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DACA Texas court ruling expected soon, but…

DACA Texas court ruling expected soon, but future of young undocumented far from clear

By ROXANA KOPETMAN | | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: August 15, 2018 at 7:13 pm | UPDATED: August 16, 2018 at 1:29 pm

(original article link here:

Image: Immigration activist Omar Martinez attends a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on April 18, 2016.
(File photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

There was no set deadline, but the perception of one seemed real enough.

It was a Saturday in early August and Jose Lopez’s downtown Los Angeles apartment looked like a command center of sorts. With a printer set up on the center of the kitchen table, a dozen young immigrants sat with computers in the kitchen and living room, typing with quiet intensity.

Their goal: To get their DACA renewal applications into the government, via Fed Ex, that night. They wanted to file the paperwork before a district court judge ruled on a lawsuit that challenges Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival — the program created by president Barack Obama that grants young immigrants a work visa and temporary deferral from deportation.

“It was as quiet as it could be,” Lopez said of the DACA application-a-thon. “Everybody was typing, unless someone had a question.

“You could feel the tension in the room.”

It turned out the deadline wasn’t real; the Texas judge held off on his ruling, which is expected any day now.

But the fear palpable in Lopez’s apartment that night remains. For DACA recipients — a world that includes about 89,000 people in Southern California — there is growing anxiety about a cluster of lawsuits moving through the courts that could determine the fate of the program and, with it, their futures.

Many are particularly concerned about the ruling expected as soon as this week from District Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas.

In 2015, Hanen blocked Obama’s plan to expand DACA and create a similar program for parents of American-born children, a program called DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. That case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which split 4-4, so the expanded protections never went into effect.

“The case that is triggering anxiety is the one in Texas,” said Dianey Murillo, an organizer with the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective.

While many expect Hanen to rule against DACA, attorney Thomas Saenz argues that there are important differences between Obama’s expanded plan and the existing version of the DACA program. The program to protect parents, DAPA, was never implemented. DACA, on the other hand, has existed for six years and has been used by some 800,000 young immigrants nationally without causing irreparable injury to the states, said Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense Counsel, or MALDEF.

Even if Hanen rules against DACA, the Texas judge “has no greater authority than any other district judge in the country,” Saenz said.

And so far, other courts have ruled favorably toward DACA.

If Hanen does rule against DACA, contravening the orders of other courts across the country, the federal government “would face a conundrum,” in Saenz’ view, because it “does not have the right to choose which injunction it likes best.”

Most observers believe the case will likely be settled before the U.S. Supreme Court, unless Congress comes up with a different plan for unauthorized youth, often known as “Dreamers.”

The Texas lawsuit is an outlier among the lawsuits, some of which have been consolidated or are moving in tandem through five federal courts: in California, New York, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Texas. Most seek to protect DACA, not dismantle it.
Lawsuits were filed after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Sept. 5 an end to the DACA program, which some argue is unconstitutional, an abusive overreach of executive powers by President Obama, and a financial burden on states.

The lawsuits include one collectively known as Regents of the University of California v. Department of Homeland Security. On Jan. 9, District Judge William Alsup ruled in favor of UC, issuing a preliminary injunction that allowed existing DACA holders to renew their status.

Other courts in New York and Washington D.C. also ruled in favor of DACA. Most recently, on Aug. 3, District Court Judge John Bates in D.C. called the cancellation of DACA “arbitrary and capricious” and he ordered full restoration of the program, allowing also for new applicants to file, but he delayed implementation for 20 days.

Attorney General Sessions earlier this month criticized decisions “in which courts have improperly used judicial power to steer, enjoin, modify, and direct executive policy.”

Meanwhile, a district judge in Maryland struck down a challenge to the program, although he opined: “This court does not like the outcome of this case, but is constrained by its constitutionally limited role.”

With Hanen’s ruling pending, as well as various appeals across the country, this is considered a critical time for the nearly 700,000 people who currently hold DACA and the hundreds of thousands of others who may qualify for the temporary protection.

