Blog

Chris Christie Takes Next Step in Anti-Immigrant Direction by AV Press Releases on 03/25/15 at 5:30 pm

New Jersey Governor and potential 2016 Republican contender Chris Christie has taken the next step in embracing anti-immigrant politics by signing onto a brief seeking to block immigration executive action programs.  As Elise Foley of the Huffington Post reports:

“After months of staying out of the legal battle over the president’s executive actions on immigration, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) finally — but quietly — waded in this week.

Christie joined Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota in filing a brief on Monday that asked an appeals court to maintain an injunction that has prevented the Obama administration from moving forward with deportation relief programs it proposed in November 2014.

The brief says Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana and South Dakota would face ‘irreparable injuries’ should those programs be allowed to move forward.”

The “irreparable injuries” are more likely to be incurred by the 204,000 New Jersey residents who would qualify for DAPA and the expanded DACA programs announced by President Obama and that Gov. Christie is intent to block and deny.  As a reminder, those eligible for these programs are parents of U.S. citizen kids with deep roots and ties to America, as well as the Dreamers who have been in the U.S. the longest.  As a recent study from UCLA projected, those eligible for the executive action programs would generate an additional $490 million dollars to the state of New Jersey through wage growth directly related to expanded economic opportunities.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “After garnering some good will with Latinos by supporting a state version of the Dream Act in New Jersey, Gov. Christie is now undermining it by lining up with the anti-immigrant hardliners in his Party and embracing their signature policy goal: deportation of DREAMers and the parents of American citizens.  It’s sad but not surprising.  Christie has already stooped to kiss the ring of Steve King, and now he’s lining up with King on policy as well.”

Earlier this year, we noted that Gov. Christie’s appearance at the Iowa Freedom Summit, organized by the viciously anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King, represented a disturbing break from Gov. Christie’s past record on immigration – which was relatively moderate for a Republican governor and included some decided pro-reform sentiments and several important legislative wins, such as an in-state tuition bill.  A Latino Decisions poll from July 2013 even showed him leading a pack of potential GOP contenders amongst Latino Voters. Now, however, it’s clear that Christie has no intention of maintaining any sort of moderate stance on immigration.

Said Tramonte: “This decision by Republican Party candidates to embrace anti-immigrant politicking will come back to haunt them, once the primaries are over and they have to face the general electorate.”

When the Republican-led NY State Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act by a razor-thin margin last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo made the legislation a pivotal part of his re-election campaign and promised to include the bill in his next budget.

Cuomo won, and when he again touted the DREAM Act in January’s State of the State address, New York DREAMers finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel. But just barely two months later, Cuomo appears to be ready to walk it all back after stating he’ll drop the DREAM Act from his budget.

Liz Robbins of the New York Times reports:

After Republican and Democratic leaders could not agree on a proposal that linked immigration reform with an education tax credit in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed budget, the governor said on Tuesday that both would be dropped as negotiations continued.

His statement and the impasse in Albany signaled yet another dead end for the Dream Act, the measure that would allow high school graduates who are undocumented immigrants to apply for state financial aid for college.

Advocates believed that the bill stood a better chance of becoming a reality this time than it had in the past three years. Mr. Cuomo’s linking the two measures was seen as a way to appeal to both Democrats who had been supportive of helping undocumented immigrants and Republicans who favored the tax credit, which was meant to encourage donations to public schools and to scholarship funds for students at private and parochial schools.

But when it became clear that there was not enough legislative support for either measure, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said he decided to remove the items from the budget talks. “We’re nowhere close to an agreement,” Mr. Cuomo said. “So it was pointless in the budget.”

Immigration advocates are furious over the impasse, and during the past several days groups like Make The Road New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and DREAM Action Coalition have been targeting the offices of both Cuomo and State Senate Majority Leader Sean Skelos, a Republican (who apparently responded to requests from protesters for a conversation by locking his office doors shut).

Most of Skelos’s caucus has already been on record as opposing the DREAM Act, but it’s the double-speak from Cuomo that has kept a consistent target on his back. Advocates have noted Cuomo ran for reelection on a promise of making the DREAM Act a part of his budget, even touting the bill on pamphlets all the way up until Election Day, and mentioning DREAM during his victory speech that night.

Members of Cuomo’s party are just as upset. Democratic State Senator Jose Peralta slammed Cuomo’s decision, writing in a statement that “Governor argued in favor of making the DREAM Act a reality during the Somos El Futuro Conference” in Albany just this past weekend. And then just three days ago, Cuomo dedicated an entire self-penned op-ed in the New York Post to the financial and educational merits of the DREAM Act.

