Archive | October, 2012

I Can See Maryland from My House

29 Oct

As Hurricane Sandy crawls through the Washington, DC area, and the kids clamor for yet another game of Who Shook Hook?, now seems as good a time as any to prepare a thoughtful post on the Maryland Dream Act.  As a Washington DC resident, I don’t get a vote in Maryland even though, to paraphrase the former Alaskan governor, “I can see Maryland from my house.”  Of course, that has never stooped us from having an opinion and I hope that all of my Maryland friends support Question 4, the so-called Maryland Dream Act next Tuesday.

The Maryland Dream Act, if passed, would allow certain undocumented youth resident in Maryland to pay in-state tuition at public universities and institutions in the state of Maryland.  According to the Washington Post, “Under Maryland’s Dream Act, students who can prove that they have attended Maryland high schools for at least three years and that either they or their guardians have filed state taxes would be allowed to enroll at community colleges at in-state rates.  Those who attain an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours could transfer to a four-year institution. At the University of Maryland, annual tuition is $7,175 for in-state students, compared with $25,554 for out-of-state students.”  Obviously, the savings for undocumented youth is substantial.

The Maryland legislature passed the Maryland Dream Act in April 2011 and Governor O’Malley signed the bill.  However, opponents gathered sufficient signatures to put the law to a referendum.  That effort created Question 4 on the ballot next Tuesday.

Opponents believe that, by offering undocumented youth in-state tuition, more undocumented youth will attend public institutions, which will lead to fewer American citizens getting coveted spots at those universities.  True enough- if this passes, more undocumented youth will attend public institutions and, yes, it is possible that some number of American citizens will get the limited slots for admission.  It strikes me, however, as profoundly un-American to suggest that American citizens are bound to lose in any competition with undocumented youth.  After all, they have been competing with them all their lives.  These undocumented youth did not just spring out of Mexico.  They grew up here, attended Maryland schools, pledged allegiance to our flag alongside their native born classmates, played on their soccer teams, and danced at their proms.  Every step of the way, they competed with their classmates.  This is something that every kid growing up in a multicultural Maryland is already used to.

Opponents seem to be scared of this competition.  For all the rhetoric of free markets and competition, opponents favor stacking the deck.  This belies a disturbing lack of confidence in American born students.  What is truly remarkable about this is that young people overwhelmingly support the Maryland Dream Act.  Those who have the most to lose, so to speak, support the Maryland Dream Act.  This is because they know these undocumented youth and have attended school with them for several years.  They are already used to their presence and see how their lives have been enriched and the competition has been upped.  In America, we have always believed that competition is a good thing, that better competition leads to better results and, as usual, it is the kids who get this better than the adults.

There is also a moral dimension to the legislation.  These kids came to the U.S. through no fault of their own.  They have lived in our communities, attended our schools and have accepted the American Dream.  Providing them with in-state tuition is a recognition that they are part of our lives and our communities.  It is giving them the same rewards for their hard work and achievement that is provided to those who through random luck were born in the U.S.

Finally, the long-term economic benefits are clear.  After these kids graduate from school, they will have better opportunities and better jobs.  Some will start businesses, some will conduct ground breaking research.  All will pay much more back in taxes than the tuition break they received.

The good news is that this message is winning.  The latest Washington Post poll shows that Question 4 is likely to pass with over 58% of the electorate.  This is not to say that anyone should be complacent.  Opponents are determined.  Some may remember that the presidential candidacy of Texas governor Rick Perry was already on the rocks even before his “oops” momentPerry was destroyed in the primaries by his support for in-state tuition for undocumented youth in Texas.  Mitt Romney accelerated his path to the nomination by labeling the Texas Dream Act an “inducement” to illegal immigration.  Opposition to the Maryland Dream Act remains firm and committed and not to be underestimated.

If you live in Maryland, please vote for Question 4.

Meet Jennifer Cook

26 Oct


Jennifer Cook is one of the founding partners of Benach Ragland.  In fact, the firm was nearly Benach, Ragland & Cook, but we decided that law firms these days were going for shorter names, like Duane Morris or Dewey LeBoeuf (Wait, not that one!)  Plus, Jen, unlike the other founding partners, does not have a monstrous ego that requires constant feeding.  But make no mistake, Jen is essential to this firms’ operation and activities.  Jen’s organization, thoroughness and commitment to creative and zealous representation and client service keep us all on track and our clients’ needs at the forefront.  And, as a former environmental lawyer, Jen not only organizes our practice, she also multitasks by being in charge of our extensive recycling program at BR.

