DAPA Eligible Immigrants Will Not Be Deported and 3 Other Things You Need to Know About the GOP #Immigration Lawsuit

Originally posted on Huffington Post

By David Leopold

Since Judge Hanen issued his controversial midnight order blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration there has been a lot of speculation about what will happen next. Will the Court of Appeals quickly reverse the ruling? How long will it take for the case to wind its way through the appellate courts? Will the U.S. Supreme Court have to weigh in?

I’ve been answering questions like these on DAPAQuestions.org and will continue doing so, but there are three key questions that many people are asking today.

What does the Republican Lawsuit against expanding DACA and the new DAPA program mean for the 5 million immigrants that would qualify for these programs?

The Republican lawsuit against DACA expansion and DAPA was undoubtedly a bump in the road, but it is not the final word. The law is clear and DAPA/DACA expansion policies are legal, despite what Judge Hanen thinks. Until the Texas case is resolved on appeal, DREAMers and parents who were preparing to apply should continue to do so.

Importantly, applicants for the DACA program created in 2012 can and should continue to apply. The lawsuit does not affect them.

Applicants for DACA expansion (the changes announced in 2014) should continue to collect documents and other proof showing of arrival in the U.S. before the age of 16 and that they were in the U.S. on January 1, 2010.

DAPA applicants should collect all necessary proof that they’ve lived in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010 and, on November 20, 2014–the day President Obama announced his immigration executive actions–were the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

And, of course, applicants should be prepared to pay the expected $465 application filing fee which includes the cost of criminal background checks.

Does the Republican lawsuit block all of President Obama’s immigration actions?

No! While the future of DAPA and DACA expansion could be tied up in the courts for the next few weeks or (maybe even months), Republicans cannot touch Obama’s immigration actions that are already being implemented.

Judge Hanen’s order does NOT affect the original, existing DACA program. Individuals who qualify for deferred action based on the criteria outlined in 2012 can and should continue to apply.

Judge Hanen’s order also has NO effect on the immigration enforcement priorities that President Obama laid out as part of his executive actions. These new priorities, which are detailed in a memorandum from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, direct immigration agents to focus on the deportation of aliens who are national security threats, felons, criminal gang members, visa abusers and serious immigration violators.

This means that DREAMers and parents of U.S. citizens who meet the criteria for DACA expansion and DAPA generally should not be deported–even if they come into contact with ICE or CBP. They are only at risk if their deportation would service an “important federal interest” such as individuals who pose a threat to community safety.

Nobody has (or can) seriously question whether or not President Obama’s immigration enforcement priorities are legal. And they go beyond the confines of DACA and DAPA to prevent unjust deportation of other undocumented immigrants with roots and ties to the United States.

But how can we trust that these priorities are being implemented?

This is an important question given past experience with various iterations of “enforcement priorities” memos.

The good news is that so far ICE field offices seem to be following the new enforcement priorities. In Ohio, for example, ICE agents took it upon themselves to postpone the imminent removal of an undocumented mother of a U.S. citizen child after the policies were announced. While the woman still needs DAPA to get stability, at least her low priority removal status allows immigration enforcement agents to focus on dangerous criminals and national security risks. Vox’s Dara Lindreportedlast week that 1000 people have been released from immigration custody since DHS released its enforcement priorities in November.

Nevertheless, immigration advocates must remain vigilant. If a DREAMer, undocumented parent or long-term resident is apprehended, detained or facing removal, ICE officials should be notified immediately that the person is not an enforcement priority and should not be detained or removed. Ideally this should be done through a licensed attorney who is experienced with the deferred action process. If local officials appear to not be following priorities, attorneys should sound alarm bells to higher immigration agency authorities and immigration advocacy groups like America’s Voice Education Fund who can work to ensure that ICE agents closely follow the President’s smart enforcement priorities.

5 things to know about the fight over Obama’s #immigration actions

Originally posted on MSNBC.com

By David Leopold

Late Monday night, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen temporarily blocked President Obama’s executive actions on deportations, which were challenged in federal court by Texas and 25 other states.

The immigration actions, which were set to begin going into effect today, expand DACA to undocumented immigrants over the age of 30 who arrived in the U.S. as children and create DAPA, a discretionary temporary deportation reprieve for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful residents. For now, both initiatives are on hold while the administration files its appeal with the court of appeals.

Here’s what else you need to know.

What is the Texas lawsuit about?

