By Jacqueline Charles, April 21, 2017
The Trump administration is recommending sending tens of thousands of Haitians back to their homeland because it believes conditions have significantly improved in the disaster-prone, poverty-stricken nation.
But the move comes as more than 40,000 Haitians continue to call makeshift shelters and tents homes — seven years after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake — and as severe hunger and housing crises plague the country’s southern region six months after a deadly Hurricane Matthew wiped out roads, home and farmland.
“If they send everyone back to Haiti, they might as well be sending us to die,” said Cadeus Chaleus, 70, who after 16 years of living as an undocumented immigrant in Miami has spent the past seven years living without fear of deportation. “Despite what they say, things have not improved at home.”
Cheryl Little, Executive Director, Americans for Immigrant Justice
APR 03, 2017
In recent weeks it has become increasingly clear that President Trump is delivering on his promise to create a massive “deportation force” and crack down on those seeking refuge in our country. The extent to which his directives undermine basic Constitutional principles is shocking and leaves no doubt that there’s “a new sheriff in town,” as one of our local immigration judges noted before a recent court hearing.
Today, virtually ALL undocumented immigrants are in the crosshairs, not just the “bad hombres” that Trump said he was going after. Immigrants increasingly feel under siege, driving further underground even lawful permanent residents and those eligible for relief from deportation.
Despite the doom and gloom, there may be a glimmer of hope. A Republican PAC—What a Country!—supports House members working for Immigration reform. Last month Representative Carlos Curbelo (Rep-FL), who formed the PAC, introduced a bill that would provide DREAMers a path to citizenship. Raul Labrador (R-ID), a former immigration lawyer and Freedom Caucus member, has also been outspoken about the need for immigration reform. He believes Trump is perfectly positioned to make meaningful immigration reform a reality because he’s a proven hardliner on border security, requesting over $1 billion in emergency funds to start building the border wall.
Doing so would be a brilliant move on the President’s part. The Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that undocumented immigrants paid $100 billion into the fund over the past decade, and did so without any expectation of ever collecting benefits. Stephen Goss, Social Security Chief Actuary, noted that “Without the estimated 3.1 million undocumented immigrants paying into the system, Social Security would have entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts starting in 2009.” With Baby Boomers retiring, these monies are more important than ever.
Immigration reform can be a valuable tool in the war against terrorism. By providing hard-working immigrants already in the U.S. the ability to earn legal status and controlling future immigration through legal channels, enforcement efforts could focus instead on identifying drug dealers and violent felons. Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security Secretary, complained that his agents were spending so much time targeting maids and landscapers, they had precious time to go after those who intended to do us harm.
Both Democrats and Republicans have long understood the need to reform our immigration laws. President George W. Bush challenged us to fix our “broken immigration system,” and in 2006, the bipartisan McCain-Kennedy immigration bill passed the Senate but failed to gain traction in the House. President Obama promised to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority, but failed to do so early on when Democrats had the majority in both the House and Senate. In 2013, a bipartisan immigration bill passed the Senate, but was not taken up by House Republicans even though the votes for passage were clearly there.
As contentious an issue as immigration is, tackling immigration reform now may actually be easier to do than tax reform or passing a $1 trillion infrastructure package, items the Administration has pledged to prioritize.
Now is the time for Republicans, who control both houses in Congress and the White House, to work together with Democrats to pass an immigration reform bill that enhances our security and bolsters our economy. In 2013 the Congressional Budget Office concluded that if Congress were to fix our broken immigration system, the federal deficit would be reduced by about $200 billion in the first 10 years alone.
On February 28th, Trump told reporters he may be open to providing a path to legalization for many of our country’s immigrants and during his joint address to Congress he said “real and positive immigration is possible.” If he were able to close the deal on this signature issue, Trump could succeed where his predecessors have failed. No mean feat.
They’re so scared, these refuge-seekers in President Donald Trump’s America, that their immigration attorney will not even identify the country from which they fled rampant violence. But it was one of Central America’s violent northern triangle countries, meaning Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador.
“They were running for their lives,” Abel S. Delgado tells me. “This family was targeted, got threats from a man connected to gangs, and there was violence toward the family.”
The attorney, who works at the Miami-based organization Americans for Immigrant Justice, is not only trying to save the lives of this mother and her two teenage sons by keeping them in South Florida, where they’ve been able to receive a multitude of needed services from a network of community agencies. He’s also waging a battle with Homeland Security and immigration courts to keep their family unit intact.
It’s a herculean task in these times.
BY TIM PADGETT MAR 28, 2017
Typically, when people are in the court system they want their cases heard as quickly as possible. But asylum requests are different.
