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Dallas-Fort Worth Immigration Lawyer

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Editor: Bob Kraft
Profession: Attorney at Law

December 08, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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USCIS Introduces New Fee Waiver Form

Category: Immigration News

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has introduced a new fee waiver form, effective today. The form is supposed to make fee waiver requests simpler and less confusing. This is especially important since immigration fees have risen so dramatically in the past few years. Here is the announcement from USCIS:

For the first time, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is introducing a standardized form for requesting waivers of the fees charged for immigration-benefit processing. Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, will become available for use on Nov. 23, 2010 – the same day USCIS’s latest fee schedule takes effect.

“Our goal is to bring clarity and consistency to immigration-benefit services,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas.  “The development of the new fee waiver form reflects our commitment to making improvements through extensive collaboration with the public.”

The fee waiver form reflects significant input from stakeholders, community-based organizations, and the general public. In stakeholder meetings, USCIS heard concerns that the absence of a standardized form led to confusion about the criteria and standards used to approve waivers. In July, USCIS published and sought comments on a proposed form through the Federal Register, generating input from numerous interested parties. Comments reflected applicants’ past experiences in requesting fee waivers and recommended changes to the proposed form and instructions to make them easier to understand for non-native English speakers.

The new form identifies clear requirements for documenting a fee waiver request. The form’s instructions also give information on the methodology that USCIS uses to evaluate the requests. For example, if an applicant can show that he or she is receiving a means-tested benefit and presents evidence to document that claim, then there is no requirement to submit further evidence. USCIS will use the same methodology in reviewing all fee waiver requests, whether submitted on the new Form I-912 or in a written statement generated by the applicant.

USCIS announced today that it is also now seeking feedback on a new guidance memorandum documenting the agency’s consolidated policy for reviewing fee waiver requests. Stakeholders and the general public are encouraged to visit www.uscis.gov/outreach to review the new memorandum and offer their input.

USCIS’s latest fee rule, which takes effect Nov. 23, 2010, expands the availability of fee waivers to several new categories. The final rule also increases fees by a weighted average of about 10 percent, but does not increase the fee on naturalization applications.
 
For more information on USCIS and its programs, visit www.uscis.gov.

 

 

 

December 08, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Dallas County Will Resume Accepting Mexican ID Cards for Auto Transactions

Category: Immigration News

In a policy change that may stir some debate, the Dallas County tax assessor-collector John Ames, has announced that his office will resume accepting identification cards issued to Mexican citizens for motor vehicle transactions such as registrations and title transfers. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News article on the subject:

John Ames decided a week ago to stop accepting the Matricula Consular de Alta Seguridad identification cards because of their use in some fraudulent transactions. But Ames reversed himself after learning that some Mexican nationals living in Dallas County have no other form of identification, which is needed to register vehicles, his office said.

The Mexican government issues the cards through its consulate offices to Mexican citizens living in other countries regardless of their emigration status. Many U.S. cities and police departments accept the card as identification as do certain banks for financial transactions.

Norman Kasal, spokesman for the tax office, said Ames' original decision was based on the fact that it's not possible to verify the matricula consular cards' authenticity or legitimacy. In addition, some have used fraudulent cards in such motor vehicle transactions as registrations and title transfers, he said.

The office will try to verify the validity of such cards, Kasal said, even though it may be time-consuming.

For example, if someone submits registration or title documents on behalf of a vehicle owner along with the person's Mexican ID card, the tax office will try to contact the cardholder to verify that the card and transaction are valid, he said.

"As agents of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, my office makes every effort possible to ensure the accuracy and legality of the transactions we process," Ames said in a prepared statement. "Our decision to not accept or accept various forms of ID is based on the ability to verify the authenticity of that ID."

November 15, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Editorial: Flawed, Divisive Immigration Bills

Category: Proposed Immigration Laws

The Dallas Morning News ran an excellent editorial today about some of the proposed new immigration legislation in Austin. This is important enough to reprint in full:

Picture a Texas where city police officers become foot soldiers in a push to corral and deport people who are in the country illegally. Picture neighborhood schools as part of the screening process to sort out who has immigration papers and who does not.

It's a jarring picture that radically changes the jobs that cops and educators already work hard to get done.

Yet it's the image we get from lawmakers in Austin who have filed – with dramatic flourish – bills to put local officials in the business of immigration enforcement.

They represent a wedge issue in next year's legislative session. Lawmakers' attention will be dominated by the painful job of chopping up to $25 billion out of the state budget. Even so, some of the most conservative lawmakers are creating a sideshow out of their vows to pass Arizona-type laws to crack down on illegal immigrants.

There is no doubt that local taxpayers pay the bill for services for people in the country illegally, and Texans have justification to be steamed at Washington's refusal to piece together a workable immigration policy. But these Austin proposals would do nothing to pay for services, secure the border or deal systematically with millions of people who overstay their visas.

What the proposals would do is make cops on the streets responsible for determining whether someone is in the country illegally before making the arrest. The problem with that is the naive notion that cops can do this job with little chance of racial profiling.

An arrest could come only during a stop on a separate infraction, but it would require the police officer to check with federal immigration officials on a suspect's status. The problem is the time and energy that would take from officers who should concentrate on catching dangerous people.

The author of the legislation filed in the House is Debbie Riddle, aRepublican from the Houston suburb of Tomball. One of her bills, she said, would require "school districts to report the number of illegal aliens attending their schools." Local educators don't need a time-consuming new mandate from Austin and the distraction of becoming de-facto immigration inspectors. Schoolchildren shouldn't be caught in the middle of document searches and background checks. Education should be the priority.

Riddle filed her legislation with much stagecraft. She camped outside the House – yard chairs and all – so she could be first in line for her bill filings.

Politicians like to say that Austin is different from other state capitals, that members put aside party differences "for the good of Texas." New House Speaker Joe Straus, a centrist Republican, was able to restore some of that spirit last year.

Going into the 2011 session, the GOP majority in the Legislature is bigger, bolder and farther to the right. What's certain is that lawmakers will have some of the most polarizing political battles imaginable. These battles will be not so much "for the good of Texas" as they will be for the good of people's political resumes.

 

October 11, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Editorial: Latinos Still Can - And Should - Beat Vote Projections

Category: Political or Judicial

The Dallas Morning News ran an excellent short editorial today encouraging Latinos to vote in the coming election. Historically, Latinos vote in smaller percentages than other ethnic groups. There may be cultural reasons for this, but the failure to vote hurts Latino causes -— whether that is immigration reform or economic recovery. I want to join the newspaper in urging Latinos, and everyone else, to vote November 2. Here is the editorial:

This probably isn't the first editorial you've read urging Latinos to make their mark at the polls. We've written some ourselves, so this plea to Texas' Hispanic voters is not new to us, either.

