Archive | Secure Communities RSS feed for this section

President to Announce Executive Actions on Immigration

19 Nov

Obama

Tomorrow night (Thursday, November 20, 2014) at 8PM, the President of the United States will address the nation to announce what steps his administration intends to take to reform U.S. immigration law and policy.  This announcement represents the culmination of the President’s evolution on his authority as the nation’s chief executive.  In June 2014, when it became clear that the House of Representatives would not take up the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate, the President made a statement that he would take administrative action to ameliorate the harsh effects of our immigration law.  He said that he would take such action by the end of the summer.  However, as summer ended, desperate Democratic Senators in tight re-election races persuaded the President to hold off on his administrative reforms in the hopes that they could retain their seats.  However, the President’s forbearance did not help them- they lost anyway- and the President immediately reaffirmed his intention to “go as far as he can go under the law,” according to his adviser Cecilia Muñoz.  After a week of speculation, the President confirmed today that he will release the details of his immigration reform plans tomorrow night with a televised address from the White House, followed up by a rally in Las Vegas.  Details will not be known until tomorrow, but here is what has been reported most commonly:

  • The President plans to offer deferred action to the foreign national parents of U.S. citizen and permanent resident children who have been here for five years and have been law-abiding.
  • Reports indicate that the administration will make changes to how employment based visas are counted to reduce backlogs for needed workers.
  • The adminsitration will expand DACA to include young people who entered before 2010, as opposed to 2007, and eliminate the upper age limit for DACA.
  • Reports indicate that the plan DOES NOT provide deferred action to the parents of DACA recipients who have no citizen or resident children.
  • The program is reported to end Secure Communities, a disaster of a program.

These are the details that have been reported.  The plan may be different and we will now know until the formal announcements are made.  However, the provisions mentioned above, are the most commonly and consistently reported details.

What is deferred action?

Deferred action is a tool of law enforcement which allows an agency to define its priorities and focus its resources on its priorities.  It is a formal statement by the agency that a particular individual is not an enforcement priority and that the immigration agency will not utilize its limited resources to seek removal of that individual.

Is it residence?

No.  It is a temporary and revokable classification of convenience to the agency.  It does not provide an individual with residence or any promise of future residence.  It can be revoked at the discretion of the agency.  For example, a new administration could choose to eliminate the entire program.

Is this legal?

Almost certainly.  The Immigration & Nationality Act has provided the executive branch with wide latitude as to how it enforces the laws.  There are sizable gaps in the statutes passed by Congress that require the executive agencies to exercise their discretion about how they intend to enforce the immigration laws.   This discretion has been recognized by the Supreme Court in Arizona v. United States, where the Court wrote “A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials.  . . .  Federal officials, as an initial matter must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.”  This broad discretion was also noted by the Supreme Court fifteen years ago in Reno v. America-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, where the Court wrote, “At each stage, the Executive has discretion to abandon the endeavor [referring to the removal process] and at the time the Illegal Immigration reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 was enacted the INS had been engaging in a regular practice (which had come to be known as ‘deferred action’) of exercising that discretion for humanitarian reasons or simply for its own convenience.”

How are Republicans going to react?

Reactions have ranged from pragmatic to hysterical.  There are voices, not to be underestimated, within the GOP that will declare that the President’s action is an impeachable offense.  Although Speaker of the House told the President that he would be “playing with fire” if he moved ahead with immigration, the Republicans seem genuinely conflicted about how to respond.  There are people within the GOP who believe that the Congress should pass its own legislation on immigration.  There are others who want to shut down the g0overnment or not confirm the President’s nominee for Attorney General to force the President to abandon his plan.

When will these changes take effect?

We don’t know.  They will not take effect overnight and there will be some lead time before the administration is prepared to take applications for deferred action from the up to 5 million people believed to be eligible.

What should I do while we are waiting?

First, don’t get arrested!  Second, gather essential documents, such as passports, matricula cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax, school, medical and work records.  Third, consult with reputable lawyers to discuss issues like removal orders, criminal records or other potentially sensitive issues.

We will keep you informed with reliable and accurate information.