“In the next few weeks and few months, we could see developments in these cases that significantly alter the landscape for DACA recipients,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

There are fewer than 700,000 people currently holding DACA status. That’s a drop from the approximate 800,000 original applicants.

About 40,000 DACA recipients dropped from the pool because they became permanent legal residents, according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman. Others who didn’t renew may have missed a window to apply after the program was suspended or may not have been able to afford the $495 renewal fee.

“Many didn’t renew out of fear or because they didn’t have the funds,” said Sheridan Aguirre, a spokesman for the United We Dream group, which bills itself as the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country.

California has the most people protected by DACA; nearly 197,000 as of last January, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Most polls show that a majority of Americans support DACA. And for those who are accepted into the program, it’s a game changer. They can work, travel, drive, and basically live without the fear of being detained for deportation.

A new survey released Wednesday by the Immigration Policy at American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization, describes the impact of the program on its recipients. Of 1,050 people interviewed, 54 percent moved to a job with better pay and nearly half got jobs with better working conditions as a result of their DACA protections, benefits that better fit their education and goals.

Lopez, the Dream Team LA organizer, said he would fit in that category.

“DACA has done a lot of things for me. I have a stable job. I have a new car. I built up credit and I’m looking to buy a house,” Lopez said. “Every time I renew, I’m asked about my assets and income on the application. And every year, it increases. And it’s all due to DACA.”

Immigrant advocates are urging DACA applicants to renew their applications now, regardless of when they expire.

Aguirre, of the United We Dream group, said he sent off for his own renewal in the last week, a year early. Murillo, from the Inland Empire group, also sent hers in early.

As did Lopez and his friends, who rushed to file their renewals on that recent Saturday, when sprawled across Lopez’s home “you could hear printers all day.”

“Everyone was doing their applications,” Lopez said, “without knowing what the future of DACA holds.”

In the news

Immigrant Rights Advocates Say Jeff Sessions is ‘Trivializing Domestic Violence’

The attorney general’s decision to bar domestic abuse survivors from obtaining asylum seems out of step with a country engaged in a burgeoning movement against assault, advocates say.

by Massoud Hayoun – June 11, 2018 – Originally published in Pacific Standard

(original article link here:

Image: Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Immigrant rights advocates were appalled at Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move this week to block immigration judges from granting domestic abuse and gang violence survivors asylum.

In an interim decision released Monday addressing whether those two classes of asylum claimants could successfully apply for asylum, Sessions wrote that they fail to meet two criteria: “(1) membership in a group, which is composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, is defined with particularity, and is socially distinct within the society in question; and (2) that membership in the group is a central reason for her persecution.”

Authorities found that, in the case of domestic abuse survivors specifically, “the mere existence of shared circumstances would not turn those possessing such characteristics into a particular social group,” the decision reads.

Immigrant rights advocates were livid, particularly in light of standing allegations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump.

“Sessions has taken a morally reprehensible and legally dark turn with this decision,” says Jessica Farb, directing attorney of the Immigration Center for Women and Children advocacy group, one that deals in particular with violence faced by immigrant women and others. “Despite the obligations of the United States under international refugee law and in the face of a #MeToo movement, supporting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, this administration has shown its distaste for and misunderstanding of survivors of these crimes, especially immigrant survivors.”

Others echoed her outrage.”We are sickened by the administration’s decision to turn their back on asylum seekers who have suffered domestic violence or gang violence,” says Reshma Shamasunder, vice president of program strategy for the Los Angeles bureau of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an advocacy group. “This abandonment of immigrant women and families runs counter to American values and cements a horrible fate for our most vulnerable populations.”

“If [Sessions] were a woman, he wouldn’t be trivializing domestic violence,” says Kevin Solis, the spokesman for the immigrant rights group DREAM Team Los Angeles. “His misogyny is showing.”

