Monday, August 2, 2021
Immigration Law Professor Named Senior Counselor on Immigration Policy in Biden's Justice Department
Good immigration news from Washington D.C.! Immigration law professor Lucas Guttentag has been named senior counselor on immigration policy and report to the Department of Justice’s Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. Guttantag served in the Obama administration as a senior adviser on immigration policy, including as senior counselor to the secretary of Homeland Security. Anita Kumar for Politico states that "Guttentag will not only help dismantle Trump-era policies but will coordinate Biden policy among various agencies and departments."
Kumar writes that "[p]rior to entering the administration, Guttentag served as law professor at Stanford Law School and lecturer at Yale Law School. He launched the Immigration Policy Tracking Project in 2017 to develop and maintain a complete record of Trump administration immigration actions.
In total, Trump made more than 400 alterations to immigration policy during his time in office, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank with staffers across the political spectrum that provides data and analysis on immigration policy. The Immigration Policy Tracking Project put that number closer to 1,000."
President Joe Biden's plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan does not initially include a clear procedure to evacuate Afghan interpreters who aided the U.S. war effort and expedite their visas. Leaving behind these interpreters leaves them vulnerable to torture or killing in retaliation for aiding the U.S. For this reason, many qualify for Special Immigrant Visas or would otherwise be classified as refugees.
In a report from Politico, Rep. Jason Crow, who served the US army in Afghanistan, said: “It’s my view that the evacuations should have started right after the announcement of our withdrawal. That evacuation started too late.”
Under continuing criticism from members of Congress in both parties, Biden ordered evacuation flights for 700 applicants and their family members (a total of up to 3,500 people) beginning in August.
For a personal take on the risks faced by military interpreters and the need to assist them with resettlement and integration, see this inspiring TedX talk from Maytham Alshadood, a military interpreter who became a community organizer mobilizing Muslim and Arab refugees to naturalize and vote and who now works for Rep. Crowe. For more general context on noncitizens in the military and the challenges they are facing re-entering American life and obtaining expedited naturalized citizenship, see this GAO report and this symposium essay in the Denver University Law Review. These reports show that, despite the congressional mandate that their SIVs be approved quickly, Afghans have waited years and the delays were exacerbated during the Trump administration.
The Migration Policy Institute, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and Georgetown University Law Center will jointly host the 18th annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference. It will be a virtual event over two half-days on September 27 and 28. The conference will feature thoughtful policy and legal analysis, and discussion of the most important immigration topics from leading government officials, attorneys, policymakers, researchers, advocates, and others. (Video and a program from the 17th annual conference in 2020 is online.)
Registration procedures to be updated here; questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is basic immigration law 101 that U.S. citizens cannot be deported. Well, think again.
Melissa Cruz for the American Immigration Council reports that "70 potential U.S. citizens were deported between 2015 and 2020, a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded. . . .
All told, available data shows that ICE arrested 674 potential U.S. citizens, detained 121, and deported 70 during the time frame the government watchdog analyzed."
Read the report and the GAO report for more details. The "mistaken" removal of U.S. citizens must be stopped.
Sunday, August 1, 2021
While Biden will own this unwelcome distinction, former president Donald Trump staged this disaster last year by barring most immigrants sponsored by their family members from entering the United States. This caused 120,000 family green card slots to go unused.
Green cards permit holders to permanently live and work in the United States, and immigration law provides two primary routes to obtain them — sponsorship by family members or by employers. If fewer family-based green cards are issued than are allotted, the law requires that the unused family-based number from one year be added to the cap for employment-based green cards in the following year — in this case, an additional 120,000 slots (on top of the annual 140,000).
But here’s the problem: If those additional employment-based slots aren’t used by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, they are lost forever. And the administration is now saying that most won’t be, largely because of bureaucracy and a lack of preparation by the federal government.
The Trump administration should have known a huge effort would be needed to adjudicate the additional 120,000 employment-based applications. And it had plenty of time to mount a response: Trump signed his executive order banning most family-based immigrants in April 2020. But no plan ever materialized.