 

Montgomery County Maryland Says No to ICE!

8 Oct

MoCo

Great news right out of our own backyard.  Montgomery County, Maryland, the county that surrounds most of Northwest Washington DC and the most populous county in Maryland, announced today that its jails would no longer honor detainers issued by Immigration & Customs Enforcement except under very specific circumstances.  This decision places a vice grip on one of the region’s most reliable ICE enforcement pipelines and is further evidence that local municipalities are rejecting the damage done to communities by the heavy-handed enforcement activities of the current administration.  We answer some basic questions about what this change means.

What is a Detainer?

A detainer is a request filed by Immigration & Customs Enforcement with a jail or prison asking the jail or prison t0o continue to detain an individual beyond their release date so that ICE can assume custody over the individual.

Is this like an “ICE hold?”

Yes, an “ICE hold” is a common name for a detainer.

Are there any rules about detainers?

Yes, under U.S. immigration law, ICE may only request that a jurisdiction hold an individual up to 48 hours beyond their scheduled release date (not including holidays and weekends) for ICE to assume custody of a detainee.

Why does ICE issue detainers?

ICE issues a detainer when it learns that an individual being held in local law enforcement custody may be subject to removal from the United States.  The issuance of a detainer is how ICE expresses an interest in an individual.  It does not necessarily mean that an individual is subject to removal.  A detainer allows ICE to assume custody and determine whether to charge an individual with removal.

Is a jurisdiction obligated to honor ICE detainers?

No.  An increasing number of jurisdictions are rejecting ICE detainers as inconsistent with their own law enforcement prerogatives.  Over 250 jurisdictions including the State of California, New York City, Washington DC, Boston, Denver and San Francisco refuse to honor ICE detainers.

What happens if ICE does not assume custody over an individual after 48 hours?

The facility should release that individual.  The authority to detain an individual beyond their release date is limited to 48 hours.  Municipalities that detain individuals beyond that period are at risk of liability for unlawful detention.

Can an ICE hold prevent someone from being released on bail pre-trial?

Many local judges and prosecutors wrongly assume that a person subject to a detainer can not be released on bail pre-trial.  A detainer does not render someone ineligible for release on bond.  Many jurisdictions have assumed that because a detainer exists, bail may not be ordered.  Sometimes if a person gets bail from a judge, the family has a hard time making the payment because the clerk believes she can not take it due to the detainer.  Individuals eligible for bail should seek bail despite the existence of a detainer.  Once the bail has been made, ICE may assume custody.  However, since an individual will not have been convicted of a deportable offense at that time, ICE’s ability to detain may be limited.  Criminal attorneys seeking bail for clients subject to detainers should coordinate with immigration counsel to pursue the most advantageous strategy for the client.

Why did Montgomery County do this?

In April 2014, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley determined that jurisdictions in Maryland may face liability for detaining individuals after their eligibility for release.  As counties absorbed the impact of this opinion and sought to protect themselves, counties began to rethink the wisdom of cooperating with detainers.  In August 2014, the City of Baltimore stopped honoring detainers followed by Price George’s County in October.  With Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest county, following suit, the momentum against detainers is unmistakable.O'Malley

Why did Martin O’Malley do this?

O’Malley is widely believed to be running for President as a Democrat in 2016.  O’Malley has clearly chosen to take a more aggressively pro-immigrant stand than other potential Presidential candidates.

An Open Letter to Rep. Spencer Bachus

21 Mar

Dear Congressman Bachus,

Thank you very much for speaking out about the overuse of detention by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in civil proceedings to determine the removability of individuals in the U.S.  By stating and asking “it looks to me like there is an overuse of detention by this administration.  If these people are not safety risks . . . why are we detaining them?,” you have joined the growing chorus of Americans who wonder why the government, during a time of fiscal crisis, spends so much money locking people up during immigration proceedings when they present no danger to society.  You are welcome in our club and we are glad to have you.

