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Immigrants Left in Limbo After Obama-Era Program Rescinded

DALLAS – A decision by the Trump Administration last week is keeping hope alive for immigrants brought to Texas and the rest of the U.S. as children. But the news isn’t as good for their parents.

The Department of Homeland Security said it has rescinded the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, but is keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – at least for now. This means about 750,000 young people, often known as Dreamers, will not be targeted for deportation – but many of their parents are now at risk.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, said he predicts these decisions will divide families.

“I would have expected an administration that believes in family to accompany this announcement with some acknowledgement of the need to protect the parents, family members of United States citizen kids,” Saenz said. “We did not get that.”

President Barack Obama created the DACA and DAPA programs in 2014. A group of states, led by Texas, challenged them in court. After a 4-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, DAPA never went into effect.

President Donald Trump promised during his campaign to rescind all the Obama immigration orders, but since his election, he has said he might not roll back DACA.

Saenz said immigrants registered under the programs have been in legal limbo since the split court ruling. Now parents are left with no protections while their children are still covered by DACA, but no one seems to know for how long.

“But I think the demonstrated unpredictability means that while this is, as of today, an indication that they won’t be changing the DACA initiative,” he said, “that could change tomorrow, next month, six months from now,”

Nationwide, there are about 750,000 children of immigrants registered in the DACA program. DAPA would have applied to as many as 4 million immigrants, but because of the stalemate in the courts, the program was never fully implemented.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

UT/TT Poll: Immigration, Border Security Still Top Concerns for Texas Voters

Immigration and border security continue to top Texas voters’ lists of most important problems, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

About one-third of the voters surveyed listed one of those issues as their top concern, leaving issues like political corruption/leadership, education and health care in the dust.

And a long list of issues from property rights to the environment, transportation to taxes, barely registered.

“Only 6 percent say unemployment or jobs are top of mind,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.

He added that kind of rating is often good for the powers that be.

“People are coming to the idea that the Texas economy is good and the national economy is getting better. That, I think is good for the party in power, he said.

Some other responses, however, show “a taste for leadership and reform,” Shaw said.

uttt poll 1

Voters’ views of the biggest issues facing the country were somewhat different. More than a quarter listed either political corruption/leadership or national security/terrorism as the most important problem facing the United States, followed by the economy, immigration and health care.

Voters’ relative comfort with the economy shows up in their views of how things are going nationally, for the state and for their families. In all three cases, more voters see improvement over the past year than see things getting worse. More than half said their own economic situation is about the same as it was a year ago. But 42 percent think the national economy is better, and 34 percent think the state economy has improved.

That said, 54 percent of Texas voters said the country is headed off on the wrong track, while 34 percent think things are headed in the right direction. They’re happier with the direction of the state: 43 percent said Texas is on the right track, and 40 percent said it’s on the wrong track.

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The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from June 2 to June 11 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

This is one of several stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Earlier: Texans on President Trump and the Russia inquiries. Coming next week: Texans’ views on issues.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Most voters in the country’s biggest red state are wary of President Donald Trump — but Republican voters remain strongly supportive of him, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. [link]
  • We’ve published several investigations into what happens when border watchdogs turn criminal — from smuggling drugs and immigrants to getting mixed up with Mexican cartels. Revisit our Bordering on Insecurity project. [link]

2,000 Stories from Survivors of Rape, Abuse Displayed at US-Mexico Border

US and Mexican anti-violence advocates rallied at the border on Saturday against US immigration policies that create high rates of violence against undocumented immigrants.

On Trump’ 100th day in office, 2,000 stories from survivors of rape and abuse from the Monument Quilt spanned the US-Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, TX.  Blocks of red fabric created 7-story tall letters to spell “NOT ALONE” and “NO ESTÁS SOLX”.

“Xenophobia closes the possibility for people to talk about their trauma. As immigrants, we are invisible,” said Lorena Kourousias, Director of Life Enrichment Services at VIP Mujeres. “We are not the worst people like Trump says, we come here to escape violence and /or poverty, and we face violence in coming here. We are trying to improve our lives. The Monument Quilt offers the possibility to see the real face of immigration and to change the narrative.”