Other than a spell (6 year spell!) of California fever, Jen has made Washington her home since she came to Georgetown as an undergraduate.  A devoted Hoya, she attended Georgetown law.  Before dedicating herself full-time to immigration law a few years ago, Jen spent a decade at Duane Morris in the environment and energy practice.  Doing this work, Jen learned the ins and outs of federal agencies.  She dealt with them on administrative matters and sued them to protect her clients’ rights.  Sounds a lot like what we do.  Her experience makes her a savvy and skilled advocate who can find her way around a labyrinthine statute and agency.  Getting warmer to immigration!  However, Jen, a warm and outgoing person, missed the human element in her work.  Representing utilities and trusts is not the same as representing nannies, laborers, and families.  In immigration law, success is measured in dreams achieved: the ability of a family to stay together, an education for a farmworker’s daughter, freedom of expression and to be who you are.  It is manifested in hugs, tears of relief, jerk chicken, Diwali sweets, and spicy enchiladas.  After finding that Thomas Ragland and Andres Benach needed help with some of their work while at Duane Morris, Jen threw herself into immigration law, with characteristic gusto and doggedness.  Pretty soon, Jen was driving to see clients in immigration detention, attending immigration interviews and haggling with judges over bond.

Jen took to immigration like a fish to water.  She presented a demeanor that clients knew that they could trust.  In one of her first cases, she was able to gain the trust of a Ugandan client to tell her that he was gay.  He was in his thirties and had told no one of his sexual orientation.  Jen helped him to gain the strength to make this admission to his conservative family.  His admission saved his life as he was able to seek protection from deportation on account of the horrendous treatment of homosexuals in Uganda.  If it were not for Jen’s perceptive questioning and her warm and approachable demeanor, he may have carried that secret to an early grave.  Jen also did the heavy lifting in our federal court naturalization case, Abusamhadaneh v. Taylor in which a federal judge in a 90 page decision found that the government was wrong to find that our client lacked good moral character.  While Thomas Ragland and Denyse Sabagh were in the spotlight, Jen did the hard work of reviewing the materials, digging through the record, and finding the facts that led the client to victory.

A marathoner, Jen knows about endurance, pacing herself and keeping at a goal that may seem far out of sight.  Jen takes inspiration from the travails of our clients.  Immigrants take risks by leaving their country and embarking on a dangerous journey for the hope of a better life.  Jen left a comfortable practice and took a risk by starting a new venture in the hope of a life with more meaning and deeper human connection.  All of us at Benach Ragland are enriched because she did, as is our clientele.


Aggfel & CIMT Victory in Arlington Immigration Court

22 Oct

We prevailed in a long-fought case this week in the Arlington Immigration Court. The Immigration Judge granted our motion to terminate proceedings, agreeing that our client’s conviction in Virginia for attempted sexual battery was neither an aggravated felony nor a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), and that he is not deportable as result of the offense. (IJ Decision – redacted.) But that’s hardly the entire story …

In September 2008, our client Y— pled guilty and was convicted of attempted sexual battery in violation of Va. Code §18.2-67.5(c), sentenced to 11 months imprisonment (all suspended), plus 1 year of supervised probation. In March 2010, he was arrested by ICE and sent to Hampton Roads Regional Jail. DHS charged him with (1) aggravated felony “sexual abuse of a minor” and (2) CIMT within 5 years of admission. He appeared for four consecutive master calendar hearings, during which the government sought to introduce new evidence and just delayed the proceedings, before the family hired us the day before the fifth MCH. We stayed up late preparing a lengthy motion for bond redetermination, arguing that his offense did not qualify as an aggravated felony, thus he wasn’t subject to mandatory detention and should be released on bond, and we filed and argued it the next day. The IJ agreed, rejected the aggfel charge, conducted a bond hearing, and ordered Y— released on $10K bond. The very next day, DHS not only appealed the IJ’s bond order, it also invoked the “automatic stay” under 8 C.F.R. §1003.19(i)(2) in order to prevent our client from bonding out of ICE custody.