At bottom, the states claim that President Obama unconstitutionally bypassed Congress last year by offering deportation reprieves through executive action. The administration – with the support of 12 states, the District of Columbia, 33 cities, 27 police chiefs, highly respected legal scholars and nonprofit organizations – counters that DACA expansion and DAPA are solidly legal and that presidents of both parties have used their executive authority to grant similar deportation reprieves.

Why did the judge block the executive actions?

Judge Hanen focused on Texas’ claim that it would suffer financial loss by having to issue driver’s licenses to DACA and DAPA recipients. As he has done in previous cases, the judge used his 123 page order as a bully pulpit to excoriate the administration’s immigration enforcement policies. (The DACA program, which went into effect in 2012, was not affected by the judge’s order.)

Yet despite halting the immigration initiatives, Hanen did not rule that Obama in anyway exceeded his lawful authority or violated the constitution. Instead he ruled on very narrow, highly technical legal grounds: That the executive actions did not comply with the rule making requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. The administration argues that the deportation reprieves are solidly legal and well within the president’s authority to focus limited immigration enforcement resources on the deportation of terrorists, felons and gang members – not DREAMers, and mothers and fathers of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

What happens now?

Judge Hanen’s order is of course an unwelcome setback for supporters of the president’s executive actions, but it’s hardly a fatal blow to DACA expansion or DAPA. The final decision – which most legal experts are confident will uphold the president’s immigration actions – will come from a much higher court; probably the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s how it will work: The Obama administration will appeal Judge Hanen’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court. The higher court will likely take several weeks or months to decide the case. In the meantime, both the DACA expansion and DAPA will remain on hold. The government will not accept applications for either program, but potential applicants would be well advised to continue to collect documents so they are ready to apply when the injunction is eventually lifted.

If the Fifth Circuit reverses Judge Hanen’s order – as many experts expect it will do – the DACA expansion and DAPA processes will go forward as planned. If not, the president’s executive actions could be delayed for many more months while the administration asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Importantly, Judge Hanen’s order is hardly the final word. It’s just the first act in what could be a very drawn out play that may conclude in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, what happens to the DREAMers and parents who qualify for DACA plus and DAPA?

The law requires Obama to set immigration enforcement priorities – to decide, in effect, which undocumented immigrants should be deported first. Last November, when he announced his immigration executive actions, the president said he’ll prioritize the deportation of “felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a Mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.”

What that means for immigrants who would qualify for the DACA expansion and DAPA is that, as long as they are not a deportation priority, their cases will remain at the bottom of the enforcement barrel while the Department of Homeland Security focuses on getting rid of those who threaten the safety of American communities.

How does the judge’s decision affect the larger battle over comprehensive immigration reform?

At the time Judge Hanen ruled on Monday, congressional Republicans were trying to figure out how to break a stalemate that threatens to shut down the Department of Homeland Security over GOP opposition to the president’s executive actions on immigration.

Hanen’s injunction clearly complicates things for the GOP. Conservative Republicans may harden their position against compromise with Democrats and the administration on homeland security funding. On the other hand, Hanen’s order temporarily halting the implementation of DACA expansion and DAPA arguably takes the issue off the table – at least for now – undercutting those in Congress intent on using homeland security funding to kill the president’s immigration initiatives.

Yet despite the GOP’s apparent obsession with creating an immigration system characterized by chaos and mass deportation, one thing is crystal clear – the DREAMERs and undocumented parents the Republicans long to deport are not going anywhere. They are already home.

Stay tuned.

WATCH VIDEO: SELESTE ASKS PRESIDENT OBAMA NOT TO DEPORT HER HUSBAND PEDRO

From America’s Voice

Watch Seleste’s message begging President Obama not to deport her husband below, then sign the petition to keep Pedro at home!

There’s so much at stake for this family — will you take a moment and help?

Send a message telling immigration officials in the Obama Administration to stop Pedro’s deportation now!

Obama cannot afford to break another promise on #immigration

Posted on The Hill Congress Blog

Is President Obama about to delay his executive authority to make the immigration system work better until Congress acts?

It’s an important question, especially in light of what he said on Labor Day.

“Hope” Obama declared “is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights and workers’ rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigration rights.”

Obama’s inclusion of “immigration rights” together with the epic struggles of American democracy – civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights, gay rights and workers’ rights – suggests he sees the struggle for immigration reform as an historic movement not tied to party or politics but inherent to the American democratic experience.
Notice the president used the term “immigration rights” not “immigrants’ rights”?