Building an asylum case usually involves the long and daunting task of gathering evidence from other countries. And here in South Florida that often means developing regions like Central America. So lawyers usually expect at least a few months if not a year or more to prepare.
But when attorney Andrea Crumrine brought her asylum client before a federal immigration judge in Pompano Beach this month, she was told this:
“'Thirty days, counselor,'" Crumrine recalls the judge telling her. "Prepare this case in 30 days.”
Crumrine works for the non-profit Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) in Miami. Her client is a 35-year-old Honduran woman who says for years she’s been raped and even shot by a high-ranking police officer. (One bullet hit her ovary and forced her to have a hysterectomy, according to Crumrine.) Honduran police are notorious for such abuses. So, fearing for her life, the woman came here.
But Crumrine worries whether she can prove the woman’s case in 30 days.
“It could be the difference between winning and losing a case if you’re able to get one shred of corroborating evidence," says Crumrine. "If they have absolutely no evidence the judge can very easily just deny their case.”
Free ‘public defender’s office’ would represent immigrants in deportation proceedings - The Miami Herald
A movement is taking shape to create a sort of “public defender’s office” to represent hundreds of thousands of immigrants who may wind up in deportation proceedings and cannot afford an attorney.
While the effort is amorphous at this time, and largely focused on certain communities, some nationally known immigration attorneys and advocates — including some in Miami — are considering establishing a system to provide free legal representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings under President Donald Trump’s toughened immigration measures.
If such a system were established, it would mark a historic shift in how foreign nationals appear in immigration courts. Currently, they are allowed to have a lawyer, but often appear by themselves because they cannot afford to hire an attorney or cannot secure one from the perennially underfunded and understaffed nonprofit groups that offer free representation. Unlike criminal court, there is no legal requirement for immigration judges to appoint a lawyer for foreign nationals who cannot afford one.
Similar scenes played out at many parking lots and street corners throughout South Florida, from Homestead to West Palm Beach, despite the spreading climate of fear in immigrant communities stemming from tough measures enacted by President Donald Trump since taking office Jan. 20 — all of which make it easier for immigration agents to detain foreign nationals who have broken immigration laws.
In Homestead, workers in the parking lot of a supermarket near the corner of Mowry Drive and Krome Avenue said neither police nor immigration agents have bothered them. “Our concern is whether we can get a job for the day,” said Gabriel Alavés of Oaxaca, Mexico.
An analysis by el Nuevo Herald of Trump’s new executive orders and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines, based on interviews with U.S. and local officials, immigration attorneys and immigrant rights advocates, shows that federal immigration agents have recovered the power they partly lost under former President Barack Obama, whose own executive orders shielded from deportation hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.
Under Obama, for example, Central American children who crossed the Mexican border without their parents were deemed unaccompanied minors even after they were reunited with family members in South Florida and elsewhere in the country. Now, immigration officials have been instructed to verify if such designation should continue when the child’s case reaches immigration court for possible deportation and to deport or prosecute their parents and other relatives if they paid migrant smugglers to bring the minors across the border.
“DHS shall ensure the proper enforcement of our immigration laws against those who — directly or indirectly — facilitate the smuggling or trafficking of alien children into the United States,” new DHS guidelines say. “This includes placing parents or guardians who are removable aliens into removal proceedings, or referring such individuals for criminal prosecution, as appropriate.”
Immigration advocates expressed alarm.
“The DHS border enforcement memo has a devastating impact on unaccompanied children under our immigration policies,” said Michelle Ortíz, deputy director of Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice. “It calls for the re-evaluation of unaccompanied minor status, which would effectively strip humanitarian and due process protections for many Central American children seeking refuge and safety at our border.”
For all the sound and fury of his first 39 days in office, President Donald Trump has not yet dismantled President Obama’s health reforms, Wall Street regulations, or climate rules. He hasn’t started overhauling America’s tax code, rehabbing America’s infrastructure, or building a border wall. But even though Trump has done less to change federal policies than his blustery boasts and fiery tweets might suggest, he’s already having a real impact on Jaime, a 15-year-old undocumented immigrant living just a few miles from his Mar-a-Lago estate.
Jaime is not the kind of illegal alien Trump would call a “bad hombre.” His grandmother brought him to the United States last September, after gang members in his hometown of La Union, El Salvador, showed up at one of his soccer games and killed his grandfather. He’s now living with his mother, a hardworking house cleaner who snuck into to the U.S. in 2008, and he’s doing well in school, even though he has to use a Spanish translation app to decipher his homework assignments.