Nevertheless, the point remains. From jobs to education to immigration, Hispanic voters have quite a bit at stake in November's mid-term election. Yet some recent polling data suggests a significant number of registered Latino voters may sit this one out.

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that only about half of Hispanic voters nationally are likely to cast ballots. By contrast, 70 percent of all registered voters say they will vote.

A survey by this newspaper and several others found similar numbers across Texas. Only 44 percent of registered Texas Hispanic voters said they were "absolutely certain" to vote, compared to 58.2 percent of all registered Texas voters with no doubt they would hit the polls.

The polling firm Latino Decisions found some marginally better numbers nationally. Its recent report shows 73 percent of registered Hispanic voters are "almost certain" to vote. "Almost certain" is nowhere as good as "absolutely certain," but the Latino numbers perhaps could end up higher than 45 percent to 50 percent of those registered.

Let's hope so. Sitting this election out will do Hispanics no good, no matter how despondent they may be over the immigration debate. Experts examining these recent polls believe the anger surrounding this issue is largely responsible for the low projections.

But there is much more at stake, which the Pew Hispanic Center interestingly picked up on. Its survey revealed that Latinos consider education, jobs, health care and budget deficits more important issues than immigration.

So with all that at stake, particularly the economy, Latino voters have every reason to vote early or on Nov. 2. We hope that by the morning of Nov. 3, these dire projections will have been proven wildly inaccurate.

October 03, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Texans Favor Illegal Immigration Crackdown - Up to a Point

Category: Immigration News

The results of a poll of Texans conducted recently by the Dallas Morning News show that a majority favor a crackdown of some sort on illegal immigration, similar to what Arizona is trying to do. But the anti-immigration fervor in Texas doesn't appear to be as strong as in some other states. Here are excerpts from this interesting article:

Texans appear fed up with illegal immigration, with most backing an Arizona-type crackdown and many willing to change the U.S. Constitution to discourage women from entering the country to give birth.

But some experts said that Texas, while roiled by the issue, still isn't as captivated by it as other places – especially for a border state with a decidedly Republican tilt.

A statewide poll by The Dallas Morning News showed that 53 percent of registered voters say police should verify whether people they've stopped are in the country legally, even if it could lead to racial profiling. Thirty-eight percent oppose it.

Meanwhile, Texans were almost evenly divided on changing the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to those born in the U.S., with 45 percent favoring change and 43 percent opposing it, the poll found.

"If there's a surprise, it's that the margins are so narrow," said Jerry Polinard, University of Texas-Pan American political science professor. "Overall, immigration has been on the agenda of the state for the past six or seven years, but it hasn't lit the sparks that it has in some of the other states."

Texans' reluctance to change the Constitution mirrors national polls on the subject. But Texans are less enthusiastic than the nation at large about the Arizona law, which allowed law officers to ask people about their immigration status if officers suspect people are in the country illegally. The law largely is on hold while it is challenged in federal court.

Mark P. Jones, political science chairman at Rice University, said Texas voters might have peeled off because the poll raised the concern over racial profiling.

Also, Hispanic culture has long been a part of Texas history, he said.

"It's hard to argue that there is an overwhelming feeling by Texans that we need that law," Jones said.

Although some Republicans have vowed to push in next year's Legislature for a similar law, GOP Gov. Rick Perry has been lukewarm, saying it's not needed in Texas. His Democratic opponent, Bill White, has opposed it, saying it would distract police officers from protecting the public from crime.

The News' poll showed clear breaks between Republicans (78 percent favoring it) and Democrats (71 percent opposing it), and Hispanics (76 percent opposing) and whites (68 percent favoring).

Both Jones and Polinard said the immigration conflict eventually would hurt Republicans by alienating Latino voters, who within 10 years will have a large sway in Texas elections.

"The Republicans, if they take this up, are looking over a cliff. Demography is destiny," Polinard said.

"The Democrats fall on their knees every night and pray for immigration to be an issue because it's viewed as anti-Latino and it will only help them," he said.

Jones said efforts to pass a verification law would be a polarizing distraction, with no real legal benefit because the courts probably will overturn most of it. "It's not a winning political issue," he said.

The poll also looked at Texans' views of showing a photo ID to vote, and the vast majority favor such a law.

Opponents believe that the ID requirement would force many who are poor, elderly or disabled – those most likely not to have a driver's license – to be turned away from the polling places.

October 03, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Texans Favor Illegal Immigration Crackdown - Up to a Point

Category: Immigration News

The results of a poll of Texans conducted recently by the Dallas Morning News show that a majority favor a crackdown of some sort on illegal immigration, similar to what Arizona is trying to do. But the anti-immigration fervor in Texas doesn't appear to be as strong as in some other states. Here are excerpts from this interesting article:

Texans appear fed up with illegal immigration, with most backing an Arizona-type crackdown and many willing to change the U.S. Constitution to discourage women from entering the country to give birth.

But some experts said that Texas, while roiled by the issue, still isn't as captivated by it as other places – especially for a border state with a decidedly Republican tilt.

A statewide poll by The Dallas Morning News showed that 53 percent of registered voters say police should verify whether people they've stopped are in the country legally, even if it could lead to racial profiling. Thirty-eight percent oppose it.

Meanwhile, Texans were almost evenly divided on changing the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to those born in the U.S., with 45 percent favoring change and 43 percent opposing it, the poll found.

"If there's a surprise, it's that the margins are so narrow," said Jerry Polinard, University of Texas-Pan American political science professor. "Overall, immigration has been on the agenda of the state for the past six or seven years, but it hasn't lit the sparks that it has in some of the other states."

Texans' reluctance to change the Constitution mirrors national polls on the subject. But Texans are less enthusiastic than the nation at large about the Arizona law, which allowed law officers to ask people about their immigration status if officers suspect people are in the country illegally. The law largely is on hold while it is challenged in federal court.

Mark P. Jones, political science chairman at Rice University, said Texas voters might have peeled off because the poll raised the concern over racial profiling.

Also, Hispanic culture has long been a part of Texas history, he said.

"It's hard to argue that there is an overwhelming feeling by Texans that we need that law," Jones said.