“Immigration rights” carries with it political, social and cultural significance while “immigrants’ rights” is a more direct reference to redress of rights through the courts. “Immigration rights” on the other hand suggests something inherent; rights that may not yet be on the books, but are nevertheless embedded in our Constitution as are the rights of minorities, women, and LGBTs.

If the president truly views “immigration rights” with the same reverence he does the rights of minorities, women, and LGBTs then how can he morally, ethically or politically justify not using his constitutional authority to fix the system where he can? Did President Kennedy, postpone confronting Gov. George Wallace at the University of Alabama when he tried to block the admission of African American students in 1962 before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act?

It’s also a question of integrity. The president stood in the Rose Garden on June 30, lambasted the House GOP for refusing to take up immigration reform, and promised that he would “act without delay” once he received recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s a promise Obama cannot afford to break.

Those words resonated loudly among Latino voters, nearly a quarter of whom have a relative or friend who’s been detained or deported by the Obama administration. Latinos remember that in 2008 candidate Obama promised he would champion immigration reform during his first term in office, but then he broke his promise and deported two million people. They remember that June 2012 when he needed support for his reelection, Obama apologized to the Latino community, granted a deportation reprieve to young undocumented immigrants, and again promised he would fix the immigration system if he was reelected. And Latinos remember that the president was reelected with over 70 percent of their vote.

It’s true that the president is under pressure from some in his own party to wait until after the midterm election to act on immigration. They believe it’s the “safe” thing to do. But voters actually prefer politicians who keep their word, exercise leadership, and take chances over those who play it safe. And the political considerations are far less salient than the moral imperative of doing what the President knows is right—using his executive authority to blunt the harshness of an outdated, rigid, anti-family immigration law.

The president has been called the “Deporter-in-Chief,” and after six years of relentless deportations, his legacy is surely on the line. If he wants to be remembered for an immigration record other than record deportations, he must keep his word to the American people and do what he can to make the immigration system work—without delay.

Leopold is an Ohio-based attorney and the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

.@americasvoice: Two Key Points Regarding #Immigration Executive Action

For Immediate Release:                                             Contact: Michael Earls

August 12, 2014                                                                                202-494-8555

 

Two Key Points Regarding Immigration Executive Action

Opposing Legislative Reform and Executive Action Perpetuates Immigration Status Quo;

Former AILA President David Leopold Explains Why Executive Action is Legal

 

Washington, DC—Two new opinion pieces, in Spanish and English, further two of the key points to understand regarding potential executive action on immigration:

 

  1. Doing nothing, either via legislation or executive action, is the true radical option on immigration and an endorsement of the failed immigration status quo
  2. President Obama has broad legal authority to act on immigration policy

 

A new column from America’s Voice Senior Advisor Maribel Hastings, running in leading Spanish-language outlets, captures that Republicans are endorsing the broken immigration status quo by refusing to legislate on reform and then preemptively criticizing the president for taking executive action.  Writes Hastings:

 

“Only in the twisted world of immigration politics do the contradictions win out: The House of Representatives won’t legislate, but they blame the president for believing he’s a king if he issues executive orders.  They denounce ‘illegality’, but with their inaction they perpetuate the status quo of real illegality where it’s impossible to know who is among us.

 

Authority and discretion exist and they’re legal.  If they’re not used now for partisan political considerations it’s another matter.  But the last thing Obama should care about is what the obstructionist Republican opposition says.  If they don’t like executive action, then legislate.”

 

Former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), David Leopold, writes a new opinion piece in The Hill that adds to the volume of existing analysis showing that potential executive action on immigration rests on solid legal footingLeopold writes:

 

“Even Mr. Obama’s most ardent critics must concede that his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the immigration law gives him wide latitude in its enforcement.  What’s less clear are the limits of that authority.  How far can the President go?

 

The reason this is not an easy call is because the line between exercising discretion over enforcement and crossing over to policy making is often blurred.  One thing that exemplifies this is determining when a case-by-case grant of discretion crosses over to a categorical grant.  Critics like to argue that case-by-case exercises of discretion are acceptable but categorical are not.