Certain that Y— was not subject to mandatory detention, we promptly filed a writ of habeas corpus in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, challenging our client’s continued custody under the automatic stay provision. We argued that 8 C.F.R. §1003.19(i)(2) is ultra vires to the statute, because it grants DHS unchecked ability to override an IJ’s bond decision under INA §236(a), without having to demonstrate why continued detention is warranted. At the next MCH one week later, DHS relented and withdrew the automatic stay. The family posted bond and Y— was released from ICE custody after a 2-month ordeal. But DHS persisted with the bond appeal, insisting that our client’s conviction was an aggravated felony.

The Board of Immigration Appeals disagreed (BIA Decision – redacted.) The Board agreed with us that under the categorical approach, Y—’s conviction is not an aggravated felony because the Virginia statute under which he was convicted lacks an element requiring that the victim be a minor, or specifying the age of the victim. The BIA then remanded the case to the Immigration Court. Having lost on the aggfel charge, DHS turned its focus to the CIMT ground of deportability. The government argued that although neither the categorical nor the modified categorical approach reveals that Y—’s offense is a CIMT, under Step Three of Matter of Silva-Trevino, the IJ should consider evidence from outside the record of conviction that purportedly demonstrated our client’s conduct was morally turpitudinous.

In October 2011, we filed our first motion to terminate, arguing that Silva-Trevino was wrongly decided because it conflicts with Fourth Circuit law, Supreme Court jurisprudence, and decades of adherence to the traditional categorical and modified categorical approach. DHS did not respond. After the Fourth Circuit rejected Silva-Trevino in Prudencio v. Holder, 669 F.3d 472 (4th Cir. 2012), we filed a supplemental motion to terminate based on intervening precedent. Again DHS did not respond, so we filed a notice of non-opposition, urging the IJ to rule on our long-pending motion to terminate. On the day of Y—’s next MCH in May 2012, DHS filed its brief in opposition, arguing now that attempted sexual battery in Virginia is categorically a CIMT. Despite having previously conceded that moral turpitude could not be discerned until Silva-Trevino Step Three, the government now urged the court to find that Y—’s conviction is a CIMT at Step One, because “moral turpitude is intrinsic to all offenses that have a realistic probability of being prosecuted” under the Virginia statute.

We filed one more lengthy brief in opposition, challenging the government’s categorical argument, maintaining that application of the “realistic probability” test articulated in Gonzales v. Duenas-Alvarez, 549 U.S. 183 (2007) – which was adopted by Silva-Trevino – was improper, and noting that DHS cited no authority for its contention that every conviction under Va. Code §18.2-67.5(c) is inherently a moral turpitude crime. Again DHS did not reply, and we anxiously anticipated a ruling at the next MCH in November.

But the IJ was finally persuaded and apparently didn’t need to hear any more. He granted our motion to terminate, found that DHS had failed to sustain its charges of removability, and terminated proceedings. After a 2½ year struggle, including seven hearings in Immigration Court, a failed DHS appeal to the BIA, habeas corpus proceedings in ED Va., and numerous rounds of briefing and re-briefing, we finally prevailed. Our client can now move on with his life, refocus on work and family, and put this agonizing chapter behind him. A very satisfying victory for the Benach Ragland team.

Stateside Unlawful Presence Waivers Coming Soon

18 Oct

The CIS has announced that a major change to the way that it processes waivers for unlawful presence will be finalized by the end of the year.  This change has the potential to help thousands of immigrants married to Americans but unable to adjust status in the U.S. to regularize their status.

It has always been one of the worst parts of being an immigration lawyer.  I meet a young couple- an American citizen and her foreign-born husband.  They may have a kid or two.  Maybe the kid is running around the office or quietly munching on pretzel sticks.  The couple works and owns a small house.  They want to know if she can get him a green card.  I already am fairly certain I know the answer because the questionnaire they filled out in advance of the meeting has told me most of what I need to know.  He entered the country illegally (“without inspection”).