Although some Republicans have vowed to push in next year's Legislature for a similar law, GOP Gov. Rick Perry has been lukewarm, saying it's not needed in Texas. His Democratic opponent, Bill White, has opposed it, saying it would distract police officers from protecting the public from crime.

The News' poll showed clear breaks between Republicans (78 percent favoring it) and Democrats (71 percent opposing it), and Hispanics (76 percent opposing) and whites (68 percent favoring).

Both Jones and Polinard said the immigration conflict eventually would hurt Republicans by alienating Latino voters, who within 10 years will have a large sway in Texas elections.

"The Republicans, if they take this up, are looking over a cliff. Demography is destiny," Polinard said.

"The Democrats fall on their knees every night and pray for immigration to be an issue because it's viewed as anti-Latino and it will only help them," he said.

Jones said efforts to pass a verification law would be a polarizing distraction, with no real legal benefit because the courts probably will overturn most of it. "It's not a winning political issue," he said.

The poll also looked at Texans' views of showing a photo ID to vote, and the vast majority favor such a law.

Opponents believe that the ID requirement would force many who are poor, elderly or disabled – those most likely not to have a driver's license – to be turned away from the polling places.

October 03, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Texans Favor Illegal Immigration Crackdown - Up to a Point

Category: Immigration News

The results of a poll of Texans conducted recently by the Dallas Morning News show that a majority favor a crackdown of some sort on illegal immigration, similar to what Arizona is trying to do. But the anti-immigration fervor in Texas doesn't appear to be as strong as in some other states. Here are excerpts from this interesting article:

Texans appear fed up with illegal immigration, with most backing an Arizona-type crackdown and many willing to change the U.S. Constitution to discourage women from entering the country to give birth.

But some experts said that Texas, while roiled by the issue, still isn't as captivated by it as other places – especially for a border state with a decidedly Republican tilt.

A statewide poll by The Dallas Morning News showed that 53 percent of registered voters say police should verify whether people they've stopped are in the country legally, even if it could lead to racial profiling. Thirty-eight percent oppose it.

Meanwhile, Texans were almost evenly divided on changing the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to those born in the U.S., with 45 percent favoring change and 43 percent opposing it, the poll found.

"If there's a surprise, it's that the margins are so narrow," said Jerry Polinard, University of Texas-Pan American political science professor. "Overall, immigration has been on the agenda of the state for the past six or seven years, but it hasn't lit the sparks that it has in some of the other states."

Texans' reluctance to change the Constitution mirrors national polls on the subject. But Texans are less enthusiastic than the nation at large about the Arizona law, which allowed law officers to ask people about their immigration status if officers suspect people are in the country illegally. The law largely is on hold while it is challenged in federal court.

Mark P. Jones, political science chairman at Rice University, said Texas voters might have peeled off because the poll raised the concern over racial profiling.

Also, Hispanic culture has long been a part of Texas history, he said.

"It's hard to argue that there is an overwhelming feeling by Texans that we need that law," Jones said.

Although some Republicans have vowed to push in next year's Legislature for a similar law, GOP Gov. Rick Perry has been lukewarm, saying it's not needed in Texas. His Democratic opponent, Bill White, has opposed it, saying it would distract police officers from protecting the public from crime.

The News' poll showed clear breaks between Republicans (78 percent favoring it) and Democrats (71 percent opposing it), and Hispanics (76 percent opposing) and whites (68 percent favoring).

Both Jones and Polinard said the immigration conflict eventually would hurt Republicans by alienating Latino voters, who within 10 years will have a large sway in Texas elections.

"The Republicans, if they take this up, are looking over a cliff. Demography is destiny," Polinard said.

"The Democrats fall on their knees every night and pray for immigration to be an issue because it's viewed as anti-Latino and it will only help them," he said.

Jones said efforts to pass a verification law would be a polarizing distraction, with no real legal benefit because the courts probably will overturn most of it. "It's not a winning political issue," he said.

The poll also looked at Texans' views of showing a photo ID to vote, and the vast majority favor such a law.

Opponents believe that the ID requirement would force many who are poor, elderly or disabled – those most likely not to have a driver's license – to be turned away from the polling places.

August 22, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Immigrant Students Spared As Deportations Rise

Category: Deportation and Detention

A recent article in the Dallas Morning News discussed the relatively "hands-off" deportation policy regarding students who are in the country illegally, but only because their parents brought them here as young children. In other words, these students did not choose to break the law and enter the U.S. illegally of their own will. Here are excerpts from the article:

The Obama administration, while deporting a record number of immigrants convicted of crimes, is sparing one group of illegal immigrants from expulsion: students who came to the U.S. without papers when they were children.

The students who have been allowed to remain are among more than 700,000 illegal immigrants who would be eligible for legal status under the Dream Act, a bill before Congress specifically for high school graduates who came to the U.S. before they were 16.

Department of Homeland Security officials said they had made no formal change of policy to permit those students to stay. But they said they had other, more pressing deportation priorities.

"In a world of limited resources, our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood," John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. "As opposed to someone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of their life here."

Still, Republicans say the authorities should pursue all immigrants who are here illegally.

The administration is debating how to handle immigration now that the chances for a broad overhaul that President Barack Obama supports have faded for this year.

An internal Homeland Security memorandum, released last month by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, set off a furor among his fellow Republicans because it showed immigration officials weighing steps they could take without congressional approval to give legal status to some illegal immigrants – including suspending deportations of students.

But a White House official said that the administration had decided against the moratorium, preferring to push for the student bill.

"Legislation does far more for Dream Act students than deferring deportations would, in that it puts them on a path to citizenship," said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal policy debate.

Instead of a general moratorium, immigration authorities appear to be acting case by case to hold up deportations of young immigrants.

The vast majority of students who are illegal immigrants have no criminal records, and they would have to keep it that way to qualify to become legal under the Dream Act. To meet its terms, immigrants must also have graduated from high school and lived in the U.S. for at least five years, and they must complete two years of college or military service.

Lawmakers from both parties say the student bill draws wider support than the broader overhaul – but still not enough to make it likely to pass before the election.

Many young immigrants were brought to the U.S. illegally as small children by their parents. Often they only learn of their illegal status years later, when they are old enough to apply for a driver's license or to attend college.

August 12, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Ruben Navarrette Jr: GOP Finds New Way to Enrage Latinos

Category: Proposed Immigration Laws

I don't always agree with newspaper columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. but his most recent column, regarding talk of altering the 14th  Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, seems so completely correct that I'm going to take the liberty of reprinting almost all of it here.