 

But it does not follow that this crosses that line.  As long as the administrative decision to defer the removal of a group of undocumented immigrants is legitimately aimed at more efficient use of law enforcement resources, it arguably falls well within the President’s discretion.  This includes the discretion to defer the deportation of undocumented immigrants—individually or as a group—if doing so allows the administration to focus resources on keeping the country safe.

 

In fact, Presidents of both parties have used categorical grants of deferred action to postpone the deportation of large groups of undocumented immigrants, including abused women, hurricane victims and refugees.

 

Therefore, to violate the constitution, the President’s action must be a dramatic, extraordinary departure from universally accepted exercises of executive discretion.  DACA or its expansion don’t even come close…

 

…Legally therefore, DACA is not much different than executive discretion contemplated by the Morton Memo, which even conservatives concede was well within the president’s authority to issue.  Like the Morton Memo DACA or its expansion is nothing more than a temporary postponement of deportation for undocumented immigrants whose removal is a low enforcement priority. This temporary reprieve from removal falls far short of amnesty which, presumably, would offer qualified undocumented immigrants a new set of rights and obligations, including lawful immigration status and a pathway to citizenship coupled with due process rights, including the right to defend against denial or revocation.

 

Critics like to say that the availability of employment authorization or the use of forms and fees pushes the DACA process or its expansion over the blurry line from lawful discretion to executive lawlessness. But they conveniently forget (or are not aware) that the president’s authority to authorize employment of immigrants is long-standing and already well-established in the law.  The regulation that grants work authorization to immigrants granted deferred action predates DACA and applies to many other categories of people granted deferred action, such as abused women, hurricane victims, and refugees.  The president’s authority to grant work status long precedes DACA, and while it does apply to DACA and would apply to its expansion, it is not an outgrowth of either…

 

…Those who challenge President Obama’s authority to act on his own to limit deportations fail to make the case that DACA or its expansion is such a dramatic departure from the Morton Memo (or other universally accepted forms of prosecutorial discretion) that it constitutes the naked power grab they claim.  It’s not enough that it looks different, it must be different; significantly different from what is accepted as lawful discretion.  But it isn’t significantly different.

 

In other words, it’s legal.”

 

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice.
America’s Voice – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform


  1. americasvoice.org

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@americasvoice: Game Plan from the GOP and Allies on Child Refugees: Grandstand; Distort; Do Nothing; Repeat

From America’s Voice

The Same Game Plan Used by the Republicans on Every Immigration Debate

 Washington, DC – When it comes to addressing the ongoing child refugee crisis at the border, Republicans and their allies have solidified a strategy of trying to score political points, driving memes that are fact-free, and then ending with a flourish of inaction.  See below for recent evidence of the GOP game plan in motion:

Perry Steps Up Effort to Protect Texas from “Invasion” of 12-Year Old Refugees Fleeing Violence: In a shameless attempt to revive his presidential prospects, Texas Governor Rick Perry scored another day of media coverage when he announced yesterday he’ll be sending 1,000 national guard troops to “secure the border.”  Because, after all, when young kids run to border patrol agents rather than from them, the appropriate response is to send troops, right?  We can’t wait for the photos of National Guardsmen processing paperwork and changing diapers.  Perry’s move is as transparent as his new glasses.

Senator Ted Cruz Attacks Relief for DREAMers as the Root Cause of Child Refugee Issue: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) continues to be the lead voice claiming that the cause of the child refugee crisis President’s popular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Violence in three of the top five most violent countries in the world?  Nah.  It’s that Obama granted relief to young people who arrived in America before June 2007 that spurred an exodus from three specific countries in June 2014!  The political fallout from this anti-immigrant posturing was demonstrated on Capitol Hill yesterday, as DREAMers mobilized to hold a funeral for the Republican Party.  As Greisa Martinez, organizer for United We Dream, said, “The GOP will not stand for us. They will not fight for us. The GOP is dead to the immigrant community.”

Extremist, Anti-Immigrant Leaders Call for Obama’s Impeachment AND Public Lynching: Anti-immigrant groups just can’t help themselves when it comes to the ongoing child refugee crisis.  Senior Policy Analyst Stephen Steinlight of the nativist group Center for Immigration Studies – a group routinely called by House and Senate Republicans to testify as “experts” at immigration hearings – called for the President to not only be impeached, but also to be “hung, drawn, and quartered.”  Instead of being called as witnesses by Congressional Republicans, this guy should be called to account by the Secret Service.