What a difference just a few days can make.

In light of Washington D.C.’s immigration reform gridlock, states across the nation have taken their own steps to improve the daily lives of immigrants and their families. At least 17 states currently allow undocumented students to pay the in-state tuition rate, with Washington State, California, Texas, and New Mexico having passed legislation allowing DREAMers to apply for financial aid as well.

New York has a chance to join these states in giving young undocumented students a chance to fulfill their dreams. And with perhaps no other state having a history as immigrant-rich as New York, it really should be expected. Now it’s just up to Cuomo to finish fulfilling New York’s promise — and his own.

Who are Considered Priorities for Deportation? by Guest Blogger on 03/25/15 at 10:58 am

Key Questions Surrounding ICE’s New Immigration Enforcement Policies

Following is an article from America’s Voice en Español. It has been translated from Spanish to English and is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper credit.

The Spanish language version, “¿Quiénes son prioridad de deportación?,” is available online here.

Who are considered priorities for deportation?

March 25, 2015

As the world awaits resolution of the legal case that has paralyzed immigration executive actions ordered by President Barack Obama in November 2014 to stop the deportation of some 5 million undocumented immigrants, potential beneficiaries of the revised Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) plan remain in limbo.

There’s a general state of anxiety in the immigrant community over the fear of being detained and deported despite the fact that in November 2014 the government also issued memoranda about the prosecutorial discretion authorities that immigration officials have when dealing with an undocumented person. The goal of these memoranda was to prioritize detention and deportations of those who really pose a threat to national security and our communities.

Last week ICE deported a young Honduran man from Iowa, the father of four U.S. citizen children and husband of a DACA beneficiary, and the case brought to light whether Max Villatoro’s history—namely a driving under the influence conviction from nearly twenty years ago, when he was 24, and purchasing a Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license—made him a priority for deportation according to the United States government.

Max’s lawyer, David Leopold, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, argued that Villatoro—who had transformed his life since then, becoming a Mennonite pastor and community leader—should not be deported to his native Honduras. According to Leopold, Villatoro does not represent a threat to national security. A national campaign in support of Max obtained more than 40,000 signatures expressing support for Villatoro.

The question is, who is really a priority for deportation under these new guidelines?

Following are questions and answers regarding the 2014 memorandum, signed by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Jeh Johnson:

1. Which individuals are considered to be of the highest priority for deportation, the ones who merit the greatest focus?

The document is very clear in this respect: those who present a threat to national security, border security, or public safety.

2. Is there a specific classification for these cases?

Yes, the document identifies the following cases as the highest priority, among others: foreign-born individuals involved in (or suspected to be involved in) terrorism or espionage; those caught attempting to enter the U.S. without authorization along the border or at ports of entry; those convicted of crimes related to their active participation in a criminal gang; or those over 16 years old who intentionally participate in gang activities that further the illegal activity of this group.

3. Does the memo focus on any other crimes?

Effectively, there are other priorities considered to be less important, but they still need to be taken into account. They include the following (among others): foreign-born individuals convicted of three or more misdemeanors other than minor traffic violations; those convicted of a “significant misdemeanor” such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, or exploitation; robbery; illegal possession of firearms; drug distribution or trafficking; or driving while intoxicated.

4. Can immigration officials exercise prosecutorial discretion once they take someone into custody?

Of course. In fact, this is the most sensible part of the document, as it asks DHS personnel to exercise discretion based on individual circumstances, above all whether the person does not pose a threat to national or border security or public safety. The factors to take into consideration include: any extenuating circumstances related to the crime; length of time an individual has lived in the country; military service; family and communities ties in the United States; status as a victim, witness, or litigant in civil or criminal investigations; and humanitarian considerations such as medical status, age, or other factors.

Regarding this, Leopold explains that the deportation priorities memo, in the section on “significant misdemeanors,” gives no time-limit for consideration of offenses. He says “ICE considered Max a priority for deportation because of a DUI from 1998, which took place when he was in his twenties, involved no accident and hurt no one.”

He adds, “what ICE—and I believe the Director of ICE, Sarah R. Saldana—ignored was the final paragraph of Priority 2 in the memo, which says that these individuals should be deported unless they qualify for asylum or another form of relief under our laws, or unless, in the judgment of an ICE Field Office Director, CBP Sector Chief, CBP Director of Field Operations, USCIS District Director, or USCIS Service Center Director, there are factors indicating the alien is not a threat to national security, border security, or public safety, and should not therefore be an enforcement priority.”

For Leopold, “it’s the difference between reading the priorities memo like it is a checklist for deportations, or a guide that allows the use of common sense.”