Instead, the State Department refused to allow anyone to submit applications until the first day of the new fiscal year in October 2020 — half a year wasted. That meant the government had just 12 months to process applications that often take much longer in a normal year. What happened next is a window into the United States’ devastatingly broken immigration system.
The delay resulted in a mass filing scramble in October. Because the United States is probably the only government in the world that has failed to produce an online immigration filing system, these paper forms had to be sent by mail. The government’s mailroom staff had to manually enter each applicant’s information into its system and issue a receipt. Precious weeks disappeared as too few staff attempted to rip open the flood of envelopes.
The next stage was no better. Government regulations require that every applicant be fingerprinted for backgrounds checks. This rule may seem reasonable — except nearly all employment-based applicants have lived and worked legally in the United States, many for a decade or more, with temporary residency status. This status they maintained by — you guessed it — repeatedly being fingerprinted and passing background checks.
During the pandemic, Trump closed all the fingerprinting sites for months, creating a massive backlog of green card applicants, work visa holders and others waiting for appointments. Neither the Trump nor the Biden administrations waived the need for fingerprinting, even though the government already had fingerprints for nearly all green card applicants.
What’s worse is that all these green card applicants were booking multiple appointments for fingerprinting, one to continue their underlying temporary status and another for the green card. Mercifully, Biden stopped requiring double booking, but he waited until mid-May to do so — way too late to stop the disaster.
At the same time, most green card applicants must request permission to travel internationally and work without the restrictions of their temporary work status while the green card application is pending — benefits they could obtain with a green card. In other words, the government is reviewing applications that are only necessary because it is taking so long to review a different application.
The lost green cards will disproportionately harm Indian immigrants. That’s because while they make up about half of all applicants, federal law says immigrants from a single country usually cannot make up more than 7 percent of green cards in a year (the remnants of a racist system going back to the 1920s). As a result, many Indian immigrants face a lifetime wait, while others pass them in line.
Yet the extra green cards have given Indian applicants a once-in-a-lifetime chance to far exceed that 7 percent threshold this year because there are not enough other applicants to use them. But that chance will be lost for thousands waiting in the queue if the government fails to get the cards out the door before Oct. 1.
The Biden administration can change course, but at this stage, it would need to take extreme action to work through the backlog — such as issuing approvals en masse without any reviews but revoking later if an issue pops up.
But by saying that it expects 100,000 green cards to go to waste, the administration is implying it would rather take the extreme step of violating the law that requires them to be issued. Unless there is a change of heart soon, Biden will assume responsibility for denying thousands of immigrants the path to citizenship that Congress promised them.
Looking for a nonfiction historical read to keep you company poolside? Consider Jeff Guinn's War on the Border: Villa, Pershing, the Texas Rangers, and an American Invasion. Here's the pitch:
Jeff Guinn, chronicler of the Southwestern US and of American undesirables (Bonnie and Clyde, Charles Manson, Jim Jones) tells the riveting story of Pancho Villa’s bloody raid on a small US border town that sparked a violent conflict with the US. The “Punitive Expedition” was launched in retaliation under Pershing’s command and brought together the Army, National Guard, and the Texas Rangers—who were little more than organized vigilantes with a profound dislike of Mexicans on both sides of the border. Opposing this motley military brigade was Villa, a guerrilla fighter who commanded an ever-changing force of conscripts in northern Mexico.
The American expedition was the last action by the legendary African-American “Buffalo Soldiers.” It was also the first time the Army used automobiles and trucks, which were of limited value in Mexico, a country with no paved roads or gas stations. Curtiss Jenny airplanes did reconnaissance, another first. One era of warfare was coming to a close as another was beginning. But despite some bloody encounters, the Punitive Expedition eventually withdrew without capturing Villa.
Today Anglos and Latinos in Columbus, New Mexico, where Villa’s raid took place, commemorate those events, but with differing emotions. And although the bloodshed has ended, the US-Mexico border remains as vexed and volatile an issue as ever.
As WaPo summarizes in their book review: "Guinn argues that this period of violence solidified a framework of relations between the two nations that endures today. Many in Mexico continue to view the United States as a hypocritical, imperialistic bully, while many Americans see Mexico as a security threat rooted in gang violence and undocumented border crossings."