For Farb, Sessions is a reflection of an administration led by a man with a controversial track record on women’s rights. “The change in the interpretation of this legal precedent shows Sessions bowing to the will of the commander in chief,” she says.

Other immigrant rights advocates reflected Farb’s view of the White House’s misogyny. “If [Sessions] were a woman, he wouldn’t be trivializing domestic violence,” says Kevin Solis, the spokesman for the immigrant rights group DREAM Team Los Angeles. “His misogyny is showing.”

What’s more, Solis argues that Sessions’ decision strays from the realm of judicial matters and into U.S. immigration policy.

“I am sure there are many crimes his agency isn’t pursuing while he tries to turn the [Department of Justice] into an enforcement arm of Immigration, which it isn’t,” Solis says. “The danger is now many people think Sessions has something to do with immigration and he has nothing to do with it.”

Solis expressed that journalists should ask Sessions “why he’s making these statements when his department does not oversee immigration.”

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An automatic email insisted that the reporter call the Department of Justice for comment after 6 p.m. Eastern. “Under no circumstances should you include in your story that the Department of Justice did not return a request for comment if you did not call the night duty officer to try and get in touch with a Department spokesperson,” the email read. Pacific Standard called and left a message with Department of Justice staff.

It remains to be seen whether any of the immigrant rights advocates contacted by Pacific Standard would mount a legal challenge to Sessions’ ruling.

In the news

Amid a Flurry of Immigration Scandals, Activists Stay Focused on the Trump Administration’s Separation of Families

As questions of children left unaccounted for by immigration authorities mount, rights advocates say the Trump administration’s separation of parents and children remains the real issue.

by Massoud Hayoun – May 30, 2018 – Originally published in Pacific Standard

(original article link here:

Image: An undocumented woman from Peru holds her one-year-old son at their home in Thornton, Colorado.

(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Faced with overlapping controversies over its treatment of undocumented children, the Trump administration attempted this week to walk back previous statements that it had lost track of hundreds of undocumented children formerly in its care. Immigrant rights advocates disagreed about whether the administration should more closely monitor those children’s whereabouts—but they were all unified in their outrage regarding the administration’s ongoing separation of hundreds of migrant children from their parents.

Brandishing the hashtag #WhereAreTheChildren, a groundswell of Twitter users demanded answers over the whereabouts of nearly 1,500 minors who arrived in the United States formerly in government custody. At a Senate committee hearing last month, Steve Wagner, the acting secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, reported that HHS had conducted calls to inquire about the children’s whereabouts following their release from custody, often to relatives—many of whom are themselves undocumented—already living in the U.S. Calls to U.S. resident guardians went unanswered in 1,475 cases.

HHS said on Monday that it is not responsible for those children released from its custody and that the calls went beyond the scope of its duty to the children. “This is a classic example of the adage, ‘No good deed goes unpunished,'” HHS deputy secretary Eric Hargan said in a statement, adding that, despite media reports to the contrary, the children were not lost; phone calls to ascertain their whereabouts had simply gone unanswered.

There was some disagreement over whether HHS was indeed responsible for insuring the children’s well-being after releasing them into a third party’s custody.

Attorney and writer Josie Duffy Rice disagreed with the outpouring of rage over the administration losing track of the undocumented children. “You’re asking immigration authorities in TRUMPS AMERICA to BETTER MONITOR UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES,” she tweeted in a thread on the topic that went viral. “You don’t want this. I promise you don’t.”

Responding to Duffy Rice, cross-border immigrant advocacy group Al Otro Lado saw things differently, tweeting, “I don’t think the answer is to accept that the agency placing these kids bears no responsibility for what happens to them.”

Al Otro Lado policy and technology director Erika Pinheiro tells Pacific Standard that children often require continued support services, even after they are delivered into the custody of relatives they may have never met. Instead, Pinheiro would like to see the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the HHS unit in charge of minors, given greater independence from Immigration and Customs Enforcement so that the way they interact with the minors and their relatives is not governed by ICE’s deportation-driven agenda.

