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Home | Tag Archives: immigration (page 2)

Tag Archives: immigration

Grandmother Seeking Asylum Separated From her Disabled Grandson at the Border. It’s been 10 Months.

Ten months ago, Maria Vandelice de Bastos and her 16-year-old grandson arrived at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in nearby New Mexico. The pair told federal agents they were seeking asylum.

Though Vandelice de Bastos passed a standard screening for such claims, known as a credible fear interview, she and her grandson were soon separated and she hasn’t seen him since, according to her attorney.

While she sits in a federal detention center in El Paso, Matheus da Silva Bastos, who has severe epilepsy and autism, is more than 2,000 miles away at a state-run center in Connecticut.

Despite claims from the Trump administration that it is only separating families seeking asylum who cross the border illegally in between ports of entry and only began doing so recently, Vandelice de Bastos’s case appears to prove the exact opposite.

What’s more, caretakers of Matheus in two different states have urged federal officials to reunite him with his grandmother, records show.

De Bastos’ attorney, Eduardo Beckett, said his client told authorities during her credible fear interview that she and her grandson fled Brazil after off-duty cops threatened her for exposing what she said were the horrible conditions in the school her grandson attended.

“She made noise, she went to police and to the prosecutor, and then to the press. The principal got fired and the principal happened to have a brother who’s a cop,” Beckett said. “So, the cop went and paid her a visit and said, ‘We’ll see what happens to you.’ That’s the case in a nutshell.”

Soon after arriving, Vandelice de Bastos and Matheus were separated, and ever since, he’s been in the custody of different organizations that care for immigrant children. Though she had papers from Brazil that identified her as Matheus’ legal guardian, he was classified as an unaccompanied minor because his grandmother was deemed an inadmissible alien by Customs and Border Protection officers, according to a copy of the Department of Homeland Security report completed last August.

“She never lied”

Beckett said his client once had a visa to legally visit the United States. For years, she was allowed to go back and forth from her home country and did so freely until she was stopped by CBP officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in 2007. That’s when Beckett said she admitted to doing what thousands of visa holders do every year: working in the underground cash economy. According to her paperwork, she worked as a babysitter for $300 a week, triggering her deportation. But the only thing unusual about what she did was admitting to it, Beckett added.

“She never lied, she always told the truth and she never tried to sneak into the country,” he said.

Even still, the Department of Homeland Security makes clear that entering the United States is a “privilege, not a right.

“The most obvious reasons for denied entry include if a person has previously worked illegally in the U.S., is suspected of being an intended immigrant (i.e. planning on staying in the U.S. past the terms of their admission), or of having ties to terrorist or criminal organizations,” a CBP web page reads.

After Vandelice de Bastos was denied re-entry, she signed a notice that she was prohibited from “entering, attempting to enter or being in the United States” for five years.

“She did her time and she waited almost 10 years before coming back,” Beckett said. “The only way they can reinstate a removal order is if she came illegally, but she wasn’t trying to come in between the ports,” he said.

The DHS report from last August states she had no known criminal history in the United States at the time she and her grandson sought asylum, and the only length of her time in the country illegally was “at entry.”

But even if she had an existing deportation order, Beckett said her asylum claim would supersede that under federal law.

“That’s the whole point,” he said. “They should not have been separated.”

Both the the El Paso and San Antonio offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to requests for comments about the case.

A CBP spokesperson in Washington, D.C., said that it’s not current policy to separate families unless they enter without inspection between the ports of entry. When told about Beckett’s clients, she referred the Tribune back to the regional ICE offices in Texas. The spokesperson added that the agency complies with all applicable Americans with Disabilities Act policies when it processes persons with disabilities.

Round-the-clock care

During her time in Brazil, Beckett said, his client took custody of her grandson after his parents abandoned him and moved to the United States, where where the boy’s mother currently lives legally. According to the state-run center in Connecticut, his parents are unable to care for him because they work full-time and can’t give him the round-the-clock care he needs.

In a copy of the judgement from the state of Goías in Brazil, Vandelice de Bastos’ petition states that Matheus has “a serious disease, [uses] continuous medication and needs special care.” It adds that his parents “do not contribute for the child’s support” or “telephone to hear about their child.”