FEB 22, 2017
Watch the story here:
By TIM PADGETT FEB 11, 2017
Khizr Khan is the immigrant Gold Star father who denounced presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Before receiving an award Friday night in Miami, he spoke with WLRN about immigration controversies national – and local.
Pakistani-Americans Khan and his wife lost their U.S. Army officer son Humayun Khan in Iraq when he confronted a suicide bomber. Last year they became the face of opposition to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims like themselves.
Khan said he’s heartened that a federal appeals court has blocked President Trump’s travel ban for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. But he worries the damage may have been done.
"What concerns me is that internationally, 1.6 billion Muslims feel that America is against them," said Khan. "By this ban we have given the platform to those who wish us ill in the world.”
Khan is receiving the America's Immigrant Spirit Award from the Miami-based non-profit Americans for Immigrant Justice. The group is one of many that have criticized Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for complying with Trump's call to cooperate with federal detentions of undocumented immigrants. Khan too is reminding local governments they are not compelled to take part in federal immigration enforcement. (Gimenez argues Trump's order is legal. Trump is threatening to withhold federal funding for local and state governments that don't assist.)
“Hispanics, Muslims, we all have equal rights," said Khan. "And that is the message I wish our local leadership to understand.”
Khan added he hopes this week’s court decision will help reduce anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Cheryl Little, Executive Director, Americans for Immigrant Justice
In the past few days, we have heard our new President deliver on many of his promises: close the border, create a massive “deportation force,” ban Muslims from entering our country. The latest blow came yesterday when Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez ordered county jail officials to keep immigrants jailed until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials pick them up. This decision flies in the face of a 2013 resolution unanimously passed by our County Commissioners. Mayor Giménez said he reversed course after Trump signed an Executive Order threatening to cut funds to “Sanctuary Cities.”
The County’s cooperation with ICE during the Obama administration led to the deportation of an unprecedented number of immigrants with no criminal history or minor traffic violations only. It cost County taxpayers $12.5 million a year. Countless families were torn apart. The fallout of mass deportations nationwide has been devastating, especially for vulnerable children, many of whom ended up in foster care following their parent’s removal.
In our report, written in conjunction with Florida International University’s Research Institute, False Promises: The Failure of Secure Communities in Miami-Dade County, we analyzed 2000 arrest records and told the stories of immigrants stopped by local police and turned over to ICE by County officials. Stories like Alberto’s, who was arrested for driving without a license and transferred to Miami’s Krome Detention Center where he was not allowed to contact his wife to inform her of where he was or what had happened to him. His wife, Marta, said:
“This is the hardest thing that my family has gone through. I don’t wish this experience on anyone, not even my worst enemy. I can’t sleep at night. My children can’t sleep at night. My children who went from straight A students are now failing their classes because they can’t focus. My youngest son has a hard time eating and is going through such severe depression that I’ve had to put him under psychiatric care.”
Marta and Alberto were homeowners and have four children, two are U.S. citizens.
The majority of Miami’s residents are immigrants and Mayor Giménez’s decision has sent shock waves through our community and beyond. And it will make our community less safe, as immigrants increasingly fear reporting crimes to law enforcement.
Most importantly, Trump’s directive is unconstitutional. The federal government cannot tell local governments to do their bidding or risk losing federal dollars. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the federal government may not “commandeer” state and local officials by compelling them to enforce federal law.
Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders this week included calls for renewed cooperation between local police and ICE. Programs like this are far reaching, disrupting and tear apart honest and hardworking families. In a climate that encourages overzealous policing, elaborate dragnets often employ racial profiling. Although many police chiefs are opposed, such agreements are also increasingly attractive to many sheriffs who see this as an easy way to mollify angry constituents.
For years ICE detainees have been the fastest growing prison population in the country. During Obama’s tenure, this population skyrocketed and a record 2.4 million immigrants were removed. The alarming increase in ICE detention is in part due to a 2009 Congressional mandate, appropriating funds every year to maintain at least 34,000 immigrant detention beds daily, at a cost to US taxpayers of about $2 billion a year. No other law enforcement agency has quotas for the number of people it must jail. With good reason.
The real beneficiaries of the bed mandate are county jails and to a larger extent the private prison industry, whose two largest contractors, the GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Correctional Corporation of America), have seen their stocks soar in recent years. Not surprisingly, for-profit businesses have spent millions lobbing Congress to keep the quota.
Over the years, AI Justice has provided ample evidence that the barrage of anti-immigrant laws and regulations, often propelled by racist rhetoric, is an assault on the fundamental civil liberties of all. Our research also makes clear that driving immigrants further underground does nothing to fix our broken immigration system. It only makes matters worse.