“ORR is really a network of subcontracted, locally licensed facilities so quality of care can vary,” Pinheiro explains. “The real problem is that, instead of protecting children, they act as an extension of ICE by sharing information about the children, turning them over to ICE custody when they turn 18, and, more recently, allowing ICE to access information about undocumented sponsors. We shouldn’t advocate for ORR to find these kids because that means ICE may harm them and their families. Demanding that ORR stop sharing information with ICE would enable it to do a better job caring for and keeping track of children, but we shouldn’t advocate for them to go find the 1,500 until more protections are in place.”

Both Duffy Rice and Pinheiro believe the solution is greater ORR independence from ICE—and, more broadly, the abolishment of ICE.

Duffy Rice’s tweets pointed out that, amid a barrage of simultaneous controversies over the Trump administration’s treatment of childhood arrivals, many on social and news media appear to be conflating the missing unaccompanied arrivals with the children who arrive in the U.S. with their parents only to be separated from them when their parents are sent to detention facilities. The separated children face what the American Civil Liberties Union described in a report last week as overwhelming neglect and abuse.

“The Trump administration is not the first to engage in family separations of immigrants, but they are the first to openly display a callousness that was hidden in previous administration,” says Kevin Solis, spokesman for immigrant rights group DREAM Team Los Angeles. “Families deserve to be together. That has been the cornerstone of our immigration system since its inception.”

Pacific Standard has followed an ongoing legal battle between the ACLU and the government over its practice of separating what the New York Times has reported to be more than 700 children from their parents. Immigrant rights advocates highlighted the need to remain focused on those separations amid the debate over how best to support the unaccompanied minor arrivals.

“These children should remain with their families and not separated,” says Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights advocacy organization. “As the Trump administration shamelessly tears children from their parents for political purposes, we will see more of this terror take place in the name of the American public.”

Others say that, while the Trump administration is not the first to separate families, it is the first to do so without even the semblance of care for their well-being. “The Trump administration is not the first to engage in family separations of immigrants, but they are the first to openly display a callousness that was hidden in previous administration,” says Kevin Solis, spokesman for immigrant rights group DREAM Team Los Angeles. “Families deserve to be together. That has been the cornerstone of our immigration system since its inception.”

The separations are most urgent, if only in that they reflect the U.S.’s observance of basic human rights, others say. “These families fled hardship in their home countries only to be torn apart and threatened with deportation,” says Reshma Shamasunder, vice president of program strategy for Asian Americans Advancing Justice advocacy group’s Los Angeles bureau. “We as a country must do better. We must demand that the administration value immigrant families instead of terrorizing them.”

Department of Homeland Security officials have denied, in comments to Pacific Standard, that there exists a practice of separating minors from their parents.

“As required by law, DHS must protect the best interests of minor children crossing our borders and occasionally this results in separating children from an adult they are traveling with if we cannot ascertain the parental relationship or if we think the child is otherwise in danger,” Department of Homeland Security press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton wrote in an email earlier this month. “Unfortunately, we have seen many instances where human traffickers have used children to cross the border to gain illegal entry to our country as they know they are unlikely to be detained. This is one of the very loopholes we would like to see Congress end in order to gain operational control of our border.”

Pacific Standard was not able to verify DHS’s claims of a practice of human traffickers using children as an immigration loophole. A woman represented in an ACLU lawsuit against the separations entered the U.S. without the apparent help of a human trafficker, but rather as an asylum seeker—in other words, through the legally sanctioned process of immigration—before she was removed from her child without explanation. No one had questioned her relationship to her child or ability to care for her, the lawsuit reads.

That woman’s child has since been returned to her custody, but hundreds of others remain separated from their families while courts deliberate over what rights advocates call the chief concern in the Trump administration’s treatment of undocumented minors.