Under US law, an individual who entered the United States without inspection is ineligible to obtain adjustment of status to residence in the United States.  Even if they are married to a U.S. citizen.  Even if they have American children.  No matter how long they have lived here or where their entire family resides.  There is an exception, however.  If someone- a family member, an employer- filed an immigrant petition on behalf of the foreign national prior to April 30, 2001, they will be “grandfathered” under the old 245(i).  This provision allowed an individual who had a basis for residence, such as a U.S. citizen spouse, to adjust his status in the U.S. to permanent resident by paying a $1000 fine.  As a provision of law, it was brilliant: it allowed thousands of people to fix their status, kept families together, and allowed employers to sponsor needed workers.  All while providing a substantial sum to the U.S. Treasury.  As brilliant legislation, it was, of course, doomed.  It was eliminated in 1998, revived briefly between December 2000 and April 2001 and has been buried since.  The law does provide that anyone who was the beneficiary of a petition filed prior to April 30, 2001 and was physically present in the U.S. on December 20, 2000 can continue to claim the benefits of 245(i).

The grandfathering provision, while beneficial, does little to solve the situation of the couple described above as most of these people have entered the U.S. long after April 2001.  This couple has two options.  First, they can choose to do nothing.  The husband can remain in the shadows, fearful of removal, unable to get work authorization, decent work, health care or a driver’s license.  Second, they could elect to try their hand at seeking residence through processing an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate in the husband’s home country.  This option would require the husband to return home and to apply for a visa abroad.  But, aha!  By departing the U.S. after having been here illegally for more than a year, the husband has subjected himself to a ten year bar on returning to the U.S.  The consulate would have to deny the immigrant visa for a period of ten years.  The law does provide for a waiver of the ten year bar.  If the applicant can prove that denying him an immigrant visa would cause his U.S. citizen wife “extreme hardship,”the ground of visa ineligibility may be waived by the consulate and a visa issued.  But this waiver may only be sought after the immigrant visa is denied.  In other words, the husband must proceed abroad, apply for the visa, get denied and then apply for the waiver, all with no guarantee that he will be able to return in less than ten years.  Thus, it may come as no surprise that many people choose the first option, as unappealing as it is.  Only people with the strongest evidence of hardship would take that gamble.

The Obama administration is trying to do something about this catch-22 situation.  The administration has proposed to move the processing of these waivers from the foreign offices to the U.S.  Most importantly, they will process these waiver applications before people proceed abroad.  This minor procedural change will have an enormous impact on the lives of thousands of immigrants and their families.  By knowing in advance that they will be able to return, scores of immigrants will step out of the shadows to regularize their status by seeking waivers and immigrant visas.  With the uncertainty of being able to return  and prolonged separation from loved ones and employment eliminated, many immigrants will be able to take important steps to improve their situation.

The administration announced its intention to change the processing of these waivers in January 2012.  In April 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published proposed regulations to govern this process.  According to DHS, an individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition by their U.S. citizen spouse or son or daughter over 21 may seek a provisional waiver before departing the U.S. for a visa interview in their home country.  That waiver would only become effective once the person departs the U.S. and applies for a visa at the U.S. consulate abroad.  With waiver in hand, an applicant can be confident that he is likely to return within a relatively short period of time after leaving the U.S. The regulations identify some key points regarding the new process:

  • The provisional waiver process is only available to the beneficiaries of “immediate relative” petitions.  These are the spouses, children (under 21), and parents of U.S. citizens.
  • Individuals in removal proceedings will not be able to seek provisional waivers.
  • It can only waive unlawful presence.  Although waivers are available for certain misrepresentations and crimes, those waivers may not be sought provisionally.
  • There will be a biometric requirement.
  • There is no appeal/ reconsideration mechanism, for denied provisional waiver applications.

The April 2012 regulations are proposed regulations and not yet in force.  By law, an agency must provide the public with an opportunity to comment on any proposed regulations.  In May 2012, the American Immigration Lawyers Association submitted extensive comments in an effort to improve on the provisional waiver process.  The latest information is that CIS has reviewed all the comments and is working on a final rule which they intend to publish before the end of the year. 

Despite the imperfections of the proposed rules, this change in waiver processing has the potential to help thousands of immigrants, their families, employers and communities.  Many people have always been able to demonstrate extreme hardship but were too worried about the potential of being stuck abroad for ten years if the case did not go well.  Even if it was approved, waiver processing has usually required at least a year abroad for the applicant.  By being able to depart abroad to seek a visa with the security that he will be able to return, the new rule will allow thousands of immigrants to resolve their status and generate additional stability and tranquility in their lives.

