As noted in our April 2nd blog, President Trump took to Twitter this weekend to complain about people trying to cross the southern border of the United States to take advantage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – despite the fact that DACA benefits do not apply as loosely as President Trump makes it seem. Trump also tweeted his disdain for so-called ‘caravans’ of Central Americans supposedly heading for the U.S.A.
As a follow-up to the tweets from the President, the White House held a conference call with reporters on Monday to outline their legislative priorities regarding immigration. The policy points, however, did not seem unique in any substantive way from the policies the Trump Administration have been unsuccessfully pursuing for months.
VERDICT: It seems that the conference call was organized to legitimize the tweet-storm put out by the President. Nothing substantially new was introduced in the conference call, so the question must be asked what the reason for the call was other than to organize the President’s tweeted opinions.
In an effort to reduce the growing backlog in immigration courts, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice introduced production quotas for immigration judges. As deportation arrests have sharply increased since President Trump took office, the backlog of cases in immigration cases has increased to over 650,000 pending cases.
To combat this, starting October 1, 2018, the roughly 350 immigration judges will have to complete 700 cases per year to earn a satisfactory grade. The current average number of cases completed is 678, so even the best-case success for this quota would still represent only a small dent in enormous backlog of immigration cases.
Not everyone is in favor of these new performance metrics. The National Immigration Judges Association has come out strongly against the new quotas, arguing that imposing such a quota is biases judgment toward quantity as opposed to quality. Further, some immigration attorneys have voiced concerns that cases will now be rushed through the process instead of receiving proper due process.
VERDICT: It is noble enough, at least at surface level, that the Trump administration wishes to reverse the growing immigration court backlog. However, these minimum quotas do not seem to be a useful approach. As noted earlier, the quota is only about 20 cases higher than the average number of cases immigration judges already see, so even if the average number of cases completed rises to 700 from 678, that would only reduce the current backlog by about one percent.
Additionally, there are valid fears that judges will rush through cases, potentially speeding through cases mostly at the end of the year when the deadline to meet the quota looms largest. Hopefully immigration judges continue to focus on quality over quantity, but a minimum quota may compromise that prioritization.
Earlier today the White House released a statement saying that immigration is top concern due to influx of Trump tweets. In the tweets, Trump railed on illegal immigration, being stricter on DACA recipients, and the overall state of the union with Mexico.
This was an attempt by the President to get Congress' attention back on immigration to push for more policies limiting illegal immigration to the country. In addition to this, President Trump continues to seek a final decision on the matter of DACA recipients and what their future will be now that they cannot renew benefits. The struggle in Congress comes down to lack of agreement between the two parties on what the priorities should be in regard to immigration reform.
Verdict: It comes as no surprise that Trump is using his Twitter platform to rile up constituents to push their representatives in congress to make change. Hopefully the changes that are made will be fair to all parties.
A recent detention of Jesus Aceves and three fellow farmworkers he was driving to work highlights the fear in California’s Central Valley where Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) is increasing their sweep of the state’s agricultural heartland. These new sweeps are doubly concerning to both farmworkers and the farmers as those arrested were not specifically targeted by ICE. In February alone, 232 people were arrested, of which 180 had been targeted by ICE.
Farmers fear the recent sweeps will cause even worse labor shortages than those that already exist. A survey conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation in the summer of 2017 showed that 55% of responding farmers experienced labor shortages, especially in farms where the work requires intensive hand labor.
Sadly, ICE Director Thomas Homan noted that California’s ‘sanctuary’ policies, in which the state limits cooperation between local and federal law enforcement, forces ICE to conduct even more enforcement in the communities in which undocumented immigrants live, including arresting immigrants in neighborhoods and at work sites. Additionally, Director Homan stated that the lack of cooperation between law enforcement agencies has increased the likelihood that ICE will arrest undocumented immigrants they were not even targeting.
As a result of the increased sweeps, many farmworkers have taken action to avoid being arrested. Some have altered their driving routes, many stay tuned to Facebook groups created to confirm sightings of immigration agents.
VERDICT: Though the sweep of arrests is certainly concerning, there are questions regarding how long these efforts can be sustained or even increased. A professor of agriculture and resource economics at the University of California Davis noted that it would take a huge and targeted operation to substantially harm the agricultural industry. That said, President Trump’s request to hire 10,000 new ICE agents went unfunded in the recent budget bill.
President Trump has been attacking California Governor Jerry Brown recently, so it will be useful to pay attention to that exchange. How that plays out could affect how and where ICE directs its agents.
The subject of a long immigration battle, Rene Lima-Marin has been released from detention after finally winning a long battle against deportation. In 2000, Lima-Marin was convicted of armed-robbery and sentenced to ninety-eight years in prison. In 2008, he was paroled by accident, and for six years lived life as a free man. After it was discovered that he had indeed not been intended to be paroled, he was sent to prison again to serve the rest of his sentence.
However, in May of 2017, a judge determined that it was an injustice to keep him in prison after the misjudgement of the authorities, and he was released from prison. He was immediately picked up by immigration officials, and re-imprisoned to await deportation hearings, a common occurrence among immigrants with criminal histories. In order to stall deportation hearings, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado pardoned him from his crime, but Lima-Marin remained stuck in prison. Again in June, an immigration lawyer attempted to overturn the deportation process, but battles amongst the lawyers kept him imprisoned until he was released on Monday.
Rene Lima-Marin came to the United States from Cuba in the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, a period in which approximately 125,000 Cubans fled Cuba and sought asylum in the U.S. For a period the “wet foot, dry foot” policy remained in place, allowing these Cubans to become residents. However, the abolishment of this policy in the end of the Obama era, created more potential for deportation of these immigrants.
VERDICT: While the verdict has been controversial, as many believe that Lima-Marin should have remained in prison due to the severity of his initial crime, ultimately the decision to not deport was a win for immigration-activists. However, the length of time in which Lima-Marin remained in prison while awaiting his hearing remains the subject of a continuous legal dispute of whether or not the law calls for this kind of detainment. It will be interesting to see the direction in which subsequent cases will take.
A recent report entitled, “Our Pathway to a Brighter Future” highlighted multiple places where Ohio is lacking in services for immigrants. The main concerns are with the availability of immigration attorneys, access to affordable healthcare, and English classes.
The report found that there are fewer than 35 immigration attorneys in the entire state of Ohio. As a result, the possibility for immigrants to be scammed by non-immigration attorneys is high. On healthcare, the report found that while about 6 percent of foreign-born naturalized citizens lack health insurance, as many as 25 percent of foreign-born non-citizens are uninsured. There is also a need for both more English classes as well as GED classes taught in Spanish, as just 39 percent of immigrants in Ohio speak English well.
VERDICT: The goal of the report was to shed light on the immigrations services needed in Ohio. Now that the report has been published, organizations providing these services will hopefully be able to use the report’s findings to find additional funding to expand their services.
Residents of a local Wyoming immigration town oppose the building of an immigration detention center near Evanston. They believe that it might negatively affect the current Hispanic population and cause distrust among the community.