Officials in the state-run facility that now care for Matheus have pushed for his release.

“Matheus was raised and cared for by his grandmother while in Brazil and is now having a lot of difficulties in his new environment,” reads a letter from the state Department of Children and Families in Connecticut. “Having his grandmother present would be beneficial.”

The government-funded organization that took custody of Matheus before he was transferred to Connecticut has also urged for his grandmother’s release.

“While minor was in our care and even upon minor’s release, his overall well-being has significantly suffered due to be separated from his grandmother,” Yunuen Rodriguez, a family reunification specialist with the Heartland Alliance in Chicago, wrote in November 2017. That group is funded through the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Beckett has since filed more paperwork with the immigration court to prove his client should not be deported. But he knows it’s a challenging case because the judge has already cast doubts that Vandelice de Bastos has a legitimate asylum claim.

Asylum seekers must prove they face persecution in their home country due to their “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Beckett said the fact that Vandelice de Bastos spoke out against her grandson’s school and outed the administration could be an act of political expression, and he said the fact that she was threatened by police means they aren’t capable of or willing to protecting her.

But in an audio recording of the immigration proceedings from earlier this year, Judge William Abbott said the cops weren’t acting in their official capacity.

“You’re not going to be able to show the government acquiesced,” he said. “It does not meet the requirements for either one of the applications [for asylum]. The fact is that the individuals that seek to harm her are two private individuals who are mad at her and want to retaliate. An act of persecution cannot form the basis for membership [of a social group].”

According to federal statistics, asylum seekers from Brazil traditionally have a low rate of success. In 2016, 366 Brazilians applied for asylum. That same year, only seven application were granted while 36 were denied. Several more were either denied, abandoned or withdrawn.

Asked what would happen to Matheus if his grandmother is deported, Beckett said the government would have custody of him until he’s 21.

“After that, who knows,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Matheus da Silva Bastos’ parents live in the U.S. legally. His mother currently lives in the U.S. legally. 

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Video: Senator Cornyn Votes For ‘Secure and Succeed Act’

WASHINGTON –  On Thursday, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) voted for the Secure and Succeed Act, a proposed solution for DACA recipients that provides a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young adults and strengthens border security.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks from the Senate floor just before the vote are below, and video of his remarks can be found above.

“It is a good starting point because it could actually be signed into law and solve the challenge we promised to address.”

“It would provide them a predictable and productive future. I’m glad to be a cosponsor of this legislation which is called the Secure and Succeed Act. It does… provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million people who are DACA eligible.”

“Just as importantly, this bill provides a real plan to strengthen border security, utilizing more boots on the ground, better technology, and additional infrastructure, and enhance and modernize our ports of entry.”

“On Tuesday the Majority Leader tried twice to open the debate and start voting, but both times there were objections heard by our Democratic colleagues. This despite their repeated promises over the years to address the DACA issue once and for all.”

“I believe sincerely that Republicans and Democrats alike both want to provide certainty to these DACA recipients, but we’ve got to address the underlying problems with our border security and our flawed immigration system as well.”

“We know the clock is ticking.”

“We don’t hold children responsible for their parents’ mistakes, and that’s why we should embrace this proposal.”

“There are about 124,000 DACA recipients in my state of Texas, and I will proudly cast a vote soon to ensure that they stay here and contribute to our schools, our churches, and our communities. We are a nation of immigrants.”

**

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

 

Trump Ending Immigration Program that has Impacted more than 120,000 in Texas

The Trump Administration made it official Tuesday: It will end an Obama-era program that has granted relief from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement that the administration will phase out the initiative — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — program — over six months.

Started in 2012, the program has awarded more than 800,000 recipients — including more than 120,000 Texans — a renewable, two-year work permit and a reprieve from deportation proceedings. It applies to undocumented immigrants who came to the country before they were 16 years old and were 30 or younger as of June 2012.

During a conference call Tuesday morning with reporters, James McCament , the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said that any initial requests or requests for DACA renewals and accompanying work permits that had already been received before Tuesday would be “adjudicated on a case-by-case” basis.”