I live in the 9th Circuit and aged-out. Does Osorio mean I should apply for adjustment?

9 Oct

Since we wrote about the landmark victory for undocumented youth in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Cuellar de Osorio, we have been inundated by the following question: I think this covers me, should I apply for adjustment of status now?  The answer, like so many legal answers, is the perpetually unsatisfying “it depends.”  We have prepared this information to help you understand the issues and make a decision about whether applying is appropriate for you.  However, this stuff is complicated and one size does not fit all.  We strongly suggest that anyone contemplating applying for adjustment of status based upon Osorio consult with a reputable immigration lawyer.

Do I live in the 9th Circuit?

The Ninth Circuit is the judicial district that covers a large section of the American west.  It includes the following states: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Guam.  The Osorio decision is federal immigration law in these states.  Immigration officials are obligated to follow the law of the circuit in which the office sits.

Who does the Osorio decision help?

The Osorio decision may help you if you were, as a child, the beneficiary of an immigrant petition for your parent (“derivative beneficiary”), but aged-out of eligibility by turning 21 before you could apply for your residence, and a new petition has been filed on your behalf.  Osorio held that an aged-out derivative beneficiary can reclaim their earlier date in the new petition.  So, for example, your grandmother filed for your mother, when you were sixteen.  The petition was approved, but you and your mother could not apply for residence until the filing date became current.  By that time, you were 22 years old.  Your mother would have been able to adjust to residence, but you had “aged-out” of eligibility as the immigration law no longer considered you a child.  At that point, your mother may have filed a petition for you as the unmarried daughter of a permanent resident.  That petition, under the law prior to Osorio, would have gotten the date that your mother filed the petition.  All that waiting on your grandmother’s petition would be lost and you would go to the back of the line of unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents.  Under Osorio, you would be able to transfer the date of your grandmother’s petition to your mother’s petition and be eligible to apply immediately for residence.

So, how do I know if I am in the Osorio class?

You would need to have:

  1. A petition filed on behalf of a parent while you were a child
  2. Aged-out of eligibility by turning 21
  3. A new petition filed and approved on your behalf.

Is that all I need to apply for adjustment of status?

Just because you have an approved petition and a current date, you are not necessarily eligible for adjustment of status to residence.  In order to qualify for adjustment of status, you need:

  1. An approved petition.  Check!
  2. A current priority date. Check!
  3. to be admissible to the United States
  4. to have been inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States
  5. to have maintained lawful nonimmigrant status since your entry
  6. to not have worked without authorization since your entry
  7. If you were not inspected and admitted or paroled and entered without inspection, overstayed your visa, violated your status or worked without authorization, you will need to be “grandfathered under 245(i).”

Grandfather under 245 what?

If you entered without inspection or violated your nonimmigrant status, you are ineligible to adjust status in the United States, unless you are grandfathered under INA 245(i).  INA 245(i) forgives these transgressions for the paltry fee of $1000.  However 245(i) expired on April 30, 2001.  Only people who were the beneficiaries of petitions or labor certifications filed before that date can get the benefit of 245(i).  In addition, potential 245(i) beneficiaries must also show that they were physically present on December 20, 2000.

OK, I have all that, should I apply?

Well, it remains to be seen what the Citizenship & Immigration Service will do with the Osorio decision.

I thought you said that it was the law and CIS had to follow it?

Very simplistically, that is true.  However, the government could choose to appeal or seek rehearing of the decision.  In such a case, the government could ask a court to stay implementation of Osorio.  The government could also instruct the CIS to simply hold the cases in abeyance until the CIS can come up with a plan to administer these cases nationwide.  While such delay may not be entirely legal, an applicant who felt that her case was being delayed improperly and for an unreasonable amount of time would have to bring a lawsuit in federal court seeking to compel CIS to make a decision.  A court will not entertain such a lawsuit until the application has been delayed for several months as the statute only provides a cause of action for “unreasonable delay.”  Thus, it is not yet clear how CIS will react to these cases and how they will process them.

Is there any precedent for how they may react?