Saturday, July 31, 2021
There is still time to register for the Central States Law Schools Association 2021 Scholarship Conference, which will be held September 24-26, 2021 at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. Law faculty from across the country are invited to present papers or works in progress.
As I've mentioned, the conference is not subject specific, but usually includes panels on immigration, international law, and criminal law. From experience, I can report that CSLSA provides a friendly, intimate, and collegial setting in which to present scholarship. It's open to both junior and senior scholars.
Registration (free!) closes August 7, 2021.
Official White House Photo
The Biden administration looks very different from Trump's. That much is clear.
In that vein, Hamed Aleaziz for BuzzFeed reports that
"Ur Jaddou will become the first woman and first person of Arab and Mexican descent to be sworn in as director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services after the Senate confirmed her nomination on Friday.
The agency has not had a Senate-confirmed leader in more than two years . . . . "
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas released this statement on Jaddou's confirmation:
“It is my honor to congratulate Ur Mendoza Jaddou on her confirmation as Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Ur has two decades of experience in immigration law, policy, and administration. She will administer our Nation’s immigration system fairly and justly. As the daughter of hard-working immigrants, Ur understands how immigrant families enrich our country and the challenges they face. I want to thank the United States Senate for confirming Ur. I look forward to working closely with her to rebuild and restore trust in our immigration system.”
In announcing Jaddou's nomination, President Biden offered the following biography:
"Ur Mendoza Jaddou has two decades of experience in immigration law, policy, and administration. Most recently, she was the Director of DHS Watch, a project of America’s Voice, where she shined a light on immigration policies and administration that failed to adhere to basic principles of good governance, transparency, and accountability. She is an adjunct professor of law at American University, Washington College of Law and counsel at Potomac Law Group, PLLC. Previously, Jaddou was the Chief Counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) . . . from June 2014 to January 2017. Jaddou’s experience on immigration policy began as counsel to U.S. House of Representative Zoe Lofgren (2002-2007) and later as Chief Counsel to the House Immigration Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Lofgren (2007-2011). Jaddou has also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional, Global and Functional Affairs in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs at the U.S. Department of State (2012-2014). Jaddou is a daughter of immigrants – a mother from Mexico and a father from Iraq – born and raised in Chula Vista, California. She received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from UCLA School of Law. " (bold added).
Friday, July 30, 2021
(Re)born in the USA by Roger Bennett promises to be the humorous read you're looking for this late summer. Here's the write up:
One-half of the celebrated Men in Blazers duo, longtime culture and soccer commentator Roger Bennett traces the origins of his love affair with America, and how he went from a depraved, pimply faced Jewish boy in 1980’s Liverpool to become the quintessential Englishman in New York. A memoir for fans of Jon Ronson and Chuck Klosterman, but with Roger Bennett’s signature pop culture flair and humor.
Being a teenager isn’t easy, no matter where in the world you live or how much it does or doesn’t rain in your hometown. As an outsider—a private-schooled Jewish kid in working-class, heavily Catholic Liverpool—Roger Bennett wasn’t winning any popularity contests. But there was one idea, or ideal, that burned bright in Roger’s heart. That was America— with its sunny skies, beautiful women, and cool kids with flipped collars who ate at McDonald’s. When he embraced American popular culture, the dull gray world he lived in turned to neon teal—a color which had not even been invented in England yet. Introduced first through the gateway drug of The Love Boat, then to Rolling Stone, the NFL, John Hughes movies, Run-DMC, and Tracy Chapman, Roger embraced everything that would capture the imagination of a teenager growing up Stateside. When he made a real, in-the-flesh American friend who invited him over for the summer, he got to visit the promised land. A month in Chicago, and a life-changing night spent in the company of the Chicago Bears, was the first hit of freedom, of independence, of the Roger Bennett he knew he could be.