Supposedly, elephants don't forget. But these days, when it comes to the explosive issue of immigration, I wonder if they even bother to think.

Not from the looks of it. Not when top Republicans in Congress are toying with the wacky and wicked idea of rewriting the 14th Amendment to eliminate so-called birthright citizenship.

A half-dozen prominent Senate Republicans have called for a review of Section 1, which dictates that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States," to see if they can find a way to exclude the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Kyl of Arizona, Charles Grassley of Iowa, and John McCain of Arizona in demanding a national debate on the issue.

Given the devastating effect such a debate would have -- chiefly on the GOP -- one wonders whether these six Republicans and others supporting such a brainless idea are secretly working for the Democrats. They're certainly not working for the long-term best interests of their own party.

Not in light of the fact that Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic in the country, increasingly consider the GOP brand toxic. This fight will close the deal because Latinos operate by a simple code: "Say what you will about the adults, but leave the children alone."

Still, in a way, it must be nice to be a Republican.

You don't have to worry about being morally consistent. You're not tied down by any core principles. You don't have to worry about being honest, logical or sincere. You can sell out and simply say whatever your constituents want to hear, even if it means uttering something totally different from what you used to believe just a few years ago.

For instance, how strange that a party whose members, whenever there are hearings for a Supreme Court nominee, put on a great show about adhering to a strict interpretation of the Constitution and not giving into judicial activism would now be flirting with a kind of legislative activism that defiles the very Constitution they supposedly revered.

How curious that a party whose members insist time and again that they have no problem with legal immigrants, and that they are only trying to run off the illegal variety, would destroy its credibility by going after a group of legal immigrants simply because critics don't approve of the process by which these people obtained legal status.

Finally, how unfortunate that a party whose leaders in Congress used to have the good sense to thwart legislation written by fellow Republicans seeking to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants would now cave in to pressure from voters and pursue a course of action that they formerly claimed was unwise and unnecessary.

The GOP was right the first time. This debate is unwise and unnecessary. It's also unseemly.

Republicans in Congress are acting like schoolyard bullies and picking on a group that, at least for the moment, can't defend itself -- children. Sadly, that's probably part of the appeal. Think about it. Republicans like to pick on illegal immigrants and U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants because those people can't vote.

But when Republicans have the chance to do something substantive about illegal immigration by punishing those who hire illegal immigrants, they never have the guts to follow through. Instead, to stay in the good graces of business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they pore over immigration bills and carefully take out language calling for sanctions on employers.

It's easier to try to punish children for the sins of their parents. After all, employers vote; children don't.

At least not yet. Republicans are obviously worried about what's going to happen to their candidates in the future when these so-called anchor babies grow up. The concern is that, when the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants earn the right to vote, they'll start settling scores for the despicable way in which their parents were treated -- hunted, demonized, exploited, scapegoated etc. -- often with the blessing of the GOP.

That's a lot to answer for. So naturally, Republicans are trying to put off this reckoning as long as possible. But by foolishly going down this road, they're further enraging the current crop of Latino voters -- and other Americans of good will -- and thus ensuring that the bill comes due that much sooner.

August 01, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Immigration Policy Aims to Help Military Families

Category: Immigration News

The Obama administration has tried to make it easier for illegal immigrant spouses and family members of military personnel to get legal immigration status. The policy changes were reported in the New York Times. Here are excerpts:

The new policy was described in an internal memorandum from Citizenship and Immigration Services that was released last week by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and caused a furor in Washington on Friday.

The memo outlined measures that the agency could take under existing laws to “reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization,” instead of waiting for Congress to pass an immigration overhaul to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.

With the title “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” the memo prompted protests from Mr. Grassley and other Republicans that the Obama administration was trying an end run around Congress, rather than confronting a divisive debate on immigration legislation during an election season. The memo was first reported on the Web site of The National Review, a conservative magazine.

Officials of the immigration agency denied on Friday that they were pursuing any plan to legalize millions of illegal immigrants by fiat.

According to the memo, one of those changes has been quietly put into practice since May. The new policy allows illegal immigrants who are spouses, parents and children of American citizens serving in the military to complete the process of becoming legal residents without having to leave the United States — a procedure that is known in immigration law terms as granting parole. The memo says agency officials approved the new parole approach “to preserve family unity and address Department of Defense concerns regarding soldier safety and readiness for duty.”

Department of Homeland Security officials estimate that many thousands of military service members have close relatives who are illegal immigrants. Under a legal Catch-22 in immigration law, those families could face as much as 10 years of separation if the immigrant relative leaves the United States to pursue a legal visa.

Administration officials sought to play down the memo. They said the proposals were largely “notional” and most had not been approved as policy by Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, the memo is signed by some of the highest officials in the agency, including Roxana Bacon, the general counsel, and Denise Vanison, the chief of the office of policy and strategy.

The memo finds that it is “theoretically possible to grant deferred action to an unrestricted number of unlawfully present individuals,” but rejects that option as politically “controversial” and too expensive. The memo suggests the agency could instead “tailor the use of this discretionary option for particular groups.”

Christopher Bentley, the spokesman for the immigration agency, said, “To be clear, D.H.S. will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population.”
 

July 14, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Humane Tweak to Immigration Enforcement

Category: Immigration News

 The Dallas Morning News has an excellent editorial today about a new approach to immigration "raids" at employers:

Any new approach to immigration enforcement almost certainly will raise someone's hackles, and the Obama administration's latest innovation, known as "silent raids," is no exception. As a temporary step while the nation debates comprehensive immigration reform, there is much to praise, but also much to criticize, in this new strategy.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are de-emphasizing the disruptive, headline-grabbing workplace raids such as those in 2006 at Swift meat-packing plants in Cactus, Texas, and other American towns. The raids, in which 1,297 illegal workers were captured, helped satisfy advocates seeking harsh action against millions of undocumented workers.

The problem was that the raids imposed unduly cruel punishments on those captured. They lost all household belongings. Children came home from school to find empty houses and were left to their own devices as their parents were whisked into deportation proceedings.

In the silent raids, ICE auditors comb through businesses' employee rosters and computer records to identify illegal workers. The employer is notified and fined, as well as warned of additional sanctions if the illegal workers aren't fired.

"Instead of hundreds of agents going after one company, now one agent can go after hundreds of companies. And there is no drama, no trauma, no families being torn apart, no handcuffs," immigration-law consultant Mark K. Reed said in a recent news report.