Yes.  Osorio is not the first case to reach this conclusion.  The Fifth Circuit reached the same decision in Khalid v. Holder in 2011.  Anecdotal evidence is that the CIS has recently begun to adjudicate and approve cases that were filed on behalf of people covered by Khalid.  Initially, cases were not being adjudicated, but as of July 2012, we have heard about approvals.

What are the risks of applying?

The risk of making yourself known to the government is always the same.  The government will place you into removal proceedings and an immigration judge could order you deported.   This is obviously a worst case scenario, but it is a possibility whenever you apply to CIS for a benefit.  That being said, we do not think that that is a extremely likely outcome for the following reasons: (1) you may be able to apply for adjustment before the Judge, who is not bound by any bureaucratic inertia from CIS; (2) CIS’ guidelines about placing individuals into removal proceedings discourage putting people into proceedings when they are denied benefits unless they have criminal records, have been involved in immigration fraud or are security risks; and (3) many would-be Osorio beneficiaries are DACA eligible and benefit from the greatest amount of favorable discretion.

In addition, there is a risk of losing money and having dashed expectations.  An application for adjustment will cost about $2500 in filing fees, which would not be returned if the case is denied.

So, what do I do?

Talk to a lawyer.  Understand the decision, your application and the costs and benefits of seeking adjustment and come to an educated decision.

Mitt Romney would honor DACA grants, not issue new ones

3 Oct

Thirty four days before the Presidential election, Republican nominee Mitt Romney has expressed a position on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has been in place since August 15.  In an interview with the Denver Post, Romney stated that if he were elected President, “The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased.”   He also said that, although he would honor the work permits and deferred action grants, he would not issue any new ones after his inauguration. 

This is certainly welcome news, but the wording of Romney’s support is worrisome.  First, I can not help but think that there is some sort of dog whistle to the anti-immigrant crowd in there.  By stating that the President is allowing people to “purchase visas,” Romney alludes to a common wingnut belief that the President is simply selling visas to whomever can come up with $465.  A common hallucination against DACA is that there is going to be extensive fraud and we will never know if we are helping the real DREAMers or whether we are giving status to criminals and terrorists.  I wonder if Romney is consciously indulging this fantasy.  Second, Romney views this as entirely transactional.  He makes no mention of the compelling circumstances of DACA applicants.  He views this as something that people have purchased and not as a program meant to shield a deserving class of youth from the fear of removal.  People deserve this benefit, in Romney’s worldview, because they have paid for it, not because of the circumstances of their arrival and their potential to contribute to our society.  By linking the program to a financial transaction, Romney undermines the moral validity of the claim to civil rights for the DREAMers.  Third, it is not a visa. Come on, get it right.  You are running for the Presidency not for the Topeka School Board.  Get your terms and facts straight.  I suppose the error can be easily explained by the fact that Romney’s number one immigration adviser is Kris Kobach, who rarely gets anything right on immigration law.

Romney also said that, at the end of the two years that DACA grants are good for, “Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”  Romney is dangling major immigration reform.  Of course, we have no idea what his plan is or how he plans of getting it through a Congress that has been ceded to the likes of Steve King and Jeff Sessions.  The Republican party, with the help of certain feckless Democrats, has repeatedly stymied even the most sensible immigration reform.  Remember the DREAM Act passed the House and got 55 votes in the senate, which would have been enough had the Republicans not filibustered it.  Romney is attempting to woo Latinos by blaming the President for the failure to pass immigration reform between 2008 and 2010.  This fantasy argues that since the Democrats had a a filibuster-proof majority in both houses during that time (which is not strictly true- there was the Specter conversion and the Kennedy death) and failed to pass immigration reform, that a Republican president and a Republican Congress would do better.  Hogwash.  Republican President Bush could not get the wingnut portion of his party to support immigration reform and, since his first day in office, President Obama faced a Republican minority committed to defeating him and using the filibuster to prevent anything from happening in Congress.  Now, they have the chutzpah to imagine that Republican obstruction had nothing to do with the failure to get immigration reform.  While, we believe that most reasonable people reject this, it is disappointing to see otherwise astute observers of the political scene fall for this.