(Re)Born in the USA captures the universality of growing pains, growing up, and growing out of where you come from. Drenched in the culture of the late ’80s and ’90s from the UK and the USA, and the heartfelt, hilarious sense of humor that has made Roger Bennett so beloved by his listeners, here is both a truly unique coming-of-age story and the love letter to America that the country needs right now.
I am particularly intrigued by this sentence from the book: “One of the earliest beliefs that I still cling to in life is that I was born an American trapped in an Englishman’s body." This type of citizenship dysphoria in my article A Citizenship Market (around FN 13).
WaPo has a Q&A with Bennett about his book that's also worth a read.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is in the news on immigration. In a letter dated July 29, 2021, Garland warned Texas Governor Greg Abbott to “immediately rescind” an executive order aimed at travel into the state of undocumented immigrants who may pose a COVID-19 risk.
“The order violates federal law in numerous respects, and Texas cannot lawfully enforce the executive order against any federal official or private parties working with the United States,” Garland told Abbott in the letter. He warns that if Texas continues to implement the ground restrictions on migrants, then the Department of Justice will “pursue all appropriate legal remedies”.
Garland’s letter came just a day after Abbott signed the order, which states that “no person, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official, shall provide ground transportation to a group of migrants” who have been detained by federal immigration officials for crossing the border. It also directed the state’s Department of Public Safety to “stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion of a violation” and gives the department authority to “reroute such a vehicle back to its point of origin or a port of entry”
The executive order stated that the new policy is warranted because of President Joe Biden’s “refusal to enforce laws passed by the United States Congress” and the measure is aimed at protecting Texans.
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Recently, the Biden Administration has taken significant steps to ramp up anti-corruption and other law enforcement efforts in Central America. On June 7, 2021, the White House and Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the launch of two new, multi-agency task forces dedicated to fighting corruption and combatting human smuggling and trafficking in Mexico and the Northern Triangle, which consists of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The announcement followed shortly after President Biden's June 3 declaration that the fight against corruption is a core US national security interest. In light of these enforcement developments, multinational companies, particularly those with operations in Mexico and the Northern Triangle, should take proactive steps to assess key risk areas and ensure adequate compliance measures are in place.
The White House announced plans to create a new anti-corruption task force focused on Central America following Vice President Kamala Harris's bilateral meeting with the President of Guatemala on a trip that also included a stop in Mexico. The announcement states that DOJ, with support from the State Department, will establish an anti-corruption task force to investigate and prosecute corruption cases connected to the United States, Guatemala, and the region. The task force will include US prosecutors and law enforcement experts and will involve three components:
1. Increased focus of the global Kleptocracy Initiative to prosecute corruption cases and seize illicitly gained assets arising from corruption in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras;
2. Expansion of the number of Resident Legal Advisors to provide capacity-building, training, and case-based mentoring to the Guatemalan Public Ministry, including the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity (FECI), to build corruption cases; and
3. Rapid response capability to deploy US prosecutors and law enforcement experts to provide mentorship to develop corruption cases.
On the same day, the White House and DOJ also announced the creation of another task force, "Joint Task Force Alpha," which will seek to identify, disrupt, and prevent migrant smuggling and human trafficking operations, and serve as a complement to the Department's anti-corruption efforts. The task force, which is being established in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will include federal prosecutors from Arizona, California, and Texas, as well as personnel from DHS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In its press release, DOJ specifically noted that Joint Task Force Alpha will complement its efforts to fight corruption in the region. Specifically, DOJ stated that it intends to increase its focus on investigations, prosecutions, and asset recoveries relating to corruption in Northern Triangle countries through its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement program, counter-narcotics prosecutions, and Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
Urban Institute: Three in 10 Adults in California Immigrant Families with Low Incomes Avoided Safety Net Programs in 2020
This Urban Institute report (Three in 10 Adults in California Immigrant Families with Low Incomes Avoided Safety Net Programs in 2020: Building Trust and Improving Access to Safety Net Programs in the Pandemic Recovery by Hamutal Bernstein Dulce Gonzalez, Sara McTarnaghan, & Sonia Torres Rodríguez) looks at public benefit receipt by immigrants in 2020. Check out the abstract below:
"Many immigrant families have avoided safety net and pandemic relief programs in recent years over concerns that their participation would have adverse immigration consequences. These chilling effects on program participation occurred in the context of a restrictive immigration policy environment under the Trump administration, including the expansion of the “public charge” rule. Though the Biden administration has reverted to prior guidance on the public charge rule and reversed many other immigration policy changes, chilling effects may continue to deter adults in immigrant families from seeking safety net supports for which they or their children are eligible. This study draws on Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey data collected in December 2020 and interviews conducted with adults in immigrant families with low incomes and people who work at organizations that connect immigrant families to health, nutrition, and other support programs in California. We conducted the interviews between March and May 2021, in the early months of the Biden administration, offering unique insights as policy priorities were shifting. The findings of this study highlight the economic hardships experienced by California immigrant families with low incomes during the pandemic, the lifeline that safety net and community supports can offer, and the barriers such families face to greater access to these programs. It also highlights opportunities for building trust with and expanding access to safety net programs for families who have not received basic supports."