According to International Amnesty Mexico 70% of undocumented immigrant women experience sexual assault while migrating to the United States. Immigrant women are three to six times more likely to experience domestic violence than U.S.-born women, according to immigrant rights group We Belong Together.

The Monument Quilt Project was organized by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, La Casa Mandarina and Violence Intervention Program, Inc (VIP Mujeres), in partnership with UTEP- Women and Gender Studies Program, Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, Mujeres en Movimiento, Make the Road NY, Feminismo Consciente and Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ).

Photos courtesy The Monument Quilt Project

HOPE Statement: SB4 Threatens Border Communities

Today’s actions by the Texas House of Representatives to advance SB4 have injected renewed fear into local Texas communities and should serve as a wakeup call for all Americans. SB4 represents an extreme example of “Show Me Your Papers” legislation that targets migrants, families and local communities by deputizing local law enforcement to feed an immoral deportation and immigrant detention machine.

SB4 will not make Texas or the border safer. Playing politics and coercing local police to serve as immigration enforcement officers is a direct threat to the community-based policing efforts that are vital to public safety in Texas neighborhoods. Trust between local law enforcement officers and the community is critical.

unnamed (51)When the community can count on law enforcement without the fear of being detained, deported and separated from families, we are all safer. We need to support local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to ensure community safety and protect us all from violence and danger, regardless of immigration status.

We cannot allow today’s actions to tempt us to despair and inaction. In the face efforts to divide us, we must work for a greater solidarity capable of building bridges and overcoming fear.

In the face of actions to criminalize migrants and militarize our communities, we must work for a revolution of tenderness and a country where the human dignity of all, documented and undocumented, is respected and promoted.

***

Hope Border Institute (HBI) is an independent grassroots community organization working in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez-Las Cruces region, that seeks to bring the perspective of Catholic social teaching to bear on the social realities unique to our region. Through a robust program of research, reflection, leadership development, advocacy and action, HBI develops and aligns the border’s community leaders engaged in the work of justice from across the Mexico-US border to deepen solidarity across borders and transform our region.

State Senator Jose Rodríguez’s Issues Statement on SB 4

Austin – Senator José Rodríguez, Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, released the following statement regarding SB 4, which coerces local police to carry out federal immigration law:

SB 4 is an attack on Hispanics and the immigrant community. In a sad irony, a bill purportedly about public safety and the rule of law makes us less safe and erodes confidence in the justice system by disregarding constitutional due process protections and separation of powers.

Some facts about SB 4:

It was made clear when the bill passed the Senate, and again made clear in debate today in the House, that there are significant legal issues with SB 4.

  • El Paso County is under a settlement entered in federal court in 2006 that prohibits the county from enforcing civil immigration law. The settlement resulted from traffic checkpoints set up by the El Paso Sheriff’s Department in which it was alleged deputies conducted unlawful searches, seizures and detentions. Should SB 4 become law in its current form, it’s virtually certain to result in a costly lawsuit for El Paso County, which must choose between a federal settlement agreement and compliance with this new state law.
  • Texas cannot eliminate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure:

o   An ICE request to county jails to detain a person must be based on probable cause that the person is violating immigration law.

o   But these detainers are not issued by an independent judge who reviews them for probable cause. They are issued by immigration officers.

o   Federal courts in other jurisdictions have already held that a county’s compliance with voluntary immigration detainers violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

  • SB4 coerces local governments:

o   Creates a separate criminal offense under state law for failure to comply with the bill, making local officials personally liable for performance of each and every law officer working in their jurisdiction.

o   Subjects local entities to Attorney General lawsuits originating from public complaints that may have no merit, eroding community relations and creating unnecessary expense.

o   Singles out the enforcement authority of University Campus police to target students that may be DREAMers or DACA recipients.

Border Wall Plans Spur Effort to help Texas Landowners with Eminent Domain

As the Trump administration sets its sights on building a barrier on the country’s southern border, a group of Texas attorneys aims to help border residents ensure they are properly compensated for whatever land the government seizes.

A group of Texas attorneys launched a campaign Wednesday to help ensure that property owners on the state’s southern border are properly compensated should the Trump administration seize their lands for a border wall.