He added that any DACA recipient whose benefits will expire before March 5 will be allowed to apply for a renewal by Oct. 5.

In a statement released before Sessions’ announcement, Acting Department of Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke said the agency would no longer accept new applications and added the administration’s action was intended to prompt Congress to pass an immigration solution.

“With the measures the Department is putting in place today, no current beneficiaries will be impacted before March 5, 2018, nearly six months from now, so Congress can have time to deliver on appropriate legislative solutions,” she said. “However, I want to be clear that no new initial requests or associated applications filed after today will be acted on.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated that he’s always believed the issue should be handled by Congress, not the president. Speaking with reporters in Austin, Abbott declined to offer any specific guidance for Congress now that lawmakers have six months to act.

“I expect Congress to address it,” Abbott said, calling it a “multifaceted challenge and issue” for legislators. “They want to tackle the issue. I think latitude needs to be given to Congress to tackle the issue.”

Asked how DACA recipients in Texas should prepare for the program’s end, Abbott said that’s up to the federal government.

Rumors had swirled since last month that President Donald Trump was leaning toward eliminating the program after he promised to do so while campaigning for president. His decision sparked immediate outrage from immigrants rights groups and their supporters.

“This spiteful executive action runs counter to what has made America and Texas great,” said Ann Beeson, the executive director of the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities. “While the Trump Administration will use the six month delay to point the finger at Congress, make no mistake that it is the President who is dashing the hopes and dreams of young people protected by the DACA program. Ending the DACA program is contrary to Texas values and bad for the Texas economy.”

This summer, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged the U.S. Department of Justice to end the program, claiming it was an unlawful overreach by former President Barack Obama. Paxton and nine other state attorneys general wrote in a June 29 letter to Sessions that should the program stay intact, they would amend a 2014 lawsuit filed in Brownsville to include a challenge to DACA.

The 2014 lawsuit was filed in response to a separate Obama administration initiative, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, that would have expanded the eligible population of the DACA program and lengthened work permits to three years. That program was never implemented after the state of Texas sued the Obama Administration and successfully convinced a district judge and an appellate court that Obama overstepped his executive authority. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court split on the matter, upholding the appellate court’s decision.

In a statement Tuesday, Paxton applauded Trump’s announcement.

“As the Texas-led coalition explained in our June letter, the Obama-era program went far beyond the executive branch’s legitimate authority,” Paxton said. “Had former President Obama’s unilateral order on DACA been left intact, it would have set a dangerous precedent by giving the executive branch sweeping authority to bypass Congress and change immigration laws.”

The issue has prompted lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to file legislation to maintain the program in some form, including the bipartisan BRIDGE Act in the U.S. Senate that would extend protections for certain undocumented immigrants for three years. Economists have also cited DACA’s benefits to the economy as a reason it should remain intact. Even Trump has stated before that deciding to end the program would be “very, very hard.”

But immigration hardliners argue that despite the “deferred action” title, the program is nothing more than amnesty for people who have violated the country’s laws – no matter how old they were when they first entered the U.S.

Jackie Watson, an Austin-based immigration attorney who represented some of DACA’s earliest Texas-based applicants, said last month that attorneys are already discussing what, if any, legal action they could take should the program be axed — and whether rescinding it might “light a fire under Congress to make DACA a permanent statute.”

But she also said all of those options would be uphill battles. “It will be a total Hail Mary,” she said.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities 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:

  • Protesters were arrested near the state Capitol on Wednesday in a demonstration designed to challenge the state’s position on an Obama-era immigration program and test Travis County’s immigration policy. [Full story]
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from nine other states on Thursday urged the Trump administration to end a program that’s allowed hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to work in the country without fear of being deported. [Full story]

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Judge Temporarily Blocks Immigration Enforcement Law

A federal district judge on Wednesday ruled against the state of Texas and halted major provisions of a controversial state-based immigration enforcement law just days before it was scheduled to go into effect.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia granted a preliminary injunction of Senate Bill 4, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s key legislative priorities that seeks to outlaw “sanctuary” entities, the common term for governments that don’t enforce federal immigration laws.