Erica Sullivan is a Japanese-American swimmer and won silver in the 1,500 meter freestyle, finishing behind her USA teammate Katie Ledecky. Sullivan told reporters after the event that she is familiar with Japan and fluent in Japanese, having visited family in Japan many times while growing up with a mother who is a Japanese citizen and U.S. green card holder.
"It's just awesome that I get to do this and really set a landmark for women and also get to do it in Japan where I have half my famly."
In her press conference, Sullivan spoke in fluent Japanese to reporters about her upbringing and training as well as her pride in being ethnically Japanese and representing the LGBTQ+ community. She remarked that she feels like the "epitome of the American person" to be "on the podium, in Japan, as an Asian American woman whose mother is not a U.S. citizen. Her grandfather served as an architect on some of the Olympic venues in Japan. She also remarked that she is proud to win in a historical women’s event for the first time as someone who "likes women" and identifies as being gay. Her parting repartee: "I'm multicultural. I'm queer. I'm a lot of minorities. That's what America is."
Her inspiring press conference can be watched here.
BREAKING NEWS [and spoiler alerts]
The US Gymnastics team came into the Olympic competition with strong odds to win. The team was led by Simone Biles, the US all-around gold medalist in the 2016 Olympics who has dominated the sport and bcome known as G.O.A.T. (greatest of al time). The second spot on the team went to a newcomer, Sunisa Lee (a.k.a. Suni), who is the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics. She is 18-years old and at 15-years old had barely become eligible for senior competition when she placed in the US championships that would qualify her for Olympic competition. Lee secured second place at the Olympic trials and qualified to compete in beam, uneven bars, and the all-around. Olympic watchers know that this week she contributed to a silver medal team-award for Team USA at the Olympics. This morning she went on to win the gold medal in the individual all-around.
There will be significant media coverage in light of her Olympic achievements and her heroic floor routine, delivered unexpectedly for the team competition after her teammate Biles withdrew from competition. But her back story is even more inspiring. Lee is Hmong American and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Lee's athletic success shows the commitment of her family and her Hmong community. In a Time Magazine profile story, the Athletic Director at her high school Koua Yang said:
It’s exceptional to see this kind of investment in young women in particular, says Yang. “I’ve coached Hmong women for many years and I’ve had to beg their parents to let them play. For an athlete like Suni and her family to break out of that is incredible because it takes so much support.
Her parents, John Lee and Yee Thoj, were refugees and live in the largest resettled community of Hmong outside of Laos, in Minnesota. The Hmong people fought on the side of the US in the Vietnam War, having been recruited by the CIA for a military operation in Laos dubbed the Secret War, and then fled persecution when the communist government retaliated against them -- first to refugee camps in neighboring countries like Thailand and subsequently to the US. A story map of Hmong refugee migration describes the history of the 18 Hmong clans, and the Minnesota Historical society has a detailed timeline of their exodus. According to the 2010 US census, 260,000 Hmong now live in the US and 60,000 of them live in Minnesota near the Twin Cities.