The Texas Civil Rights Project says it will focus its efforts on lower-income residents who don’t have the skills or knowledge needed to fight through the complicated eminent domain process that’s looming as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security moves ahead with plans for the wall’s construction.

“Under the rules governing federal condemnation actions, a landowner who disagrees with the amount offered by the government has the right to request a jury trial,” Efrén Olivares, the Civil Rights Project’s racial and economic justice director, said in a prepared statement. “Our team at the Texas Civil Rights Project is ready to represent landowners, as well as train and deploy legal volunteers to ensure that all landowners have the representation and respect they deserve.”

In his Jan. 25 executive order on border security and immigration, President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to begin planning a physical barrier on the country’s border with Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has since conceded that a coast-to-coast barrier isn’t likely to happen and that efforts would instead focus on a combination of technology and a physical wall. But a draft Homeland Security Department memo leaked last week stated that the Texas’ Rio Grande Valley area would probably be home to nearly three dozen miles of new construction once the building phase begins.

Facing off with the federal government won’t be a new challenge for the area. In 2006, the federal Secure Fence Act mandated that the government build about 700 miles of a steel barrier on the border. In response, hundreds of lawsuits were filed as Rio Grande Valley property owners sought proper compensation for pieces of land that varied in size from less than once acre to several hundred, according to documents provided by the Texas Civil Rights Project. Several dozen of those suits remain pending. The plaintiffs include private landowners, estate managers and local irrigation districts.

Read related Tribune coverage: 

  • The Trump administration may not be able to move mountains — literally — in its quest to build a coast-to-coast wall along the nation’s southern border. But that doesn’t mean the White House won’t review some longstanding treaties that have stymied past administrations.
  • At the U.S.-Mexico border, scientists say existing fencing is hurting endangered wildlife and warn that a continuous wall could devastate many species.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Poll: Majority of Texans Believe Immigration Helps Country More Than Hurts

More than 90 percent of Texans believe that local police should be allowed to ask about immigration status if a person is arrested for a crime, according to the results of a poll released Tuesday.

Only about half of Texans oppose “sanctuary” policies in which law enforcement or other local authorities don’t report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

But more than 90 percent of Texans believe that local police should be allowed to ask about immigration status if a person is arrested for a crime, according to the results of a poll on immigration conducted by the Texas Lyceum this month.

The poll was the nonprofit leadership group’s first deep dive into the issue of immigration in its 11-year polling history. The results were released as border security and state-based immigration efforts continue to be key and divisive issues for Texas lawmakers heading into the final six weeks of the current biennial legislative session.

The poll of 1,000 Texans was conducted from April 3 to April 9 and also focused on President Trump’s promised border wall and whether it should be up to employers to check the immigration status of the people they hire. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points and was overseen by University of Texas at Austin professor Daron Shaw and Joshua Blank, the manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project at UT. (Both Shaw and Blank have also worked on the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.)

The pollsters found that 62 percent of Texans said immigration helps the United States more than it hurts the country. That’s an increase from 2016, when 54 percent of the respondents said they viewed immigration was more beneficial than harmful.

The pollsters defined “sanctuary” entities as those in which “[when] local police or city government employees learn that someone is in the country illegally, they do not automatically turn that person over to federal immigration enforcement officers.”

Forty-five percent of the respondents supported sanctuary policies, while 49 percent opposed them. At the same time, 93 percent of all respondents said local police should be able to inquire into a person’s immigration status when arrested for a crime.

The results suggest most Texans would likely support “sanctuary” legislation currently moving through the Texas House, which would limits inquiries into immigration status from local law enforcement to people who have already been arrested.

Proposed legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year permits local police to ask about immigration status if a person is either arrested or detained by law enforcement for other reasons.

The Lyceum poll found deeper divisions among Texans when asked if inquiries by law enforcement into immigration status should be allowed for people who aren’t arrested. Only 44 percent agree that police should check a person’s status during a traffic stop, while 41 percent agreed that immigration status should be checked when a person is reporting a crime. Only 39 percent said that status should be checked when the police believe that a person is a witness to a crime or could provide information.

