officials in the U.S. are targeted and silenced by the government. This targeting of immigrants and refugees, particularly people of color, for speaking up shows the emptiness of the rhetoric about the sanctity of free speech for all in this country. By silencing outspoken immigrant activists, jailing them and inciting violence against them, the government and White supremacists are attempting to keep immigrants in a state of fear and intimidation.

The targeting of Representative Ilhan Omar—a Somali-American, Muslim, Black woman who came to the United States as a refugee in 1992—is illustrative. She has taken strong positions on U.S. foreign policy, Palestinian liberation and immigrants’ rights. She stands for much of what the Trump administration is against, and the state and White supremacists protest her mere presence in Congress.

While the harassment that Omar has endured is recent, this targeting of outspoken immigrants goes back to at least the early 20th century. Consider the Palmer Raids. Between 1919 and 1920, during the Wilson administration, U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer led a number of raids against anyone suspected of having ties to leftist groups. The Palmer Raids resulted in the arrest of 3,000 to 10,000 people, the jailing of thousands and the deportation of hundreds of immigrants.

Emma Goldman is one of the people impacted by this ongoing criminalization. A Jewish immigrant to the U.S., she stands as a major figure in the history of American radicalism and feminism. An influential and well-known anarchist of her day, Goldman was an early advocate of free speech, birth control, women’s equality and union organizing. She was arrested for “inciting to riot” after speaking to unemployed workers and encouraging them to take action and demand work. She was arrested again for publicly teaching women how to use contraceptives. Her criticism of mandatory conscription of young men into the military during World War I led to a two-year imprisonment, followed by her deportation in 1919.

More recently, scores of primarily Muslim immigrants have been targeted, imprisoned and deported in the post 9/11 era. Ghassan Elashi is just one example. He was born in Gaza, Palestine, and he was one of the Holy Land Foundation directors targeted by the FBI for leading an organization that did relief work in Palestine. The organization came under investigation a few months after 9/11, causing the government to seize its assets and force its closure.

Despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, Elashi was later convicted for allegedly providing aid to Hamas, which was deemed a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Clinton administration in 1995. He is currently serving a 65-year sentence in a Communications Management Unit, a system that exists within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and predominantly houses Muslims, per reports. The CMU system has faced criticism for discriminatory practices and blatant violations of the constitutional rights of those detained.

In the Trump era, the targeting has also impacted outspoken immigrants such as Ravi Ragbir. The executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition and a long-time immigrants’ rights leader, he came to the U.S. from Trinidad in 1991. Ragbir has advocated against the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies, has been very critical of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and helped educate community leaders and elected officials on the costs of deporting and separating families. He has faced retribution by the government as a result.

ICE has already deported one member of the New Sanctuary Coalition, Jean Montrevil, and it attempted to do the same to Ragbir. Following a routine ICE check-in in January 2018, the heavily surveilled Ragbir was arrested and detained. But Ragbir and his supporters pushed back via organizing and legal action against ICE. They alleged that the agency was retaliating against him for his speech, and an appeals court agreed. The judge stated that, “public expression of his criticism, and its prominence, played a significant role in [ICE’s] recent attempts to remove him.” In response to the decision, Ravi Ragbir said: “It was all of our voices together that made this decision possible and we have to continue to speak out against the travesty of our deportation system.”

The callous and scary chants of “send her back” directed at Ilhan Omar at the Trump rally in North Carolina sent a chill down my spine and a served as a reminder of the targeting of outspoken immigrants and refugees for state retribution in the U.S. for centuries. The criminalization of immigrant activists in the Trump era has resulted in the disruption of free speech against the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies. And when the government is given the green light to violate the rights of one group of people, we know that it’s only a matter of time before it comes after all of us.

The targeting of immigrants, with the aim of deterring their speech and organizing work, must cease immediately. As immigrants, we cannot allow these threats from the state and White supremacist forces to keep us from doing our work. As Ravi Ragbir said, we have to continue to speak out boldly against policies that we deem racist and xenophobic.

In Georgia, we decided to go ahead with our forum, despite the threats, for that same reason. Georgia is an open-carry state, and we could not legally prevent several members of the anti-immigrant organizations from entering the library with firearms. But when a climate of intimidation and fear is combined with the threat and potential of violence, we look to our history of resistance and the strength of our partners to forge ahead. We organized for the safety of all participants and took security precautions into account. Yes, we ensured that the event was safe and productive, but it is outrageous that as immigrant activists, we have to face the potential threat of an armed attack for daring to speak out against unjust laws.  But that will never stop us.

 

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/

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