What if Steve King Held Another Anti-Immigration Rally and Again No One Showed Up?  Nativist opponents of immigration reform were supposed to make their big stand this last weekend, spurred on by the Murrieta, California protest against Central American kids.  Mostly led by two internet groups, Make Them Listen and Overpasses for America, extremists had rallies planned in every state.  In an Iowa rally where Steve King was the headliner, attendance was so sparse it prompted comparisons to his infamous failure of a Richmond rally last August.  Other rallies around the nation were also a bust, highlighting — as Right Wing Watch put it — “the truth that the anti-immigrant movement is desperately trying to hide: it just doesn’t have that much support.”

On His So-Called “HUMANE” Bill, Cornyn Touts More Lies & Makes the Case for More and Faster Cursory Interviews with Terrified Children and Border Patrol Agents with Weapons:  In a new National Review op-ed, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) distorts his own bill, the so-called “HUMANE Act.” He writes, “A new bill would help fix the immediate crisis and assist thousands of children.  Now, some on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about this legislation. On the right, they have said this bill would make it easier for illegal minors to achieve legal and asylum status. That is wrong. The HUMANE Act would not change current law with regard to either claim.  It would, however, make sure current law is actually enforced by speeding up court dates and the removal process for unaccompanied children.”  In fact, instead of current law, which provides children with the opportunity to secure legal counsel and prepare a case to be heard by an asylum officer or immigration judge, his bill would take scared kids who just survived a harrowing journey and subject them to cursory interviews by border patrol agents in green uniforms with a sidearm strapped to their waist.  A recent UNHCR review of the process used for Mexican unaccompanied minors, found that 95% of the kids interviewed by border patrol agents are denied relief and sent home when the UN estimated that 58% had protection claims.

Rep. Phil Gingrey asks CDC to Check Kids for Ebola Virus—Despite the Fact that Not One Case of the Disease Exists in the Americas:  As Ken Sepkowitz of the Daily Beast writes in a piece entitled, “D.C. Moron Phil Gingrey Spread Ebola Fever Over Immigrants”: “The red hot topics of immigration across the Mexican border and infectious disease epidemics converged this month when Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), a retired obstetrician-gynecologist, claimed that ‘illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis’ represent a threat to American health and well-being.  It is a new, if very old argument in the immigration wars, but Dr. Gingrey’s suggestion, in a letter to the director of the Centers for Disease Control, is unusually dim-witted.  Were I, an infectious disease guy, to write to a federal agency about an obstetrical matter, I at least would run my tractate past a colleague in the OB field.  Gingrey, apparently, was in too big a hurry to have a friendly local ID expert point out that swine flu is not in season (indeed, the brief dust-up of a few cases among immigrant children reported a week ago has gone nowhere fast); that dengue fever is not transmitted person to person; and that Ebola has not appeared in the Americas—North, South, or Central—and shows no signs of doing so. OK, so TB is always a threat, sort of, but we know how to screen for it and, from the evidence one can find, are doing so not only at the Mexico entry point but across all immigration points.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The GOP’s strategy is on full display.  Grandstand, distort and then do nothing.  It’s what the GOP did on immigration reform.  It’s what they are doing on the supplemental budget request before Congress.  And, as always, Speaker Boehner and his ‘leadership team’ finish with a blame game pirouette in which all is Obama’s fault.  So be it.  The GOP will play it’s game, focused on whipping up the 30% of the country that believes anything Fox News and talk radio say.  But if Rick Perry, Ted Cruz and other Presidential wannabes are curious about how this strategy might pan out, perhaps they should ask Mitt Romney.”

Hate groups seize on suffering of Central American Children to spread their filthy message

Hate groups are exploiting the suffering of Central American Children to spread their ugly message.  Are we going to remain silent?

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/07/11/texas-right-wing-militia-to-child-immigrants-get-back-or-you-will-be-shot/

Texas Right-Wing Militia To Child Immigrants: ‘Get Back … Or You Will Be Shot’

 

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/07/12/operation-normandy-seeks-3500-volunteers-by-next-may-to-stop-an-invasion-at-u-s-mexico-border/

‘Operation Normandy’ Seeks 3,500 Volunteers by Next May to ‘Stop an Invasion’ at U.S.-Mexico Border

 

“The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national group, is sponsoring the trip. FAIR seeks to improve border security, stop illegal immigration and promote consistent immigration levels, according to its website.”