However, we do think it is important that you understand the role you played in building the gulag archipelago of immigration detention.  The explosion of immigration detention is a direct result of legislation you voted for, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.  This law, more than any decision by the Obama administration, has resulted in the overuse of detention for individuals in removal proceedings.  While you are right to question the overuse of detention by the administration, please do not overlook Congress’, and your, responsibility in forcing the detention of tens of thousands of people, the vast majority of whom are not safety risks.  IIRIRA fueled the explosion of detention in several ways.  First, it expanded mandatory detention to cover lots of people convicted of minor offenses.   Mandatory detention has forced ICE (and INS before ICE) to detain people during the course of their removal proceedings.  These individuals had no right to individualized determinations of their risk to society or likelihood to appear for hearings.  By expanding the classes of people subject to mandatory detention, Congress created a base layer of detainees.  It is true that interpretations by this and previous administrations have increased the potential pool of mandatory detainees, but mandatory detention and its wide reach is a creation of Congress.  Second, IIRIRA labelled many minor offenses as “aggravated felonies,” requiring detention during removal proceedings.  For example, an individual convicted of shoplifting a pair of $100 sunglasses might be sentenced to one year imprisonment, with service of the sentence suspended.  In other words, the criminal court would determine that that individual should not serve jail time unless they do something bad during the year of the suspended sentence.  Under IIRIRA’s overinclusive language, such an offense would be an aggravated felony and subject that individual to mandatory detention.  And IIRIRA made it clear that it did not matter when the offense occurred.  It is hard to imagine that this hypothetical defendant is a safety risk, but the law gives ICE and the immigration courts no authority to release that individual.  Third, IIRIRA created 287(g) partnerships with state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration law.  The explosion of detention is also directly related to the numbers of people coming to ICE’s attention because a local police officer pulls an immigrant over for failing to use a turn signal.  IIRIRA is the impetus to Arizona-style laws, one of the worst of which was passed in your own Alabama, Congressman.  Fourth, by creating the ten year bar to return to the U.S., IIRIRA made it close to impossible for many immigrants to regularize their status.  Thus, individuals who would have been able to obtain residence under previous laws, remained in the U.S. in unlawful status.  When encountered by ICE, they have often been detained in the discretionary determinations of ICE.  It is true that here is an area where the administration’s overuse of detention is due to the refusal to exercise favorable discretion, but please note that many of these people would be legal residents if not for the 1996 Act.  In addition, please recognize the role that the fear of Congressional rebuke plays in ICE’s decisions.  Take a look at the outcry from your colleagues when ICE released 2200 detainees last month in anticipation of the sequester.  Moreover, Congressional intent has been a key building block of the judicial decisions that have legalized the massive detention edifice.  Decisions such as the Supreme Court’s Demore v. Kim, which upheld mandatory detention, and Matter of Rojas, where the Board of Immigration Appeals decided that mandatory detention applies to people released from custody years or decades ago, are underpinned by statements that Congress intended to impose an unyielding policy of detention in IIRIRA.

Finally, Congress has provided ICE with enormous sums of money to spend on detention.  As you know, nature abhors a vacuum.  As Congress states that it intends to tighten spending, the unnecessary detention of the thousands of people who present no real danger to society should be looked at skeptically.  ICE will spend the money Congress gives it on detention.  It is up to Congress to say “no.”

Congressman, thank you for taking a stand against the overuse of detention.  We are glad to have you as an ally and hope that you use your position in Congress to advocate for more sensible immigration policies.  Thanks again for speaking out and we hope that the words are matched with action.

Sincerely,

Benach Ragland LLP

 

New Memo on Detainers- Will it be Followed?

28 Dec

deport

 

A persistent and fair criticism of the current administration is that while it has made grand pronouncements of focusing its enforcement efforts on violent criminals and threats to the national security, programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities have scooped far more benign immigrants in their overboard nets.  While the administration has put forward numerous memoranda and made extensive public statements about focusing limited resources on the dangerous and the recidivist immigration violators, the reality has been that, as a result of Secure Communities, immigrants without status and without serious criminal issues encountered by the police either due to a minor offense, while reporting a crime, or while the police look for another individual have been swept into the immigration dragnet, detained and deported.  According to ICE, the government deported over 400,000 people last year and most of them were not “the worst of the worst.”