But serious deficiencies exist in this new approach. Without deportation, the tagged immigrant is often free to stay in the U.S. and hunt for new work. And companies caught employing large numbers of illegal immigrants escape the embarrassing "name and shame" coverage that occurred during the raids experienced by companies like Swift. The anonymity of silent raids allows violators to escape public accountability, and that's not right.

This newspaper favors this more humanitarian approach, albeit with additional tweaks. There should be no ambiguity for illegal workers who are tagged. ICE must follow up with a written or verbal warning: Your days are numbered; clear up your affairs, pack up and leave immediately to avoid forced deportation. A 48-hour warning seems humane but adequately tough.

As for employers, there must be no escaping full public accountability. Embarrassment and bad publicity provide a much-needed deterrent, which is why the occasional raid serves a constructive purpose.

Jobs are generally the reason migrants come here illegally. Those who employ illegal immigrants deserve to be named and shamed so that the magnet of work ceases to exist. That said, comprehensive immigration reform is essential, including provisions for a greatly expanded guest-worker program that gives businesses greater access to low-cost – and legal – immigrant labor.

The goal shouldn't be to destroy lives and traumatize families. But enforcement must include an unmistakable message that the American workplace is open only to those who enter legally, obtain the proper documents and stay only as long as permitted.

July 05, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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At Least $800 Million Spent for 53-Mile Border Fence

Category: Immigration News

The Associated Press reports that taxpayers have spent at least $15.1 million per mile for 53 miles of "virtual fence" built to secure the U.S. and Mexico border, more than 12 times the original estimate. Here are excerpts from the article:

The federal government set aside $833 million for the fence of cameras, sensors and other barriers in 2007, and the vast majority of that money, at least $800 million, has been spent on a sliver, in Arizona, of the nearly 2,000-mile southern border. About $20.9 million has been used on the northern border.

Rep. Chris Carney, D-Pa., chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee, said the money was supposed to buy virtual fence for 655 miles of border in Arizona, New Mexico and a slice of Texas, at a cost of about $1.2 million per mile.

The fence, developed as part of a border security plan under President George W. Bush, was supposed to monitor most of the southern border with Mexico by 2011. Now, the 53 miles in Arizona is expected to be done by the end of the year.

Additionally, the expected capabilities of the virtual fence have shrunk, said Randolph Hite, a Government Accountability Office official.

The Homeland Security Department has suspended the project while it decides what to do next. Several officials acknowledged some good has come from the project, but they questioned the cost for those capabilities.

Online:
House Homeland Security Committee
Secure Border Initiative report

July 01, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Calling Immigration System 'Broken,' Obama Pushes Bill

Category: Immigration News

President Obama gave a speech today calling the current immigration system "broken" and urging passage of comprehensive immigration reform. For an excellent summary of the speech, and of the issues surrounding the immigration debate, please read the article in the New York Times

 

 

June 28, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Common Sense Needed in Immigration Cases

Category: Deportation and Detention

The Dallas Morning News has an excellent editorial today pointing out the inequities in our current immigration system, particularly deportation. Few people would object to the deportation of criminals or of those who knowingly came here illegally as adults and made no effort to work within the system. But the editorial mentions the plights of other immigrants who, through no real fault of their own, have been placed in terrible situations by seemingly arbitrary decisions by the federal government.

The editorial is important enough to be reprinted in full: 

Justice isn't always blind when it comes to immigration enforcement. U.S. authorities exercise apparently wide latitude to impose the letter of the law or inject compassion, especially in cases of political expediency. Too often, simple common sense doesn't seem to factor into the equation. Three recent cases illustrate the point.

Olivera Snyder and her sister, Jelena Boldt, were born in the former Yugoslavia and brought here as children by their parents in 1985. They know little of their Serbian homeland. Both married Americans, and Olivera has three American children. Through one of the stranger twists in U.S. immigration enforcement, the Dallas-area sisters are bracing for deportation, despite having filed all the required paperwork and completed every step of the process.

Their immigrant mother won permission to stay. They have no criminal history. Someone in the bowels of Immigration and Customs Enforcement decided it was time to close their cases and move on. Their lawyer says he can't get an explanation and describes the case as "one of the most disturbing departures from rational thinking I have ever witnessed."

Eric Balderas is a Harvard student who grew up in the United States and has virtually no memory of his early childhood before his parents brought him to Texas from Mexico. He lost his passport and wound up in the sights of an ICE official as he boarded a flight from San Antonio to Boston. Now he faces deportation. Harvard dignitaries are trying to help, but the 19-year-old's future hangs in limbo until a July 6 deportation hearing.

Hervé Fonkou Takoulo is a Cameroonian facing deportation after losing an asylum bid. He and his American wife, Caroline Jamieson, are professionals in Manhattan. Jamieson wrote to President Barack Obama in a desperate attempt to stave off the deportation, and in apparent retaliation, two immigration agents went to the couple's house, mentioned the Obama letter and then took Takoulo away in handcuffs. An inquiry by The New York Times led to Takoulo's quick release.

Thousands of such cases never make it into the media spotlight, so there's no telling how many horror stories are out there. It shouldn't take a reporter's inquiry or an embarrassing news article to make immigration authorities recognize that theses are human beings whose lives face irrevocable destruction.

Yes, we want a predictable and consistent system of immigration laws that apply equally to all. But common sense also must come into play. These three cases underscore the real human hardship created by America's broken immigration system and overburdened immigration courts. Comprehensive immigration reform, with tough but fair measures to help people attain legal status in this country, is the best way to break this chain of tragedy.

June 14, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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ICE Detains Fewer Suspected Illegal Immigrants from Irving Jail

Category: Immigration News

As reported by the Dallas Morning News, federal immigration agents since October have cut back by about 50% the number of suspected illegal immigrants removed from the Irving city jail. The city of Irving began running citizenship checks in 2006 on all people arrested by Irving police.

There seems to be some confusion about the reason for the decrease in immigration holds. Here are excerpts from the newspaper article:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and Irving police disagree on the cause of the drop. Irving police say that federal officials are no longer detaining scores of suspected illegal immigrants who only have class C misdemeanor charges.

"Nothing changed in terms of our practice," Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said. "We still share information with everyone who is arrested in Irving."

Immigration officials say they continue to place immigration holds on suspected illegal immigrants accused of low-level crime. They suggest Irving jailers are the ones who have made an alteration.

"We haven't stopped taking any sort of referrals at all," said Carl Rusnok, an ICE spokesman.

Irving has turned more than 5,600 people over for deportation since the city began using the Criminal Alien Program in 2006. The program allows federal authorities to check the immigration status of inmates in the city's jail.