Opponents of more broad-based inquiries argue that the expanded authority would create a chilling effect that would lead to the public cooperating less with law enforcement. When broken down by party lines, 99 percent of Republicans think immigration status should be checked when a person is arrested for a crime, while 68 percent think it should be checked during a routine traffic stop. A slight majority, 53 percent, agree that status should be checked when a person is reporting a crime or is a witness.

While 88 percent of Democrats think immigration inquires should be made when a person is arrested, only 28 percent think it should be checked during a traffic stop. Only 30 percent think it should be checked when a person is reporting a crime or is a witness to one.

The poll also delved into how much the state should be spending on border security. In 2015, the Texas Legislature approved a record $800 million border security budget.

Half of the respondents were asked if the state should stay the current course with President Trump in the White House, while the other half was asked about state expenditures with Republicans in charge of the U.S. Congress. Under both conditions, most of the respondents with an opinion on the issue 45 percent of those questioned about Trump and 41 percent questioned about Congress – agreed the state should keep spending largely on the border.

“This indicates that, overall, Texans are expressing a greater expectation that the President will deliver on border security and/or immigration enforcement than Republicans in Congress, but there is no outcry to decrease the amount of money Texas spends securing its borders,” poll supervisors wrote in their summary.

When asked about President Trump’s plan to build a wall on the southern border, only about a third, or 35 percent, favored a barrier separating Texas from Mexico. Sixty-one percent opposed the project. The numbers are almost identical to the poll’s results from 2016, when 35 percent favored building the wall and 59 percent opposed such a project. This year, however, the percentage of respondents who identified as Hispanic that supported construction of the wall rose from 18 percent in 2016 to 25 percent.

The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents, or 63 percent, strongly supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants after a long waiting period if the applicants paid taxes and a penalty, passed a criminal background check and learned English. Twenty-seven of the respondents somewhat supported that idea, while 4 percent somewhat opposed and 5 percent strongly opposed.

Nearly three-fourths of Texans agreed that employers should check the immigration status of prospective employees and favored harsh penalties and fines for people who knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants. Forty-nine percent of the respondents strongly supported those measures, while 23 percent somewhat supported them. Only 23 percent opposed placing the responsibility on employers and making them subject to fines and punishment.

On Wednesday, the Texas Lyceum will release poll results on how Texans view President Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz‘s re-election prospects against a possible Democratic opponent.

Disclosure: The Texas Lyceum and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Study: Undocumented Immigrants Pay More in Taxes Than Wealthy

DENVER – The richest one percent of U.S. taxpayers pay less in taxes, just five percent of their income, than undocumented immigrants who pay eight percent. That’s according to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Meg Wiehe, the director of programs for the group, says the findings show widespread claims that immigrants are a drain on taxpayers are simply not true.

“Like you and like me and like everyone else, they pay sales and excise taxes when they purchase goods and services, they pay property taxes directly on their homes or indirectly as renters, and many undocumented immigrants are also paying income taxes,” she explained.

Colorado currently relies on sales, excise and property taxes for nearly 70 percent of its revenues each year. The study found undocumented immigrants currently add $140 million to Colorado’s tax coffers annually, and if they were given a pathway to legal status, they would contribute an additional $33 million.

Nationally, undocumented immigrants contribute nearly $12 billion in taxes.

In his recent joint address to Congress, President Trump claimed immigrants cost American taxpayers billions of dollars a year. Wiehe notes even though immigrants pay taxes that support safety-net programs, they are not eligible for benefits that other low- and moderate-income families depend on.

“Undocumented immigrants are actually generally excluded from most public benefits,” she said. “Many are paying into Social Security but will not receive the benefits from Social Security. They’re not eligible for Medicaid, they’re not eligible for food stamps.”

A 2013 Social Security Administration report found undocumented workers paid $13 billion in Social Security taxes.

Researchers at City University of New York estimate mass deportation of immigrants would lead to a loss of nearly $5 trillion in U.S. economic output over the next decade.

