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ICYMI: Plain Dealer: “Ohio is one of the worst states for undocumented immigrants”

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As the Trump Administration’s immigration enforcement agencies CBP and ICE continue to arrest and deport indiscriminately, observers are focusing on how states such as Ohio and Michigan are epicenters of the cruelty. A new article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer explores why Ohio is one of the worst states for undocumented immigrants.

Featuring assessments from America’s Voice Ohio Director Lynn Tramonte and prominent Ohio immigration attorney and former American Immigration Lawyers Association President David Leopold, the article also highlights a new class action lawsuit that focuses on how five ICE field offices under Rebecca Aducci have “almost entirely stopped granting parole since early 2017, even for those U.S. asylum officers have ruled worthy of humanitarian parole as they await immigration hearings.”

Read the article, “Ohio is one of the worst states for undocumented immigrants, advocates say,” excerpted below, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Immigrant advocates are calling Ohio among the “worst state for undocumented immigrants,” saying that an already-difficult environment for Ohioans without legal status has deteriorated since the Trump administration increased detainments and deportations of those without criminal records.

“We need to wake up and realize what is happening, in our own communities, to our neighbors, coworkers, and friends,” writes Lynn Tramonte, the Cleveland-based deputy director of America’s Voice. “It’s hypocritical and immoral for us to benefit from immigrants’ hard work while keeping them down, in constant fear of deportation.”

As proof that Ohio has the worst record on immigrant policies, she points to what she says is:

“While one would expect state and local law enforcement to work with federal agents on issues like national security and drug trafficking, it’s another thing entirely to enforce civil immigration laws,” Tramonte said. “We’re talking about people being pulled over for a broken taillight, or some other pretext. What should have been an ordinary traffic stop — or no stop at all — turns into a deportation arrest at the side of the road, and the last time a father may see his kids.”

[ … ]

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Human Rights First, and Covington & Burling LLP filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration challenging its arbitrary detention of those seeking asylum from persecution, torture, or death in their countries of origin.

The class-action lawsuit identifies five ICE field offices – including the Detroit office that includes Ohio and Michigan – that have almost entirely stopped granting parole since early 2017, even for those U.S. asylum officers have ruled worthy of humanitarian parole as they await immigration hearings. The lead plaintiff, Ansly Damus, is an ethics teacher from Haiti who has been held for 16 months in Geauga County despite two asylum rulings in his favor.

“The Trump administration wants to make life so miserable for asylum seekers that they give up and return to their home countries, even at the risk of torture or death,” said Michael Tan, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a written statement. “The administration is wielding indefinite detention as a weapon to deter future asylum seekers, which is both cruel and unconstitutional.”

[ … ]

David Leopold, chair of Ulmer & Berne LLP law firm’s immigration practice, and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said: “Things are bad in Ohio, but I think it’s a stretch to say ‘Ohio is the worst state.’ I think the entire country’s in the worst state that it’s ever been.”

“This ugly immigration policy that’s coming out of the White House that targets families, particularly families of color and Hispanics, allows unscrupulous employers to operate with impunity,” he said. That means that undocumented women who are trafficked into Ohio or abused by their partners are less likely to seek help because their immigration status makes them afraid they’re going to get deported.

Tramonte also cites a 2015 report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America that ranked Ohio last in the nation for policies and laws that exclude undocumented immigrants.

“It is frustrating that so many states have policies that ignore or exclude a group of people who work hard and contribute so much to our society,” said Steven Wallace, associate director of the Center for Health Policy Research, who co-authored the report, in a statement. “The neglect or outright discrimination of the undocumented does not just hurt workers and their families; it hurts the communities that rely on them for the basic labor that makes our society function.”

For example, the report said, when Ohio calculates eligibility for food stamps it counts only family members who are citizens or lawful permanent residents, which can make families ineligible for aid. Ohio also does not issue driver’s licenses or other government IDs to undocumented immigrants, excludes undocumented workers from workers compensation policies, and does not provide scholarships or financial aid to undocumented students at public colleges.

“To me, it’s not only bad for the undocumented workers, but it’s also bad for Ohioans who are citizens and permanent residents,” Leopold said.

If a mother can’t legally drive and her child gets sick and needs medicine, is she going to refrain from driving because she doesn’t have a driver’s license? he asked. “This policy is not only mean-spirited but it’s also stupid, because it makes us all less safe.” He would rather that mother be properly taught and licensed to drive by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Leopold said that the America’s Voice report is on point, and justifiably calls attention to the fact that Ohio could be doing more. Unannounced raids and random ID checks might happen more frequently in other states, “but I think people in Cleveland are fooling themselves if they think it isn’t happening here,” he added.