Blog Archive

Despite the public opposition by the president and other politicians to the Arizona legislation allowing officers to arrest anyone who fails to provide proof of legal status, Maryland Delegate Pat McDonough has proposed a similar bill in Maryland.   However, Maryland Governor O’Malley is not behind this legislation, and Maryland lawmakers have actually, in the past, been supportive immigrants through their large contributions to the non-profit organization CASA de Maryland, which is dedicated to helping illegal immigrants, both legal and illegal, ensure that their rights are protected.

Every day, minors are brought over the border to the United States illegally by their parents, who hope to provide their children with better lives than they would be able to in their home countries.  Many of these children successfully make it across, settle down, and for years go undetected.  In the meantime, they go to public schools, learn English, become accustomed to American life and culture, and end up having the same dreams and hopes as any child born in the United States.  This includes the dream of getting a college education.

Any many illegal immigrants do just that.  They work hard, apply, and get accepted to universities across the nation.  However, all the hard work and big dreams could be quickly taken away, for something as minor as a traffic violation.  This is because DHS has a program known as 287(g) that allows local sheriffs to handle federal immigration law enforcement, part of the strict immigration legislation intending to prevent the presence of illegal immigrants in the country.

In order to help minors who have been in the country for years, have gone to school, and have not had any problems with the law, proposed legislation known as the Dream Act is intended to provide illegal students with a path to becoming legal.  Officially called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act has met much opposition, however, by those who see illegal immigrants as a burden on society, especially minors whom have benefited from the American public education system.  But, those in supportive of it say it is only right to allow minors, whom often times had no part in the decision making process to enter the country illegally, should not later be punished when they have done everything they can after getting to the country to be worthy citizens and contribute to the country they call home.

Retired Supreme Court Justice O’Connor weighed in on the recent Senate bill passed in her home state of Arizona.  While acknowledging that Arizona does have a legitimate concern with immigrants illegally crossing the border from Mexico, she still finds that the Bill goes to far.  The bill, on its face, allows state police officers to question a person’s residency status, and if information is not adequately provided the person can be imprisoned and even deported.  While many argue that this law only does what federal law already allows federal agents to do, O’Conner looked beyond the face of the law when expressing concern that it would allow officers to target people who look Hispanic, thus legalizing racial profiling.  She has no doubt that the law will be the subject of extensive litigation over application and the constitutionality of the law.

The ABA issued a report, conducted by Arnold & Porter LLC, outlining what it found to be the most pressing issues with the current immigration judicial system and making several recommendations for system restructuring to held ease the burdens.

The report states immigration courts have more than 280,000 proceedings a year.  This amounts to over 1,000 heard by each immigration judge a year.  The BIA decided more than 30,000 appeals a year, and of these more than 10,000 were filed for appeal to the federal circuit courts.  This amounts to about 17% of the total cases handled by the federal circuit courts.  This has amounted to the court systems being overwhelmed with backlogged immigration cases, and thus, effectively robbing many aliens of any chance of a fair hearing; this is especially alarming given the high stakes in removability proceedings, as in many times the alien is being faced with being sent back to a place they had hoped to leave behind.  The report also states that there is great disparity between the immigration judges, determining that success is more often based on the judge that oversees the case than the actual merits of the case.

Thus, the report calls for an overhaul of the system, and proposes three restructuring themes that would ease the burden on the immigration judicial system and create more uniformity in the system.  The Report also suggests that certain provision of the INA should be reformed, allowing certain undocumented noncitizens to more easily become lawful permanent residents through the adjustment of status process.  It also recommends a narrowing of the definitions of aggravated felony and crimes involving moral turpitude to allow more fair application for noncitizens who have had longstanding ties to the United States.

For more information, please see the extensive and insightful report, located here.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced the Refugee Protection Act of 2010 to the senate this month.  This bill hopes to make improvements to the current law, the Refugee Act of 1980, by making the process for asylum seekers more streamlined and accessible.  This is an improvement that the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants finds is crucial.

The current legislation requires a waiting period of a year before asylees can be granted work permits.  The proposed bill would eliminate this waiting period, allowing asylees to automatically become lawful permanent residents.  This is arguably even more important for asylees, who often times are fleeing terrible conditions in their home country and are often the most vulnerable, because it will not only provide them the means to be more self sustaining, but also aid in their assimilation to the United States.

The bill is cosponsored by Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, Richard Durbin of Illinois, and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.

After unsuccessful attempt in 2006 and 2007, Congress has begun anew to address immigration reform.  With President Obama’s support, Senators Schumer and Graham have announced a plan to reform the immigration system with the ultimate goals of helping to end illegal immigration, while also fueling the US economy.  Some of the proposed legislation would require US citizens and legal immigrants to get new Social Security cards, which would be tied to fingerprints or some other biometric identifiers, allowing employers to easily verify that workers are here legally.  They also hope to create a system that would bring temporary workers to the US based on what the current economy needs.  In addition, the proposed immigration reform would hopefully provide paths for many of the estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the US to gain legal status.  In addition, increased border patrol has been proposed to prevent more immigrants from entering illegally.  While the plan seems to have many benefits for both citizens and immigrants, it will require the support of both the Democrats and the Republicans, which may not be an easy task on an issue that has two divergent sides and competing ideals.

Republican and Democratic Senators announce a framework for immigration reform.

March 18th 2010 Senators Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated “the American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation” in an editorial in the Washington Post. The proposal calls for substantially increased work place enforcement, mandatory biometric information in the form of a new card for all workers and the creation of a program to admit temporary workers.  Requirements are payment of fines, community service, english testing, payment of back taxes and admission of guilt for being undocumented.  It is unclear how many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants would be able to adjust to a legal status.  The proposals also reinforce the United States policy of favoring immigration for skilled workers.

This effort must be seen in the context of other national political battles, in particular health care reform.  Without compromise on health care reform it is unlikely that comprehensive immigration reform will happen this year.