As passed, SB 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and seeks to punish local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration “detainers” — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation. Punishment could come in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.

Garcia halted the part of the bill that required jail officials to honor all detainers, and another that prohibits “a pattern or practice that ‘materially limits’ the enforcement of immigration laws.”

The detainer provision, he said, would violate the Fourth Amendment

Garcia did let stand one of the most controversial portions of the law — allowing police officers to question the immigration status of people they detain.

Because the inquiry into status isn’t a prolonged detention, he said, it wasn’t enjoined. But he explained that officers who make the inquiry are limited in what they can do with the information.

“If during a lawful detention or arrest an officer obtains information that a detained or arrested individual is undocumented he may not arrest the individual on this basis,” he said, adding that the officer is not required to ask the question. But he said if the officer feels like they should, they can only share the information.

“In sum, SB 4 gives local officers discretion to inquire and share information, but it does not provide them with discretion to act upon the information that they may obtain,” he wrote in a footnote to his 94-page ruling.

The bill was scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1, but opponents of the legislation, including the cities of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Cenizo, as well as Maverick and El Paso counties and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argued the bill violates several provisions of the Constitution. Garcia’s decision means the bill is on hold until that issue is decided or until the preliminary injunction is appealed.

His decision is a temporary but significant blow to Abbott and other Republican backers of the bill who said it would help keep Texans safe from undocumented immigrants that have been arrested on criminal charges but released from custody by sheriffs or other elected officials who refuse to hold the alleged criminals for possible deportation.

Abbott on Wednesday night promised an immediate appeal.

“Today’s decision makes Texas’ communities less safe,” he said in a statement. “Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities. U.S. Supreme Court precedent for laws similar to Texas’ law are firmly on our side. This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton added: “Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”

In his ruling, Garcia also noted the injunction would serve the public and cited the overwhelming opposition to the bill during public testimony at the Capitol.

“The public interest in protecting constitutional rights, maintaining trust in local law enforcement and avoiding the heavy burdens that SB4 imposes on local entities will be served by enjoining these portions of SB4,” he said.

In another footnote, Garcia said that placing the law on hold would also benefit the state due to the sheer number of subsequent lawsuits that would likely follow if the legislation stood.

“If SB4 is implemented the state will begin spending public funds to enforce SB4 against local entities that will also spend public funds to defend themselves,” he said. “Both state and local entities will also need to expend public funds to defend against spin off litigation.”

Opponents of the law cheered the injunction.

“The court was right to strike down virtually all of this patently unconstitutional law. Senate Bill 4 would have led to rampant discrimination and made communities less safe,” said Terri Burke, the executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “That’s why police chiefs and mayors themselves were among its harshest critics — they recognized it would harm, not help, their communities.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the state of Texas’ lawsuit against Travis County and other defendants over the state’s new immigration enforcement law. [Full story]
  • Monday was the first day of what could be a lengthy legal battle over Senate Bill 4, which has been billed as the toughest state-based immigration bill in the country. [Full story]

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

State Senator Rodriguez Statement on Court Ruling that Blocks S.B. 4

Austin – Sen. José Rodríguez, Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, released the following statement regarding the preliminary injunction granted by the federal court in the Western District of Texas finding that provisions of S.B. 4 are preempted by federal law and unconstitutional:

Senate Bill 4, also referred to as the “show me your papers” bill, the racial profiling Bill, and the sanctuary cities bill, is a signal to law enforcement throughout Texas that it is okay to ignore the orders and policies of your local police chiefs and Sheriffs and profile folks by asking anyone they detain if they have immigration papers. 

This bill not only undermines public safety, it raises serious constitutional and legal questions that I and my colleagues brought up during the numerous debates leading to the enactment of S.B. 4. Thankfully, today a federal judge found that Texas violated the U.S. Constitution — the latest in a long line of legislation aimed at minorities — and enjoined all provisions of S.B. 4 from going into effect on Friday.

This is only the first step to stopping this harmful, immoral, and illegal legislation. Law enforcement, civil rights leaders, students, municipal and county leaders, and residents will continue the fight until all the harmful provisions are fully repealed.   

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.

uttt poll 2

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.

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