Finally, Romney also said this: “I actually will propose a piece of legislation which will reform our immigration system to improve legal immigration so people don’t have to hire lawyers to figure out how to get here legally.”  Now, that is hitting below the belt!  Romney wants to put us out of business.  Now, we can understand that the federal government may be getting tired of getting sued by us and losing, but this is personal.  We are small business owners.  Since we embarked on this venture, we have created four new jobs in the country.  We have obtained visas for people that have enabled them to open businesses and hire more workers.  As business owners, shouldn’t we be squarely within Romney’s sights?  Instead, he states that he wants a system that does not require lawyers.  We are all for simplifying the immigration laws and making them work for the United States.  We are tired of telling people that there is nothing we can do for them and their best option to is to save their money and spend it on a new home in their home country.  However, we remain committed to fighting for our clients and we envision that whatever reform Romney proposes will only increase our business as he is likely to cede immigration policy to the Steve Kings, Joe Arpaios and Kris Kobachs.  If that happens, our response is “see you in court.”

Time to go, Sheriff Joe!

2 Oct

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet Paul Penzone, a Phoenix police officer for the past 21 years, who is running for Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.  Now, ordinarily, I don’t have a lot of interest in races for Sheriff in a state I have never lived in.  However, this is a special race because Paul Penzone is running against incumbent Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the 80 year old Bull Connor of our time.

There is scarcely enough time to go through all of the outrageous abuses of power attributed to Sheriff Arpaio.  Just last year, the Justice Department released the findings of an investigation into allegations of abuses of power, racial profiling, and jailhouse abuse by Sheriff Arpaio’s department.  The Department concluded that Sheiff Arapio’s department had a “a pattern or practice of violating the United States Constitution.”  Sheriff Arpaio has been known to terrorize the Latino community in Phoenix, Arizona, using posse-style raids into the community to round up suspected undocumented immigrants.  The Justice Department called the racial profiling by the department the worst instance of racial profiling to date.  Arpaio’s program to target immigrants is not about safety but rather about animosity against Latinos.  Arpaio has said, of his anti-illegal immigration efforts, “Ours is an operation where we want to go after illegals, not the crime first…It’s a pure program. You go after them, and you lock them up.”  The Justice Department sued Sheriff Arpaio’s department in May 2012.

The terrorization of the Latino Community by Sheriff Joe has made Phoenix a less safe place than it was when the Latino community felt that they could have contact with the police that would not likely result in their incarceration.  Where people are afraid  that the police will arrest them because of the color of their skin or their accents, they do not report crimes, call in tips or otherwise help the police, resulting in a less safe community.  When this is combined with Arizona’s SB 1070 “papers please” law, the trust between the community and the police has been eviscerated.  This is the status quo in Maricopa County and what is most disturbing about it is that Sheriff Joe’s ideas are catching on.  Several states have enacted SB 1070 style statutes and, although courts, have generally voided most of these laws, the rough justice of Sheriff Joe has inspired copycat efforts by other wannabe sheriffs, who are drawn to Sheriff Joe’s iconic status among the hateful right.  This iconic status, however, comes at the expense of real policing which requires deep bonds of trust between the community served and the police department.

Paul Penzone gets this.  While he would get my attention simply by not being Sheriff Joe, Penzone plainly articulates the costs of Sheriff Joe’s reign of terror and speak passionately about building back trust in the Latino community.  Mr. Penzone ran a program called Testigos Silencios (Silent Witness) which was instrumental in catching two serial killers and provided the Latino community with an opportunity to interact with the police in a constructive way.  It would be a great thing to send Sheriff Joe packing, just as Russell Pearce, the noxious author of SB 1070, was booted from office.  But it is a big bonus for the people of Arizona, particularly the Latino community, to get a Sheriff who rejects the racial profiling, abuses, hysteria and fear-mongering that have characterized the Sheriff Joe era and who views his job as to address crime and to serve his community and not make headlines.

Penzone is within 6 points of Sheriff Arpaio.  No challenger to Arpaio has ever come within a dozen points of him.  The defeat of Russell Pearce and the caricature of Arizona as an international hate state have energized those good people in Arizona who want to return their state to the civilized world.  Arapio raises millions in the conservative echo chamber through stunts like challenging President Obama’s citizenship.  Penzone is ridiculously underfunded against Arpaio but he has mounted a serious challenge and all those who deplore the climate of fear that Sheriff Joe has created should send a check to Penzone and give him a fighting chance to take down this insidious man.