Irving officials brag that with the program, they have turned over more suspected illegal immigrants than any other city in the country. Demonstrations supporting and opposing CAP helped the city become the backdrop for America's discussion on illegal immigration nearly three years ago.

Rusnok said the agency will take only people charged with more serious crimes if resources such as beds, time or manpower are scarce. But, he said, there have not been the kind of long-term resource shortages to explain the sudden and sustained drop in detainers in Irving.

Boyd maintains that his jailers have said that ICE no longer seems able or interested in taking suspected illegal immigrants charged with the lowest level of crimes. Boyd said ICE has taken about 82 percent fewer Irving people charged only with class C misdemeanors this year compared with last year.

The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity last year released a report that found "strong evidence" that Irving officers racially profiled Hispanics in order to process them through CAP. Boyd disputed the study. The report from the institute, which is part of the law school at the University of California-Berkeley, was released the month before last year's drop in detainers.

Boyd, who has disputed the study's finding, said it had nothing to do with the decline in immigration holds. He said the study also has not changed the average number of inmates or the crimes for which arrestees are held.

June 08, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Edward Schumacher-Matos: Why We Need the Dream Act

Category: Proposed Immigration Laws

This opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News is by Edward Schumacher-Matos, the Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. 

Of all the political fights over immigration, the one that makes the least sense concerns children who came here illegally with their parents and then graduated from American high schools.

Based on statements to the media, most of the heartless Scrooges who want to kick these innocent youths out of the country – even though most are culturally and patriotically American – are Republicans.

But the dirty little secret is that Democrats have been as responsible for short-circuiting these young lives – and for denying the nation their talent after having already paid for their schooling.

They have done so in Congress by holding hostage the so-called Dream Act, which would give these young people a pathway to citizenship by joining the military or going to college. For the past decade, this bill has been seen as a motherhood-and-apple-pie measure that would help sell comprehensive immigration reform.

That logic once made tactical sense, but no more. The immigration debate has become so toxic that, spurred by Arizona, it now threatens to turn into a downward spiral of national paranoia about immigrants, particularly Hispanics. Periodic bouts of such hysteria pockmark our history – Japanese living in America during World War II, Germans before World Wars I and II, Italians and Slavs in the 1920s, and Irish and Chinese before that.

The Dream Act is urgently needed to help break this dangerous dynamic by reminding Americans of the positive side of immigration. The terms of the immigration debate have to be changed from what now is one of enforcement – and unfounded fears, largely of crime and terrorism – to an honest assessment of costs and benefits, and of the moral responsibility of immigrants and employers.

Only Obama can do this, in alliance with Democratic congressional leaders and some sympathetic Republicans. Most of our leaders have become cowed instead by the loud, often virulent anti-immigrant backlash. Obama himself says the right things but is reluctant to act.

Opposition to the act comes in part from the hard right and the normal cabal of talk show hosts who call the bills "amnesty light." They add, as Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas wrote three weeks ago, that the Dream Act "will result in illegal immigrants taking more of the limited number of spaces available for students at public universities, crowding out deserving American students."

Opponents on the hard left, meanwhile, charge that, given the low numbers of Latinos in college, the offer of citizenship through military service will become a popular default choice that condemns them to fighting in Iraq.

Nearly 115,000 immigrants are in the military today, and the Pentagon says it indeed would welcome more. Being an immigrant and a Vietnam War veteran myself, I agree with paying your dues or proving your loyalty. The immigrants don't have to stay.

But going to a university and using your learned skills is a contribution, too, and we are amazingly foolish to kick out youths in whom we already have invested so much.

Arguments such as Smith's are misplaced. States subsidize tuition because college graduates stimulate economic growth. There may be a point where those costs outweigh the benefits, but the relatively small number of students involved and the fact that they are already in each state's education system suggest that we are nowhere near this point. What the opponents are doing is shrinking their state talent pools, a recipe for decline.

The youths themselves best make their case. As a 22-year-old wanting to join the military told The Boston Globe, "We don't want a handout, just the opportunity to prove ourselves." 

May 26, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Obama to Send 1,200 Guard Troops to Mexico Border

Category: Immigration News

President Obama will send up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border and increase spending on law enforcement, yielding to demands from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers there that border security be tightened, administration officials said.

That was the opening of an article in the New York Times. Here are additional excerpts:

Homeland Security officials said that the troops would provide support to law enforcement officers already working along the border by helping observe and monitor traffic between official crossing points, and would help analyze trafficking patterns in hopes of intercepting illegal drug shipments. They performed similar tasks in an earlier deployment along the border from 2006 to 2008, when they also assisted with road and fence construction. The troops have not been involved directly in intercepting border crossers.

In addition to the soldiers, the White House said it would request $500 million in supplemental funds to pay for more federal agents, prosecutors, investigators and technology at the border.

Homeland Security officials have said that they have significantly increased border security efforts since Mr. Obama took office. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, said last month that the border was “as secure now as it has ever been,” though she conceded there was room for improvement. Critics on the right derided her remarks as out of touch.

May 23, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Visas for Illegal Immigrant Crime Victims Debated

Category: Temporary Visas

Two little-known types of immigrant visas are the T and the U visas. The T visa is for people innocently involved in human trafficking, and the U visa is for victims of crime. The U visa's basic purpose is to make it easier for police to prosecute those who commit violence.

Both types of visas were discussed in a recent Dallas Morning News article. Here are excerpts from the article, beginning with a discussion of the U visa:

The visas began flowing only 18 months ago and the majority have gone to domestic violence victims, say officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, up to 10,000 such visas are authorized annually. Illegal immigrants may receive such visas if they've suffered "substantial" physical or mental abuse from criminal activity and, among other things, a law enforcement agency certifies they have information on criminal activity. The visa can lead to permanent legal residency status.

The issuing of U visas comes at a tense time in the national immigration debate, amid a polarizing crackdown and potentially broader policing powers against immigrants in Arizona. And it illuminates a prickly point of justice: Should the federal government give illegal immigrants special treatment for a societal good such as fighting violent crime?

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act created both the U visa and the T visa. They're near the end of a complex network of visas, A through V.

T visas, for those involved in human trafficking, began flowing in 2002, but the flow of U visas was delayed as regulations on issuance were hammered out. In the last three full fiscal years, only about 250 to 300 T visas have been approved of the maximum annual allotment of 5,000.

