New York Immigration Lawyers Blog

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I spent the better part of Monday morning in the Immigration Court in Newark, New Jersey. As a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Trial Attorney, and a member of the private immigration bar for the last 11 years, I’ve not seen until now, a more despicable brand of vindictive justice meted out by an obviously cynical, sadistic, immigration judge who is assigned to preside over immigration detainees.

These detainees are incarcerated solely due to their immigration status and not for any crimes previously committed as they have already paid the price for the mistakes they may have made in the past. Some are detained for convictions committed over ten years ago and remain in immigration custody for far longer than any sentence they received. The hearings are conducted in the Newark federal building with the detainees appearing by television from their respective jails or prisons. Again, they are in custody solely for immigration reasons.

I witnessed an older Italian gentleman who could not speak English. The Judge seemed particularly frustrated by this and angrily called the on-call interpreter. The Judge seemed particularly angry and, if I had not been before this Judge before, I would have thought that something was wrong. But an angry disposition is the norm for this immigration judge. Continue reading →

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As we predicted, the new year would bring a flurry of new initiatives that are not particularly immigrant-friendly. During the past November midterms, Republicans gained more than 690 seats in state legislatures nationwide, winning their strongest representation at the state level in more than 80 years. Because very few people expected any movement on immigration issues, especially at the very beginning of the new 112th Congress, it may come as a shock that immigration policy is one of the issues that have been placed at the top of the agenda for this new Republican-led legislative session.

A coalition of lawmakers have unveiled an unusual coordinated effort to cancel the automatic U.S. citizenship for children born in this country of illegal immigrant parents. Although opponents and most scholars consider the effort to be patently unconstitutional, and despite the fact that the power to grant citizenship resides within the federal government and not at the state level, a number of states, including Arizona, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Pennsylvania will introduce bills to do just that.

Because automatic citizenship is a birth right conferred to those born in this country that is guaranteed by the 14th U.S. Constitutional Amendment, it would be painstakingly troublesome to have this overturned. For that reason, those involved in the drafting of the legislation say they have decided against trying to amend the Constitution and have instead decided to create two kinds of birth certificates in their states, one for the children of citizens and another for the children of illegal immigrants. At a recent news conference, Daryl Metcalfe, a leader of this new effort who is a Republican state representative from Pennsylvania, announced that his goal was to eliminate “anchor baby status, in which an illegal alien invader comes into our country and has a child on our soil that is granted citizenship automatically.” At today’s inauguration, John Boehner, the Republican who took Nancy Pelosi’s former position as Speaker of the House, gave the following remarks that address the Republican objective that is meant to “give government back to citizens of the U.S. and provide honesty and accountability.” He stated that “[n]o longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions.”

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Officials have reported that the federal immigration program titled Secure Communities will be implemented nationwide by 2013. This program has become a critical enforcement method and has been hailed by supporters for its ability to quickly identify the immigration status of those who have committed or been accused of committing crimes by having them undergo a fingerprint identification process using federal databases.

These same officials say the reliance on this technology reduces the possibility of human error and could cut down on accusations of discriminatory profiling by law enforcement. Yet arguments that paint Secure Communities as thoroughly good are not watertight mainly because the program has been sweeping up many immigrants whose criminal cases are dropped or who are convicted of minor charges that would normally not make them subject to deportation proceedings.

Republican Congressman Peter King, who will become chairman of the House of Representative’s Homeland Security Committee, has already been eyeing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) Secure Communities program that allows local police departments and jails to identify those who are in violation of immigration law and flag them for deportation. The program, which was started under George W. Bush, has been greatly expanded by the Obama administration and is credited with helping make this past fiscal period a record year for deportations. Florida already has every county collaborating with the system, including the immigrant-packed Miami-Dade and Broward counties, while New York has also joined the program. Even though this enforcement method does not sit well with immigrant advocates and has raised the suspicions of many who support it, King wants to offer further incentives for local officials to use the program in furtherance of the goal of it becoming an initiative partaken on a national level. Continue reading →

The mid-term elections have come and gone, and even though the predicted sweeping wave of the Republican Party in Congress did not fully materialize, they were able to gain dominance over the House of Representatives. There was also a string of Latino Republicans who won, including Florida Republican Marco Rubio who took the U.S. Senate by a wide margin. Other winners included Republicans Susana Martinez, elected as the first female Latin Governor in New Mexico, and Brian Sandoval, who became the first Hispanic governor in Nevada. Florida’s David Rivera was among five Republicans to win their races to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Even though national exit poll results showed that Democrats had a two-to-one advantage- 64% versus 34%- over Republicans in the U.S. House races among Latino voters, the majority of Latinos who won high offices were Republican candidates. The reality is that this was going to be a difficult election cycle for Democrats under the best of circumstances, just as 2008 was never going to be a Republican year after eight years of the Bush Presidency.

The Latin and Hispanic population are already considered the nation’s largest minority group; they comprise about 12% of the entire population, and are expected to have an 82% increase by 2050, meaning that they will comprise 19% of the nation’s population. In Florida, they are estimated to be 1.8 million, making up 15% of all eligible voters in the states; and while during this election the majority cited either ‘jobs’ or ‘the economy’ as their top concern, immigration also appeared to be of high concern as well. And while Latinos remain displeased that the present administration has not made immigration legislation a priority, polls have revealed that there is increased awareness of the Republican Party’s obstructionism of the Democrat’s efforts. Continue reading →

According to the Migration Policy Institute, repealing the “birthright citizenship” given for U.S. born children of undocumented aliens would expand the unauthorized population by at least 5 million people over the next four decades. The report suggests that there would be 4.7 million immigrant children of undocumented parents as of 2050, compared to only 1 million U.S. born children of parents who are here legally. Even though this right is granted by the 14th Constitutional Amendment, some policymakers argue that removing it would be a measure that would discourage illegal immigration, coupled with the fact that it is also clear that a move like this would increase the size of the undocumented population significantly.

Fortunately, the buzz created by the repeal of the birthright citizenship is more likely to fizzle out than not. A measure of this sort would not only be arbitrary and discriminative, but would also likely limit the opportunities these children would have for occupational advancement through, say, upper education. That is an unfortunate fate many of the children who were brought to this country illegally face, especially because many of them have been here since they were very young and feel extremely American instead of foreign. It is estimated that out of the 3 million students who graduate from a U.S. high school each year there are approximately 65,000 of those who face a roadblock to their dreams since their chances of furthering their education and graduating from college; working in the country legally, and paying taxes; or even getting a driver’s license to drive are severely hindered just because they were brought to this country illegally or lost legal status along the way.

In an attempt to curtail the hemorrhaging of this injustice, Senators Orin Hatch and Richard Durbin pioneered the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act for short, which is an attempt to streamline a pathway to citizenship for students. The bill is intended for those who are below the age of 35 and who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16, while also having lived here continuously for 5 years, and who have either graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED, and attend college or have enlisted in the military while also having no criminal record and being of good moral character. Although it does not grant in-state tuition or federal financial aid to any college student, it is meant to create equal opportunity for young immigrants to help realize their individual dreams. Continue reading →