Immigration News

This comprehensive article is one of the best I’ve read about the immigration debate. Franklin Foer, the Atlantic’s Washington editor, has interviewed residents of immigrant communities and many who work for Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement Bureau (ICE). He lays out the history of ICE (the unit arose as a stepchild of 9/11); the rapid growth of ICE’s staff, funding, and detention facilities; and the ambivalence of many ICE employees feel. Foer concludes with an account of how Trump has “taken the handcuffs off” immigration-enforcement officers. “Enforcement  has been handed over to a small clique of militant anti-immigration wonks. They think the best strategy for driving out undocumented immigrants is the cultivation of fear.”  

But Foer is no radical. “’Abolish ICE,’” he writes, “is a slogan, now fashionable among Democrats, that has a radical edge. Prudent policy, however, requires not smashing the system, but returning it to a not-so-distant past. Only five years ago, the political center deemed the legalization of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants a sensible element of a broad compromise. Only 15 years ago, before the birth of ICE, America had a bureaucracy that didn’t treat them as a policing problem. Immigration enforcement was housed in an agency devoted to both deportation and naturalization. …the U.S. can now borrow from its positive example and design an institutional structure that restores a sense of proportion to the limited dangers posed by the immigrants embedded in American communities.”

This investigative report by Hannah Dreier, a reporter who’s spent a year talking with MS-13 members and studying the Central American gang, clears up some common misconceptions. Trump is right about the spectacular violence members of MS-13 engage in on occasion. But MS-13 is not the boogeyman threat Trump is so fond of conjuring up at his rallies. The gang is not invading the country. They’re not posing as fake families. They’re not growing.  The USG says there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the USA, the same as 10 years ago. And because MS-13 preys on immigrant communities, the threat to the general public is vastly exaggerated. To counter MS-13, Dreier writes, the government needs above all to understand the gang’s members.

A grassroots movement to withhold capital from the private prison companies running immigrant-detention facilities is gaining steam.  The campaign targets two big prison contractors, CoreCivic and GeoGroup, and their chief creditors, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan. “These financiers…are essential to the business model of what is effectively a morally bankrupt industry,” says Daniel Altschuler, director of Civic Engagement and Research for Make the Road New York.

This group is part of a coalition of more than 70 organizations, including the ACLU and National Domestic Workers Alliance, which are demanding that Wells Fargo and JP Morgan stop financing the massive network of privately run ICE facilities. So far, this campaign has changed investment policies at public universities, union pension funds, and specialized social-investment funds. New York State, New York City, and Philadelphia have all moved to divest municipal pension funds from private prisons.

The White House is seriously considering a new policy that would penalize legal immigrants seeking permanent status for accepting healthcare services paid for by the government. The proposed rule would change the definition of what makes a legal immigrant a “public charge” to the government, and impact the decision over whether an applicant can qualify for permanent resident status.

As one might expect, news of the possible change has already resulted in a chilling effect on immigrants using healthcare services. Doctors have “witnessed examples on the ground of people not wanting to access their local providers because they’re afraid if they take their kids for a checkup it will be communicated to the federal government,” says Alberto Gonzalez of the advocacy group Community Catalyst.

Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president determines a ceiling for refugee admissions each year in consultation with Congress.  A “refugee” under U.S. law and international agreements is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.

A debate is under way among White House and administration staff on what the cap number for refugees should be for next fiscal year. President Bush last cap figure for refugees was 80,000, and President Obama’s was 110,000 refugees. In his first year as president Trump cut the cap to 45,000. Trump’s top immigration staffer, Stephen Miller, is reportedly pushing for a cap of 25,000 refugees next year – which would be the lowest number since refugee program’s inception. Trump must announce his decision by October 1.

Bonus Items

Trump’s zero-tolerance policy for migrants crossing at the Mexican border illegally and the ensuing family-separation furor drew public attention to how migrant children are affected by Trump’s crackdown. Less known is the effect of deporting an illegal parent or relative on U.S.-born children. These children are automatically U.S. citizens.

The Census Bureau reports that 5.9 million U.S. citizens under age 18 live with an undocumented family member, and ICE data suggest that about half a million U.S. citizen children have experienced the apprehension, detention, or deportation of at least one parent in the last two years.

This well-researched fact sheet documents the negative effects on the lives of these children of current Trump/Sessions enforcement policies.

This week Melania Trump’s Slovenian parents – Viktor and Amalija Knavses – became U.S. citizens through a standard provision of U.S. immigration law, one that gives preference to family members. Of course, the irony is that Trump has repeatedly railed against this provision as what he calls “chain migration,” a practice he wants to end.

“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” Trump said during his State of the Union speech earlier this year. “Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security and our future.”

Our sympathies to the Knavses’ lawyer, who asked if they became citizens through “chain migration,” found himself replying, “I suppose.”

This is an excellent, three-minute video that delineates the racist roots of U.S. immigration laws.

This week the Democratic Governors Association released 1,400-plus pages on Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s record. A compilation of quotes by the governor and press reports on his actions, the opposition research report offers a deep dive into Hogan’s personal, professional, and political life. It includes information about Hogan’s positions on social and economic issues, as well as details about his personal likes and dislikes and his real-estate business, which has earned him $2.4 million in the years he’s been governor.  

Maryland’s governor recently made a show of not sending Maryland National Guard troops to the Mexican border as Trump had asked. In fact, much of Governor Hogan’s high approval rating at this point in the campaign rests upon his not being Trump.

This thorough article, however, makes clear that as the president of the immigrant-advocacy group CASA in Action says, Hogan has been “extremely quiet in moments when we needed real leadership, and other times he has attacked immigrants using the same talking points about criminals and danger the president relies on.” Among Hogan’s stances on immigration issues:

He opposed Maryland’s policy of allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

He instructed the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center to provide ICE agents with 48 hours’ notice before an undocumented immigrant targeted for deportation was set to be released, so that feds could assume custody and try to remove them from the country.

He told the federal government that more Syrian refugees would not be welcome in Maryland because of “safety and security” concerns.

He vowed to veto the Maryland Trust Act, which would have prevented state law enforcement agencies from disclosing nonpublic records to ICE, and barred state officials from asking crime victims or suspects about their immigration status.  Hogan called it an “outrageously irresponsible bill” that would “endanger” Maryland citizens. “We cannot allow Maryland to become a sanctuary state, “he added in a fundraising letter.

When two undocumented immigrants in Rockville, high school students, were accused of rape, Hogan echoed Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s words in citing the case as a reason for voting against the Maryland Trust Act. (The charges were later dropped when police determined the sex was consensual. )

Hogan’s re-election web site makes no mention of immigration.

For more on Hogan’s comments about the Rockville “rape” case, check this link:

In the cacophonous digital world we live in, simply getting public attention can require some clever maneuvering. The IndivisibleHoCoMD immigration Action Team has figured out a way to reach thousands with a protest against Trump’s ”zero-tolerance” immigration policies. Each Friday afternoon, 4 to 7 pm, for the past three Fridays the group has strung banners across an I-95 overpass and let the motorists and truckers passing below know that there are some flag-waving Americans who won’t stand for separating children from parents.