In the last fiscal year, ending in September 2009, the federal government authorized 5,825 U visas. In the first five months of this fiscal year, nearly 5,000 such visas were given. There are about 6,600 visa applications pending, and the 10,000 allotment is expected to be reached as early as next month, said Maria Elena Garcia Upson, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency.

May 15, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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So You Want to Be an American: Five Circles of Immigration Hell

Category: Family-Based Immigration

There is a wonderful, humorous article about an Australian's frustrating passage through the immigration process at Cracked.com. Caution: the article contains some strong language. 

April 28, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Five Deal-Breakers in Arizona's New Immigration Law

Category: Immigration News

 Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer has an interesting take on the new anti-immigrant bill passed in Arizona. Here are excerpts from his column: 

Now that Arizona has enacted the most xenophobic anti-immigration law in this country, get ready for the big Hispanic exodus.

But it won't be an exodus back to Mexico or to Central America. It will be a stampede toward Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities with huge Hispanic populations, where Latinos will be able to live without fear of being stopped by police because of the color of their skin or for speaking Spanish.

According to a bill passed by the Arizona legislature and signed into law Friday, police officers would have to arrest anyone when they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person does not have valid immigration papers. And it would allow anyone to sue local or state officials who they believe aren't carrying out the law.

There are five major reasons why this Nazi-era-reminiscent legislation should be stopped in Arizona and kept from being copied by other states.

First, it won't stop undocumented immigrants from coming to the United States. As long as the U.S. per capita income is more than three times higher than Mexico's -- $46,400 vs. $13,500, to be precise -- Mexicans and other Latin Americans will continue crossing the border one way or another.

Second, it will not make Arizona safer. On the contrary, it will divert police resources away from fighting crime and will compel undocumented immigrants -- as well as U.S.-born Hispanics who won't want to be hassled by police -- not to report crimes.

But the Arizona Police Chiefs Association and others opposed the measure, saying it will drain law enforcement resources and prevent witnesses from stepping forward. By the same token, U.S. authorities in 2007 publicly honored 26-year-old undocumented immigrant Manuel Jesus Cordova for rescuing a 9-year-old whose mother had died in an accident. Would Cordova do so under the new law?

Third, it will hurt Arizona's economy. The new law is likely to be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional, but only after long and costly legal battles.

In addition, a flight of many of the estimated 470,000 undocumented Latinos from Arizona and the closing of some of the more than 35,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the state will drain the state's already ailing finances.

Fourth, if more U.S. states follow Arizona's lead, there may be a Latin American tourism backlash. Many of the more than 13 million Mexicans, 2.5 million South Americans and 860,000 Central Americans who travel to the United States every year may think twice before visiting a country where they may be stopped by police just because of the color of their skin or the language they speak.

Fifth, and perhaps most important, the law is morally wrong and profoundly un-American. The United States, despite the decline of its international image immediately after the Iraq War, is once again being seen positively by a majority of countries, according to a BBC poll released last week. Racial profiling laws would no doubt hurt the U.S. image abroad.

My opinion: Arizona's new law is not only legally dubious, economically counterproductive and morally repugnant, but it will do nothing to solve the U.S. immigration crisis. The solution is for the Obama administration to push for its much-promised immigration reform this year. That would help both secure the borders and give a path to legalization to more than 10 million undocumented immigrants. Otherwise, headline-seeking local politicians in other states will seek to fill the vacuum with similarly xenophobic laws, with not much more effect than producing a big Hispanic exodus -- within the United States.

 

 

April 25, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Does Farmers Branch Have Spending Priorities Straight?

Category: Immigration News

The Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch has been in the news for a couple of years now because of its efforts to run undocumented immigrants out of the city. The city leaders have attempted to do this by passing ordinances making it illegal to rent apartments or houses to such immigrants.

Unfortunately for the city, these ordinances keep getting shot down in court as unconstitutional, and the city has been forced to pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs who sue the city over the ordinances. After the latest adverse ruling, the Farmers Branch City Council voted this month to appeal the federal court judgment.

The rationale for the appeal is that this time the decision will be made by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is notoriously conservative. The city believes this court will be more likely to ignore or overturn other court opinions and decide that the ordinance is indeed constitutional.

The city's outside counsel has estimated the legal fees for an appeal could range from $100,000 to $150,000. Thus far, Farmers Branch has spent about $3.2 million trying to get illegal immigrants out of town, and has set aside another $620,000 for the remainder of 2010. By some estimates, the total legal costs could be more than $5 million by the end of this year. That's a lot of money for a city with a population of about 30,000.

For several years I lived in Carrollton, the suburb immediately north of Farmers Branch. I worked in Dallas, immediately south of Farmers Branch. So I passed through Farmers Branch at least twice each day, and actually was in the city far more than that. It's a nice town, with nice people. I hate to see all the negative publicity they are getting, although I do strongly disagree with their attempts to drive immigrants from Farmers Branch.

I know Farmers Branch has much more pressing needs for the money they are spending on these federal court appeals. Road maintenance, libraries, activities for senior citizens, and many other city projects are left wanting. That's a sad situation, and unfair to the residents of Farmers Branch.

March 31, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Supreme Court Decision Protects Right to Immigration Advice

Category: Immigration News

This press release was issued today by theAmerican Immigration Council:

The American Immigration Council applauds today's Supreme Court decision on the right to counsel for noncitizens charged with committing a crime. The Court held that criminal defense lawyers must advise their noncitizen clients about the risk of deportation if they accept a guilty plea.  The Court recognized that current immigration laws impose harsh and mandatory deportation consequences onto criminal convictions, and that Congress eliminated from these laws the Attorney General's discretionary authority to cancel removal in meritorious cases.  The Court said, "These changes to our immigration law have dramatically raised the stakes of a noncitizen's criminal conviction.  The importance of accurate legal advice for noncitizens accused of crimes has never been more important."
 
The case, Padilla v. Kentucky, involved a Vietnam War veteran who has resided lawfully in the U.S. for over 40 years.  His criminal defense lawyer told him not to worry about the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a crime, but that advice was wrong.  In fact, the guilty plea made Mr. Padilla subject to mandatory deportation from the United States.  The state of Kentucky said that Mr. Padilla had no right to withdraw his plea when he learned of the deportation consequence.  Today's decision reverses the Kentucky court.  It also rejected the federal government's position (which had been adopted by several courts) that a noncitizen is protected only from "affirmative misadvice" and not from a lawyer's failure to provide any advice about the immigration consequences of a plea.

