Immigration Newsletter

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Courting Disaster?

Andrew Becker and Hugo Cabrera have done a real nice job with an article on TruthDig about all of the Homeland Security money being spent on Immigration Enforcement Police (ICE/Border Patrol), Prosecutors (DHS) and detention facilities -- and yet the Immigration Courts handled by the Department of Justice are way behind on their caseload and are not growing at anything like the same pace. It looks like trouble for both "due process" and increased enforcement; a real bottleneck in the making. They have called the article "America's approach to immigration is ICE backwards". Click on the title above to go there, or you can reach it through Bender's where I found it:

Do you know where the immigration court is for New Hampshire? How about for Maine? The Green Mountain State? That's right...the answers are Boston, Boston, and Boston. I have been lobbying to get an immigration judge up here in New Hampshire for about two years now with little success. It really makes no sense to have all of Northern New England fight the Boston traffic to go to court. For some of my clients it can be over 7 hours each way; for most of them there is an extra hour spent in traffic that they could avoid if the court were not located right in government center.

There are two immigration judges from New Hampshire on the bench in Boston and at least one DHS trial attorney who commutes from NH to work everyday -- why not set up a small operation in New Hampshire to handle the cases from Northern New England? There is enough work and there are already an ICE office and a USCIS office in Manchester.

Even as the Immigration Court expands at the JFK federal Building, the other immigration agencies are moving out of downtown. ICE has moved most of it's operation to Burlington, MA, and USCIS is opening a new office in Lawrence, MA that will handle a very significant percentage of Boston's workload. I could use some help with my one man show of trying to get the court to be a little more accomidating to immigrants who have sucessfully managed to cross the border (the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire that is).

If you would like some additional Obama dollars coming into Northern New England, if you would like to take a small bite out of Boston commuter traffic and correspondingly help the environment, or if you would just like to make the lives of your fellow Northern New Englanders a little easier -- contact your Senators or Representatives. Send an email to Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. or even to President Obama. Tell them that, as part of the expansion plan for immigration enforcement, Northern New England needs its own immigration court.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Illegal Immigrants about the same as average Utahns when it comes to crime

I found a mention of this Sutherland Institute study on the ImmProfBlog. It caught my eye because the first paragragh:

[The debate surrounding Utah’s immigration law (SB 81) is driven in part by a more fundamental question: are undocumented immigrants criminals? Some quickly respond to this question with another one: "what part of illegal don’t you understand?" For those that view murder and rape in a different league than illegal border crossings and document fraud, however, such simple and often emotion-driven reactions fail to satisfy.
Utahns do not consider themselves criminals when they regularly break traffic laws or trespassing laws, and rightfully so. These actions do not prey upon society in ways that merit the term "criminal," even though they are often not victimless offenses.]

Sounds familiar to me...yet this is a Conservative Institute. How very interesting...demographics apparently do mean something in electoral politics.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Study finds Immigration Judges can get burned out

Below is an excerpt and a link to an interesting study noted by Univ. of California at San Francisco --

“I am concerned that the stress and trauma in judges may make it hard for them to recognize trauma in the refugees whose cases come before them in the courtroom,” said Lustig. Lustig said that this can affect their future caseloads in one of two ways: they may become particularly lenient and grant asylum at a higher rate than they would otherwise, or they may just shut down and become desensitized to those applicants whose stories of persecution are genuine.

“Judges under this much stress may suffer from ‘compassion fatigue,’ in which they start to lose empathy for asylum applicants,” said study co-author Dana Leigh Marks, JD, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges. “This is the first time that the operations of the immigration courts have been evaluated by trained professionals who are qualified to compare the impact of judges’ working conditions with those of others in stressful jobs, like prison wardens and busy hospital doctors,” Marks said.

The survey gave respondents the opportunity to provide narrative responses on their working conditions. The narratives revealed that, in addition to the secondary traumatic stress the judges are suffering from the nature of the asylum seekers’ stories, the judges’ working conditions are contributing to high levels of job burnout.

To see more:

And so it begins...

President Obama met with Congressional leaders yesterday to discuss the way forward on immigration reform in the United States. It is an important first step because it emphasizes two principles that have often been overlooked. First, that a solution is needed sooner rather than later...meaning that it is not prudent to wait until the recession is over or until after the mid-term elections to bring reform; and second that common sense and practical solutions are what this country needs as opposed to more political grandstanding, manufactured outrage, and draconian enforcement.

Here is a link to the Presidents post meeting comments --

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"FAIR and the Unbalanced"

There is more at work in America’s immigration policy debate than the simple logic of law enforcement. There is a coordinated attempt to blame immigrants for most, if not all, of society’s ills and to dehumanize them and make them objects of hatred and derision. I don’t just mean the talk radio and television pundits. Their constant drumbeat of negative stereotyping, name calling and scapegoating is an important part of driving any rational debate into the ditch. However, there is another more insidious factor at play.