Author: Eric Galatas – Public News Service

Railroad Commission Bill Could Revive Debate on Bathrooms, Immigration

House Republicans will look to force a vote on the regulations in the Senate’s “bathroom bill.” And a Democratic lawmaker has an amendment aimed at forcing the business community to take sides in the sanctuary cities debate.

A Tuesday debate over the future of the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry could instead become a showdown over immigration and where transgender Texans use the bathroom.

House Republicans will look to force a vote on the regulations proposed in the Senate’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which House Speaker Joe Straus has decried as “manufactured and unnecessary.” Tyler Republican Matt Schaefer has filed two amendments that would essentially require the Railroad Commission to enact some of the bathroom-related regulations proposed in Senate Bill 6 — a measure that would require people to use the bathrooms in public schools and government buildings that align with their “biological sex.”

A separate amendment by state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, appears to target transgender people by requiring the commission to define women business owners — who can qualify for certain benefits in contracting — on the basis of the “physical condition of being female, as stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

Schaefer and Tinderholt are members of the socially conservative Texas Freedom Caucus, which is expected to repeatedly offer up portions of the “bathroom bill” as amendments to other measures. On just the second day of the legislative session, Schaefer, who leads the caucus, unsuccessfully attempted to amend a routine resolution with language requiring people in the Capitol to use bathrooms corresponding with their biological sex.

On the immigration front, an amendment by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would require that a company regulated by or contracting with the Texas Railroad Commission certify that it doesn’t hire undocumented workers and charged with perjury if found to have lied. The amendment would also require the commission to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the local district attorney if a company CEO or supervisor is in violation of the provision.

Anchia, the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said he has no desire to expand state-based immigration enforcement, and doesn’t expect his fellow Democrats to vote for the amendment. It’s symbolic: He wants businesses to be more vocal against what he called extreme immigration proposals the Legislature is considering this session, specifically Senate Bill 4. That measure, passed by the Senate last month and now pending in a House committee, would ban “sanctuary” jurisdictions in Texas and vastly expand the immigration enforcement powers of local police.

“For Republicans to only demonize immigrants but not talk about the insatiable appetite on the part of businesses for immigrant workers is hypocrisy at its best,” he said.

The state already has a law that requires state agencies and contractors to use E-Verify, the federal electronic verification system that determines whether a worker is eligible for employment. But Anchia’s amendment goes beyond that by including companies that “indirectly” hire unauthorized labor — meaning they use contractors and subcontractors who hire independent laborers that aren’t classified as regular employees.

This won’t be the first time an immigration debate has raged on a seemingly unrelated bill. Anchia took part in a bruising debate earlier this month on a bill to reform the state’s child welfare system. State Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, offered an amendment to withhold monthly payments to undocumented caretakers. It sparked a firestorm of opposition from Democrats and some moderate Republicans.

Anchia said at the time that business leaders have “ceded the field” — and it’s up to Democrats to take extreme measures, like his proposed amendment, to get them back in play.

“The current debate regarding immigrant workers has only focused on the enforcement of immigrants themselves,” he said.

Anchia said just hours after he pre-filed his amendment on Monday, he was approached by an “industry participant” who urged him to keep the bill “clean” – a common term used by stakeholders who don’t want the legislation altered significantly. He said if his amendment passes, it would be up to the oil and gas industry to convince lawmakers to remove the proposal during conference committee discussions, referring to the group of House and Senate members chosen by their respective leaders to iron out the differences in each chambers’ final bill.

Anchia said there will be more opportunities to make his point in the remaining months of the session, citing an upcoming bill on the Texas Department of Transportation as just one example.

Read related coverage:

  • Outnumbered and with time running out, Texas Democrats hoping to kill anti-“sanctuary” legislation are open to shining a spotlight on so-called “sanctuary industries” that often turn a blind eye toward hiring unauthorized labor.
  • The Texas “bathroom bill” has made it to the House but chamber leaders are hinting that the controversial legislation may never reach the chamber’s floor for a vote.