"The right to counsel is at the very core of our criminal justice system. The Court affirms that immigrants should not be held accountable when they rely on incorrect advice from their lawyers or where counsel fails to provide any immigration advice at all," said Beth Werlin, an attorney at the American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center. "Today's decision also reminds us that ultimately, the increased criminalization of immigration law and lack of flexibility has resulted in harsh results. Congress should do its part to restore immigration judges' discretion to consider the particular circumstances in a person's case, thus affording each person facing deportation an individualized and fair opportunity to be heard." 

For more background on this Supreme Court's decision, read the Legal Action Center's blog post.

 

March 25, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Another Judge Rules Farmers Branch Rental Ban Is Unconstitutional

Category: Immigration News

For the second time, a federal judge has declared a Farmers Branch ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting in the city to be unconstitutional. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News article reporting this decision:

U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle of Dallas ruled Wednesday that the ordinance was an attempt to enforce U.S. immigration laws – something the judge said only the federal government can do.

The judge also issued a permanent injunction to stop Farmers Branch from enforcing Ordinance 2952.

Mayor Tim O'Hare, the driving force behind the ordinances, said he wants to appeal.

"The American people are tired of judges legislating from the bench," he said. "This decision is not unexpected but welcomed, because it allows us to get closer to this ordinance becoming reality."

But O'Hare said the City Council would have to vote on whether to continue a fight that has cost the city nearly $3.2 million since September 2006. And the city may need to spend an additional $623,000 in legal fees in the year ahead, city finance director Charles Cox said Wednesday.

About one-quarter of the estimated 30,000 people who live in Farmers Branch were born outside the United States. About 47 percent of the city's population is Hispanic.

In the past four years, the city has proposed a series of ordinances that would make it illegal for landlords to rent to illegal immigrants. A version approved by the council in 2006 was repealed in early 2007 to make way for another ordinance.

That ordinance, No. 2903, was approved by two-thirds of voters in 2007 but later declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay. The city abandoned an appeal of that ordinance in favor of Ordinance 2952. No. 2952 added all rental units, including houses, to the ban on renting to illegal immigrants.

March 21, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Wait-And-See Is Not An Immigration Strategy

Category: Proposed Immigration Laws

"...the time for comprehensive immigration reform is overdue, that our nation's system just isn't working." That was the gist of an excellent editorial this week in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts:

We don't know how many times we'll have to write that the time for comprehensive immigration reform is overdue, that our nation's system just isn't working. And however many times it takes, we will. Instead of getting better, our immigration problems keep getting worse, if that's possible.

Latest is the news that Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano has suspended payments on the "virtual fence" that many reformers, including this newspaper, had hoped would increase security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The fence, so far, has been a big dud – and an expensive one.

The U.S. has paid Boeing about $1 billion so far to develop a "virtual fence" that would rely on sophisticated electronics to track people illegally crossing our border with Mexico. Among other problems, The New York Times reports, Boeing failed to design tests that would work out the kinks.

Rather than keep pouring money down that hole, it's time to pursue an alternative. Options include the thermal-imaging devices, heat-seeking cameras and laptops that border agents want.

Of course, a real, physical fence is being built across parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. But there is no way enough fence can be built in a manner that seals the border from Brownsville to San Diego. We need some kind of electronic system to help border agents snare illegal crossers.

Some will want to use the apparent failure of the virtual fence to again do nothing on immigration reform this year, despite President Barack Obama's promise to pursue it and the efforts last week by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham to offer a serious overhaul.

Waiting around isn't going to solve the problem. If Congress falls prey to more wait-and-see, the nation won't have to wait long to see more scattershot local efforts, like the ill-advised one being pursued in the Arizona Legislature.

Some lawmakers there want to give local law enforcement the authority to charge an immigrant with trespassing if found in the state illegally. The immigrants wouldn't have to be accused of any other offense. Cops could just stop a suspected illegal immigrant while he is walking down the street and arrest him for not having valid papers. If this sounds good to you, please explain how this would not degenerate into profiling specific ethnicities based almost solely on their skin color.

The only good thing to say about the Arizona proposal is that it provides one more compelling reason for Washington to start creating a saner immigration system so that states and local governments aren't so tempted to take the law into their hands. 

 

March 21, 2010

By Bob Kraft

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Tamar Jacoby: New Heartland Voices on Immigration

Category: Immigration News

Tamar Jacoby is president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of employers working to advance immigration reform. She recently wrote an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News that raises interesting points. Here are excerpts:

In the years since Congress last considered an overhaul – since the bitter failures of 2006 and 2007 – a new type of immigration advocate has emerged: small-business owners.

Of course, some large U.S. businesses also rely on immigrant workers. And some employers are all too happy to take advantage of the broken immigration system – happy to hire unlawful workers, to pay them below-market wages, to exploit the fact that they can't bargain and aren't protected by the law.

But the lion's share of employers who depend on immigrants are small-business owners, known and trusted in their communities, who want nothing more than to be on the right side of the law.

After all, in most cases, they've invested their savings in their businesses, and they have brand names to protect, often their own family names. The last thing they want, or can afford, is to have all this snatched out from under them because they've run afoul of the law. They need a stable, reliable, legal workforce, and they're more than willing to pay for it.

Their message? They talk less about rights than about America's interests, less about compassion or ideals than about the U.S. economy and national security.

Sure, they speak in part from self-interest; they all have businesses to protect. But when it comes to immigration, their interests coincide with the interests of many American workers and of the U.S. economy.

Think about how a local economy works. If an employer has to shrink or close his business because he can't find immigrant workers, most often for the operation's lowest- or highest-skilled slots, he'll have to fire the Americans who fill the jobs in the middle of the skill ladder – the foreman at the dairy or packing plant, the maitre d' in the restaurant, the marketer at the IT startup. And when the restaurant chain shrinks or the biotech firm moves across the border to Canada, that means less work for American businesses up – and downstream in the economy – less work for other local businesses and fewer jobs for Americans.

Most employers who rely on immigrant workers are looking more to the future than the past. Of course, many hope that immigration reform will legalize their current workforce. But most are even more concerned about who will man their businesses in years ahead, as increased spending and pent-up demand power the way to economic recovery.

These small business owners need a way for the workers they count on to grow their businesses to enter the country legally. They want Congress to fix the system so we don't re-create the problem in years ahead. They know that the only way to control illegal immigration is to create a legal immigration system that works – and that this is the best way to secure our borders and restore the rule of law.

No one has more of a stake in fixing the broken immigration system than employers who rely on immigrant workers. And just because you won't see them on TV on Sunday doesn't mean they aren't making their voices heard.