You might remember hearing about how the cigarette companies used to commission their own studies from their own laboratories staffed by scientists and doctors on the company payroll. What a surprise it was that they concluded that cigarettes were safe and nicotine was not addictive. It’s kind of the same with anti-immigrant research. When Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan or Sean Hannity needs an anti-immigrant study, report or poll to quote they can turn to several organizations for back up such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies, or NumbersUSA.

The problem is (according to the Southern Poverty Law Center) all of these organizations owe their existence to one very rich and very racist man named John Tanton. Check this SPLC link to find out more about Tanton and his organizations.

It took a long time to get past the propaganda machine that cigarette money built. I hope it doesn’t take as long for people to realize that much of the complaining and pot stirring about illegal immigration is being bought and paid for by a small number of wealthy cranks. Here’s another name to be aware of - Frosty Wooldridge (notice who he is talking up in his online article?):

Unfortunately, when people with power, money and a media platform start broadcasting messages of fear and hate it can have some really horrible effects downstream when the not so rich and powerful take up the cause in violent ways. Scott Roeder’s “alleged” murder of abortion providing physician George Tiller and James Von Brunn’s “alleged” recent murder of security guard Stephen T. Johns at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC are the most publicized episodes of right wing domestic terrorism by mentally unbalanced individuals.

Here are links to some stories that discuss, if not acts of domestic terrorism, certainly crimes motivated by hate and fear of immigrants. These appear to be crimes committed to send the message that immigrants (and Latinos in particular) are not welcome in the United States. The seed of that message germinates in groups like John Tanton’s; it is spread on a cultivated field by hate spouting media and it flowers in acts of violence.

“What part of illegal don’t you understand?”

That was a theme running through many of the letters and emails our office received, as well as in posts on various blogs, four years ago when we successfully defended clients charged with criminal trespass. Why criminal trespass? The cases arose when the Chiefs of Police in Hudson and New Ipswich, New Hampshire arrested and charged our clients because they did not have valid immigration status.

First, the part I do understand…

I understand that it is illegal for a non-citizen to enter the country without inspection; specifically, it is a class B misdemeanor or a “petty offense” as defined under federal immigration law and criminal law. This criminal provision of the law is, in my experience, seldom used except at the border. Rather, the cases are most often handled as civil matters. Most people who enter the United States without inspection and are later caught by Immigration & Customs Enforcement Officers are not charged with a crime – they are charged as being deportable from the United States. They go to a specialized administrative court called the Immigration Court, which is part of the Department of Justice.

Now here’s the part I don’t get…

With a very few exceptions, people who have lived here for decades get basically the same deal as those who illegally crossed the border last week. The petty offender gets nearly the same treatment as the very dangerous criminal – and that treatment is deportation. This is a problem. Why? You might ask. If they all broke the law they should be treated equally and get the same punishment right?


The United States has a “destroy the village to save the village” strategy when it comes to immigration policy. When we deport someone who has been here 10, 15, or even 20 plus years – that person often has a home, a business or a strong work history, and a family. So what is the result? It can often be a fire sale of the family home, a business closure or an employer who loses productivity while training a new worker, and U.S. born children that end up on public assistance or in foster care. For a class B misdemeanor? This is not smart public policy; it is self-defeating and unnecessary.

We have the right as a country to limit immigration levels and to secure our borders. However, that we have the right to deport persons from our soil if we wish does not mean that we should always do so. The United States needs some alternative remedies for dealing with immigration law violations. Alternatives that are not so destructive to the economy and the society that (through our laws) we claim to be trying to preserve.

In the 1990’s there was a program that allowed illegal immigrants to become legal residents if they had a U.S. citizen spouse or a U.S. employer to petition for them. They had to be otherwise admissible (meaning no serious criminal record, no communicable diseases, not likely to use public benefits, and no prior deportations, etc…) and they had to pay a $1,000.00 fine on top of the usual fees (over a thousand dollars each) the government charges immigrants to process their paperwork. That is called paying a fine for breaking the law; that is not amnesty -- unless you consider it an act of amnesty when you pay a speeding ticket.

Legalization of those immigrants who are not a danger to the public and who have family and employment ties to the United States would bring thousands of dollars per capita in fees to the U.S. Treasury ($24 billion perhaps). Investigating, detaining, trying and deporting a far smaller number of these same people each year costs the tax payers millions of dollars. There is no logic to inflicting emotional and financial damage on families and communities and to emptying the Treasury on account of the vast majority of illegal immigrants who are not terrorists or hardened criminals or otherwise undesirable. So why do we continue this way? It is time to change our approach.