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Authors:  JULIÁN AGUILAR AND ALEXA URA – The Texas Tribune

Reps McSally, Hurd Send Letter Seeking Specific Details on Proposed Border Wall

On Tuesday, U.S. Representatives Martha McSally (AZ-02) and Will Hurd (TX-23), Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, sent an oversight letter asking for specific details of the Administration’s request for $999 million to plan, design, and construct the first installment of a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Addressed to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, the letter lays out a series of detailed questions to DHS in order to provide the lawmakers with further clarity regarding the President’s recent supplemental appropriations request, which was sent to Congress on March 16, 2017.

“As Representatives of the communities that make up our southern border, we recognize the need for robust border security and infrastructure to ensure public safety and increase cross border commerce,” the lawmakers write. “We also have an obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and as such have a number of questions.”

“While we have both publicly stated in the past that we believe physical barriers to be one of many tools required to gain operational control of the border,” continued the lawmakers, “we also believe that an expenditure this large, and submitted with limited details, deserves additional scrutiny to ensure funds are being used effectively in pursuit of our shared goal of securing the southwest border.”

The two lawmakers, whose districts collectively represent 880 miles— nearly half— of the U.S-Mexico border, seek specific details of the location of the proposed wall, definitions of adequate natural barriers,  and a breakdown of the investments in supplemental technology, infrastructure, and alleviating personnel backlogs.

Immigrants Do Not Increase Crime, Research Shows

DENVER – As President Donald Trump continues to make good on promises to deport undocumented immigrants – with some seeking protection in sanctuary churches – a new study shows U.S. cities with large immigrant populations experience lower rates of crime.

Contrary to the president’s statements, four decades of evidence shows no link between immigration and increased crime, according to Robert Adelman, the study’s lead author at the State University of New York.

“For crimes like murder, robbery, burglary and larceny – as immigration increases, crime decreases on average in American metropolitan areas,” he points out. “We found no effect of immigration on aggravated assault.”

Researchers studied census and FBI crime data in 200 metropolitan areas from 1970 to 2010.

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly maintained immigrants increased crime. Since taking office, he has signed executive orders restricting entry into the U.S., prioritizing deportation, authorizing construction of a wall on the Mexico border, and withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities.

Adelman says facts are critical in the current political environment, and points to research showing foreign-born individuals are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

In his view, the benefits brought by immigrant populations to U.S. cities outweigh any perceived risks.

“When we think about the benefits of immigration, you can think of economic revitalization, population growth, contributing to lower rates of vacant and abandoned buildings, cultural enrichment and – with our findings, in many cases – lower levels of crime,” Adelman stresses.

Adelman adds he hopes the research will help policymakers make decisions based on scientific evidence, not ideologies and claims that demonize particular segments of the U.S. population without facts to back them up.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service – CO

UT/TT Poll: Texans Take a Hard Line on Immigration and Refugees

A majority of Texans support banning Syrian refugees and blocking individuals from seven countries from entering the United States, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

They balk, but only a bit, at banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country, the poll found.

Asked about banning Syrian refugees, 54 percent they support that policy — 37 percent of them “strongly” so. Republicans are with President Trump on the issue: 65 percent strongly support a ban, and another 17 percent “somewhat” support a ban. Democrats are on the other side, with 51 percent “strongly” opposing the ban and 18 percent “somewhat” opposing it. White Texans support a ban (63 percent), while a plurality of black (49 percent) and a slight majority of Hispanic Texans (51 percent) oppose one.

The responses were similar to a question about blocking entry of people traveling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — the seven countries listed in an executive order from President Trump. Overall, 56 percent support temporarily blocking entry from those countries while 38 percent oppose it. Again, there’s a partisan split, with 88 percent of Republicans in favor and 71 percent of Democrats opposed to blocking travel.

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Graphic by Emily Albracht

“I’m used to talking about how Texans are more open about this stuff, but these are more conservative than the national numbers,” said poll co-director Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.

Republicans said they would support banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the U.S., with 51 percent strongly in support and another 16 percent somewhat in support. But the overall numbers for a religious ban were mixed, with 45 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed. Among Democrats, only 19 percent support a ban, while 56 were strongly opposed and another 16 percent were somewhat opposed.

“The administration has claimed that this is not a Muslim ban, and you can see the social undesirability of it in the answer here,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin.