When she was young, Lee's father took her to the gym and built a make-shift beam out of lumber scrap so that she could practice in her backyard. Like the majority of Hmong families, they live modestly. (Nearly 60% of Hmong Americans are low-income and more than a quarter meet the definition of poverty.) Her community has rallied around her rising star for years, raising money for the training, equipment, and travel required for competitive gymnastics and encouraging her to do it for herself, her family, and their heritage. She has become well known and well loved, an inspiration for many of the younger athletes who have grown up watching her compete on TV and become the first Hmong American athlete to go to the Olympics.
Her Olympic scores are summarized on NBC's Olympic website and sports media coverage will comb over her other record-breaking feats. (More sports spoilers described therein, so I'll let you read them yourself!)
From the Bookshelves: The Trespassers? Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia by Willow Lung-Amam
A new book by sociologist Willow Lung-Amam describes the transformation of American suburbs (more specifically Silicon Valley, in Northern California) by the settlement of highly-educated professional Asian American families. These immigrant families increased racial diversity in the Bay Area suburbs and transformed the technology industry. It also changed the face of immigration from China, Taiwan, and India that had previously been driven by lower-wage work. The response to these newcomers among long-time community members in these affluent and mostly liberal places, and the urban places they left behind, was complicated.
The publisher's description says:
Trespassers? takes an intimate look at the everyday life and politics inside Silicon Valley against a backdrop of these dramatic demographic shifts. At the broadest level, it raises questions about the rights of diverse populations to their own piece of the suburban American Dream. It follows one community over several decades as it transforms from a sleepy rural town to a global gateway and one of the nation's largest Asian American–majority cities. There, it highlights the passionate efforts of Asian Americans to make Silicon Valley their home by investing in local schools, neighborhoods, and shopping centers. It also provides a textured tale of the tensions that emerge over this suburb's changing environment. With vivid storytelling, Trespassers? uncovers suburbia as an increasingly important place for immigrants and minorities to register their claims for equality and inclusion
Read an excerpt of the book here. A detailed analysis appears in this book review. I would add that the book is very readable and that its portraits of Fremont and its surrounding suburbs resonates with contemporary local politics and the landscape of schools, neighborhoods, and commerce in a thriving part of the country that is once again booming in pandemic times that depend so heavily on many technologies developed by these Asian immigrants.
NPR looks at the complex immigration political pressures on the Biden administration. Earlier this week, the administration announced a new immigration plan, which includes a renewal of expedited removal of families. The NPR story reports on President Biden's remarks to UnidosUS on immigration, COVID, and economic issues. Here is a report on that address.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
The number of new deportation cases filed by the Biden administration is on the rise. Deportation orders sought by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jumped by nearly 50 percent in June, compared with the number filed in May. The number of new cases continues to severely outpace the rate at which judges can keep up. As a result, the Immigration Court backlog has increased by almost 100,000 cases since September 2020 at the end of the fiscal year 2020. The total backlog as of the end of June 2021 had reached its highest level ever at 1,357,820 cases waiting to be heard.
Another factor adding to the backlog's growth was that cases have been taking longer to complete. On average, cases completed during the first nine months of FY 2021 took 891 days (or 2.4 years) from the date of their Notice to Appear (NTA) to a decision, twice as long compared with FY 2020. Unusual circumstances beyond the control of the courts, and the pandemic certainly falls into that category, affected the composition of cases that made it to the final stage of the deportation process and may have played a significant role in shaping these outcomes.
As the backlog grows, however, cases in the pending court workload will wait even longer. Already, the average wait for a hearing date as of the end of December 2020 was 1,642 days or about 4.5 years.
These findings come from the latest case-by-case court records obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
To read the full report, go here.
From the Southern Poverty Law Center:
Immigration Advocates Call to End Contracts and Shut Down
Two Louisiana ICE Facilities Over Racial Discrimination & Abuse
Black Immigrants Denied Basic Necessities, Medical Care & Abused
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Black migrant survivors of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention and immigration advocates at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fire contractors and staff over racial discrimination and abuse of individuals held at Allen Parish Public Safety Complex and Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, both in Louisiana. The complaints are the latest in a series of filings that illustrate the horrific abuses individuals detained in these facilities have faced for years.