This practice is due to the combination of two practices.  The first is Secure Communities.  This is the cooperative program between local law enforcement and ICE that checks arrestees (not convicts) against ICE databases.  As a result many individuals stopped for minor offenses, such as driving without a license, are arrested when ICE can not confirm their lawful status.  Ordinarily, individuals stopped under such circumstances are not arrested.  Once arrested, the second practice kicks in when ICE places a detainer on the individual.  A detainer is a request made by ICE to the local police department to hold an individual for 48 hours beyond when they are due to be released so that ICE may assume custody.  Because people arrested for minor offenses are held for brief periods of time in local jails, a detainer placed by ICE has the effect of keeping them detained by the local police department far longer than they would have been without the detainer.  This is one reason that many police departments have resisted and rejected participation in Secure Communities.  When ICE assumes custody, they initiate removal proceedings against the individual, not due to the arrest, but because of the lack of status.  If the individual can not demonstrate that she is likely to obtain some form of relief from removal, ICE will often detain without bond during removal proceedings.  Thus, through the operation of Secure Communities and detainers, many non-criminal immigrants without status have been identified, detained and deported.  This sad procession has undermined the administration’s claims to be focusing on the worst of the worst.

Into this unhappy scenario comes a new memo from ICE Director John Morton issuing new guidelines for the use of detainers.  The director has been a prolific memo writer.  He has issued guidance about ICE’s enforcement priorities and attempted to force a recalcitrant bureaucracy to use its limited resources more wisely.  He has written memos regarding the increased use of prosecutorial discretion to make intelligent decisions about when not to bring removal proceedings, when to terminate removal proceedings and when to exercise discretion not to remove a removable individual.  These memos and his approach to ICE’s responsibilities have resulted in the ICE bureaucracy’s open rebellion against him.  And the continued presence of “Obama, why are you deporting my mama” articles and signs among immigrant youth show that ICE agents continue to resist the administration’s stated approach to enforcement.  So, here comes another memo.  If followed, the memo should have a significant positive impact as it will reduce the number of low enforcement priority immigrants who come into contact with ICE and are, therefore, not placed into removal proceedings.

The detainer memo instructs ICE to be more judicious in the issuance of detainers.  According to the director, ICE should issue detainers against individuals only where: (1) they have reason to believe that the individual is deportable from the U.S. and (2) one of the following factors is present:

  • the individual has a prior felony conviction or has been charged with a felony
  • the individual has three or more prior misdemeanor offenses
  • the individual has a prior misdemeanor conviction or has been charged with a misdemeanor offense which relates to: violence, threats, assault, sexual abuse or exploitation, DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, firearms offenses, controlled substance distribution offenses
  • the individual has been convicted of illegal reentry
  • the individual has illegally re-entered the country after removal
  • the individual has outstanding order of removal
  • the individual has been found to have knowingly committed immigration fraud
  • the individual otherwise poses a significant risk to national security, border security or public safety.

Under these guidelines, detainers should be issued much less frequently than they have been over the past few years.  Individuals stopped for driving without a license, arrested for simple marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, underage drinking, petit theft, or other minor offenses should not come to the attention of ICE.  By keeping the immigration detention facilities and the immigration courts free from these low priority individuals, ICE remains free to concentrate on those who present serious public safety and national security risks.  In addition, it has the potential to stop or slow the removal of parents, children, brothers and sisters who are good members of their community except for a momentary and unfortunate interaction with law enforcement.  Properly implemented, the new detainer policy has the potential to drastically reduce the removals of low priority immigrants that have sullied the pro immigrant credentials of this administration.

However, as before, there is a battle going on between the stated desires of the political leadership of ICE and the ICE bureaucracy.  The ICE bureaucracy has proven itself extraordinarily adept at undermining its political leadership and has been in open revolt against the administration for the better part of four years.  Like every other memo and political effort announced by this administration, the challenge will remain in whether they can force an unwilling bureaucracy to yield to the wishes of its civilian leadership.  Lincoln had to fire McClellan, Truman had to fire McArthur and Obama fired McChrystal.  We are not sure who in ICE needs to be fired, but, one way or another, this power struggle will need to be resolved.