“Sanctuary” cities

Half of Texans oppose “sanctuary” cities, where local police and city government employees don’t automatically enforce immigration laws by turning undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities. Only 37 percent support that practice.

Republicans in state government are pushing hard for a ban on sanctuary cities, and their voters appear to be solidly behind them: 71 percent “strongly oppose” sanctuary cities and another 8 percent “somewhat oppose” them. Democrats support them, but not as intensely: 41 percent strongly support sanctuary cities and 24 percent somewhat support them.

A narrow majority of Hispanics — 53 percent — are with the sanctuary cities. Among white Texans, 30 percent are with them and 61 percent are against; 41 percent of black Texans are with the cities and 29 percent are against.

“This the kind of debate that does better in the ivory tower than it does out on the streets,” said Shaw. “But if the supporters of sanctuary cities get their message out, their base lines up. The overall numbers are dismal, but Democrats in the electorate are open to it if their elites can and will make the argument.”

Undocumented students

A plurality of Texans — 47 percent — would continue to extend in-state tuition at state colleges and universities to undocumented immigrants who graduated from Texas high schools, have lived in the state for three years or more and have applied for U.S. citizenship. More than a third — 36 percent — would have those students pay higher out-of-state tuition rates.

As in so many responses in the current poll, the party flags were flying in these answers: 66 percent of Democrats said the students should pay in-state tuition, and 57 percent of Republicans said they should pay out-of-state tuition. Among Tea Party Republicans, 68 percent said out-of-state tuition should apply.

Even so, Texas politicians have been more forgiving on this issue than their counterparts in other states, and they have suffered for that in national elections.

“[National politicians] wonder why Rick Perry and others had this albatross around their necks, but they were reflecting Texas attitudes,” Shaw said.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

This is one of several stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Yesterday: What Texans think of the new president, and their views on the economy and the direction of the country and state. Coming Wednesday: Texas voters on education.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here

REFERENCE MATERIAL

Author:  ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Trump Administration Directs Border Patrol, ICE to Expand Deportations

The Trump administration on Tuesday moved one step closer to implementing the president’s plans to aggressively rid the country of undocumented immigrants and expand local police-based enforcement of border security operations.

In a fact sheet outlining the efforts, the Department of Homeland Security said that though their top priority is finding and removing undocumented immigrants with criminal histories, millions more may also be subject to immediate removal.

“With extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States,” the fact sheet explains. “The guidance makes clear, however, that ICE should prioritize several categories of removable aliens who have committed crimes, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offense.”

The memo did not include instructions to halt the 2012 executive action called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which has allowed about 750,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to live and work in the country legally.

The guidelines also state that the Department of Homeland Security has authority to expedite the removal of undocumented immigrants who have been in the country illegally for at least two years, a departure from the Obama administration’s approach of concentrating mainly on newly arriving immigrants.

“To date, expedited removal has been exercised only for aliens encountered within 100 air miles of the border and 14 days of entry, and aliens who arrived in the United States by sea other than at a port of entry,” the agency states.

The action also seeks to expand a police-based immigration enforcement program known as 287(g), which allows local and state officers to perform immigration duties if they undergo the requisite training. The program fell out of favor under the Obama administration after Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced in 2012 that it wouldn’t renew contracts that were in place at the time.

“Empowering state and local law enforcement agencies to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law is critical to an effective enforcement strategy, and CBP and ICE will work with interested and eligible jurisdictions,” the memo reads.

Expansion of the 287(g) program will be concentrated on the “border regions,” according to the memo. It’s still unclear what the sweeping measures mean for state-based immigration efforts in Texas. The Legislature is currently debating a bill to outlaw “sanctuary” jurisdictions in Texas, the term commonly assigned to local entities that don’t enforce immigration laws or hand over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

Since the November election, lawmakers have expressed hope that the Trump administration would make good on Trump’s promises to secure the border but have continued plans to focus on the issue in Austin while Washington was fine-tuning its efforts.

Immigrant rights groups immediately blasted the news Tuesday as a mass-deportation campaign that goes against stated promises to only concentrate on criminal aliens.