The complaint, made to DHS, was filed by Black migrant survivors of ICE detention and attorneys and advocates with the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) today. One of the detention centers is run by the GEO Group and the other is run by the Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“The fact that these brave individuals are willing to come forward after they have been released from immigration detention and are no longer under ICE’s power and control speaks volumes,” said Rose Murray, a SIFI attorney. “As a result of their horrific experiences, they feared for their well-being and even their lives. Every day it grows clearer that these facilities are incapable of operating without violating the rights of those detained as well as U.S. and international laws. Swift action must be taken to shut down these prisons, safely release those detained by ICE and end ICE detention.”
The complaint details the experiences of four previously detained individuals illustrating the abuses they faced, which are representative of trends across the New Orleans ICE Area of Responsibility and ICE detention broadly. According to the complainants, ICE, Geo Group and Allen Parish officials denied Black immigrants basic human necessities, including potable water and necessary medical treatment; physically abused detained persons, including physical abuse of a person in detention while he experienced a mental health crisis; threatened lethal force against Black immigrants in ICE custody; threatened Black immigrants with punitive solitary confinement in retaliation for peacefully expressing their rights and for their support of the Black Lives Matter movement; and ignored written grievances related to racial tensions between detention officials and immigrants in detention.
In a contemporaneous statement included in the complaint, Mr. Kem, a 40-year-old father from Cameroon, who came to the U.S. seeking asylum and who was imprisoned by ICE for one year and three months shares threats he endured, “…I said, ‘in what way? Just standing for our rights? How does that mean that we are trouble-makers? He said ‘don’t try it here, because I have my gun.’ And he said it twice. Not just once. He was threatening us. With that he keeps us…we are not safe here. I don’t really think that we are safe here…is this where they kill people? What do they do here to people that are, as he said, ‘stubborn’? Later on, other detainees told us this is normally how the people are being threatened, and they will threaten you within the corridors where there are not cameras.”
The actions described are in direct violation of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; ICE’s own policies within the Performance Based National Standards 2011 (PBNDS 2011), Federal Non-Discrimination Laws, Louisiana state laws against assault and battery; and international human rights law, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, both of which the United States has ratified;. Importantly, the described conduct, patterns, and practices also run afoul of contracting and acquisition laws and regulations, and thus provide a basis for immediate contract cancellation at these sites.
Add a little reggae to your immigration playlist with Coco Tea's New Immigration Law:
The song dates to 1997 and, I'm guessing based on the timing (I can't find any interview to confirm absolutely) that it's about the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), Pub. L. No. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009 (1996).
Some choice lyrics: "the Law, treating everyone like outlaw" and "it might earn you indefinite detention."
Immigration Article of the Day: Learning to Detain Asylum Seekers and the Growth of Mass Immigration Detention in the United States by Smita Ghosh and Mary Hoopes
The Immigration Article of the Day is: Learning to Detain Asylum Seekers and the Growth of Mass Immigration Detention in the United States by Smita Ghosh and Mary Hoopes. The article is published in 2021 in Law & Social Inquiry and available for download on SSRN.
Here is the abstract:
Drawing upon an analysis of congressional records and media coverage from 1981 to 1996, this article examines the growth of mass immigration detention. It traces an important shift during this period: while detention began as an ad hoc executive initiative that was received with skepticism by the legislature, Congress was ultimately responsible for entrenching the system over objections from the agency. As we reveal, a critical component
of this evolution was a transformation in Congress’s perception of asylum seekers. While lawmakers initially decried their detention, they later branded them as dangerous. Lawmakers began describing asylum seekers as criminals or agents of infectious diseases in order to justify their detention, which then cleared the way for the mass detention of arriving migrants more broadly. Our analysis suggests that they may have emphasized the dangerousness of asylum seekers to resolve the dissonance between their theoretical commitments to asylum and their hesitance to welcome newcomers. In addition to this distinctive form of cognitive dissonance, we discuss a number of other implications of our research, including the ways in which the new penology framework figured into the changing discourse about detaining asylum seekers.