“Now they are openly admitting that they ‘will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,’”  said Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, an immigrant rights group, in an statement. “These memos amount to an instruction manual for the coast-to-coast, fast-track deportation of everyone in the United States without papers, no matter how long they’ve been here, how strong their family ties, and how much they contribute.”

The memo also calls for immediately hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, asks Homeland Security to identify all sources of federal aid to Mexico over the last five years and calls for the agency to identify and allocate all sources of available funding for the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of a border wall. Under the new guidelines, all undocumented people approved for deportation will be returned to the country from which they entered illegally instead of where they originally came from. That means Mexico will see an influx of immigrants from Central America and elsewhere who used the country as an entry point into the United States.

On Monday, ProPublica, citing former Mexican and American officials, reported on how that policy shift could create new security issues for the region “as authorities in each country push unwanted migrants back and forth.”

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Texas Refugee Advocates Criticize Trump’s Immigration Order

DALLAS — As President Trump’s executive order plunged the U.S. immigration system into chaos over the weekend, refugee advocates in Texas were scrambling to make sense of the situation.

Hundreds of migrants were detained at international airports around the country, including at Dallas-Fort Worth International and Houston’s Bush Intercontinental, before an order from a federal judge prompted the release of most – but not all – of them.

Aaron Rippenkroeger, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, a statewide nonprofit advocacy group, called President Trump’s new policy un-American.

“We don’t agree with this action, but even so, there’s just so many better ways it could’ve been done,” Rippenkroeger said. “But to do it so abruptly with people in transit – literally mid-air – is just horrifying. It’s really a travesty, both the action and also the way it was carried out.”

The president signed the order Friday afternoon. It bans Syrian refugees, temporarily blocks citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and suspends all refugee admissions for four months.

Many refugees were in transit when the order was issued and were initially detained or turned back when their flights arrived in the U.S.

The events spurred protests at major airports over the weekend, including those in Texas. Rippenkroeger said the new policy is causing fear and confusion among refugees already settled here.

“We have refugees coming into our office,” said Rippenkrieger, “saying, ‘Am I going to be sent back to the war zone that I came from? What does this mean? Am I no longer allowed to stay here? Am I not going to be able to go through the citizenship process that you all explained to me?'”

Despite opposition from the political right, Texas has taken in the second-greatest number of refugees in the U.S. in recent years. Rippenkroeger said the vetting for migrants wishing to enter the U.S. already is the toughest anywhere.

“The most extreme in the world, already, from any country by far,” he said. “It’s more rigorous than any other country does and by far the most rigorous that the U.S. has ever had, and by far more than anyone else traveling to the U.S.”

Rippenkroeger said he is heartened that, despite the partisan rhetoric, thousands of everyday Texans have volunteered to help settle the state’s refugees and make them feel welcome.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

Feds Empty Family Detention Centers After Texas Judge’s Ruling

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Federal immigration centers have begun releasing hundreds of families from detention after a Texas judge ruled the the centers cannot be licensed as child-care facilities.

While the ruling had been long-sought by immigration activists, the flood of families released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has temporarily overwhelmed relief organizations.

Amy Fischer, policy director at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), said it normally assists just a few families at a time. She said ICE’s actions prove there’s no real need for family detention.

“The Obama Administration has upheld their use of family detention by saying that there is processing that is necessary, that happens in detention centers,” she said. “And what we saw this weekend proves that that is simply untrue.”

Following the ruling, Fischer said ICE began putting hundreds of people on buses, many to the RAICES intake center in San Antonio, where they’re being prepared to live with family members or sponsors in the U.S. until their immigration status is finalized.

Fischer said ICE sent her organization more than 450 immigrants over the weekend, and she believes that thousands more will be released in the coming weeks.

“We are only assuming that these massive releases will continue,” she added. “Everything that we have learned about the larger situation, other than when a bus is coming and the number of people around it, we have heard from reading it in the media.”

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, the group that challenged the family detention policy, said the win means families will no longer live in prison-like conditions awaiting their immigration hearings. However, he said the fight isn’t over.

“The state appealed yesterday, so this will continue to wind its way through the courts,” he said. “This is yet another step along the way, in hopefully ending the practice of detaining families altogether.”

Author – Mark Richardson, Public News Service (TX)

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