 

http://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/politics_and_government/sheriff-heading-to-texas-for-firsthand-look-at-border-crisis/article_b0fae1c4-af18-57bf-8548-74fafb53afaa.html

Sheriff heading to Texas for firsthand look at border crisis

 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/gop-congressman-kids-at-border-gang-members-from-culture-of

GOP Congressman: Kids At Border “Gang Members” From Culture Of “Rape”

More nastiness from @SenatorSessions on #immigration

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) injected his own brand of nastiness into the debate over the plight of the Central American refugees fleeing Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for other countries in the region, including the U.S.

Not surprisingly, Sessions fails to offer a single constructive policy solution; just more partisan rancor, including the absurd claim that the crisis is the result of the Administration’s failure to enforce the immigration law.

Of course Sessions does take the opportunity to call for an end to DACA and the deportation of DREAMERs.

Read the letter here:  2014-07-14 Sessions Letter

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY JEH JOHNSON BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY

Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Thompson, and Members of the Committee:

 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about our efforts to address the recent rise of unaccompanied children and others crossing our border in the Rio Grande Valley.  With me today to answer questions are Craig Fugate, the Administrator of FEMA, and Ron Vitiello, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol.

 

To be clear, we face an urgent situation in the Rio Grande Valley. Last fiscal year, CBP apprehended more than 24,000 unaccompanied children at the border.  By mid-June of this fiscal year, that number has doubled to more than 52,000.  Those from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras make up about three quarters of that migration.

 

On Friday, I traveled to South Texas for the fourth time in six months in office, this time to lead an interagency team to oversee our efforts there.  While there we met with officials at McAllen and Lackland to review the situation and hear directly from those on the ground what their needs are.  While there I spent time talking with the children again.  It was a vivid reminder that this is a humanitarian issue as much as it is a matter of border security.  We are talking about large numbers of children, without their parents, who have arrived at our border—hungry, thirsty, exhausted, scared and vulnerable. How we treat the children, in particular, is a reflection of our laws and our values.

 

Therefore, to address this situation, our strategy is three-fold: (1) process the increased tide of unaccompanied children through the system as quickly as possible; (2) stem the increased tide of illegal migration into the Rio Grande Valley; and (3) do these things in a manner consistent with our laws and values as Americans.

 

So, here is what we are doing:

 

First, on May 12th, I declared a Level IV condition of readiness within DHS, which is a determination that the capacity of CBP and ICE to deal with the situation is full and we need to draw upon additional resources across all of DHS.  I appointed Deputy Chief Vitiello to coordinate this effort within DHS.

 

Second, on June 1st, President Obama, consistent with the Homeland Security Act, directed me to establish a Unified Coordination Group to bring to bear the assets of the entire federal government on the situation.  This Group includes DHS and all of its components, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Justice, State, and the General Services Administration.  I, in turn, designated FEMA Administrator Fugate to serve as the Federal Coordinating Official for the U.S. Government-wide response.  Under Administrator Fugate’s supervision, there are now more than 140 interagency personnel and members stationed in FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center dedicated to this effort.

 

Third, we have established added capacity to deal with the processing and housing of the children, we are creating additional capacity in places, and we are considering others.  To process the increased numbers of unaccompanied children in Texas, DHS has had to bring the children to our processing center at Nogales, Arizona before they are sent to HHS.  We are arranging additional processing centers to handle the rise in the RGV.  Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has provided space at Lackland air base in Texas for HHS to house the children before HHS can place them. DoD is also providing facilities at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Ventura, California for the same purpose. FEMA, DHS, and HHS are working to continue to identify additional facilities for DHS and HHS to house and process the influx of children.

 

Fourth, DHS and HHS are increasing Spanish-speaking case management staff, increasing staff handling incoming calls from parents or guardians, raising awareness of the Parent Hotline provided by FEMA and operated by HHS, surging staff to manage the intake of CBP referrals to track shelter bed capacity, and facilitate shelter designations.  We are developing ways to expedite background checks for sponsors of children, integrate CBP and HHS information sharing systems, and increase capacity to transport and place children.  (Here I must note, from personal observation, that our Border Patrol and other CBP personnel, as well as personnel from HHS, ICE, FEMA, and the Coast Guard, are doing a remarkable job in difficult circumstances.  I have also witnessed how the not-for-profit Baptist Child Family Services stepped in quickly and is also doing a remarkable job housing the unaccompanied children at Lackland, identifying and then placing them consistent with HHS’s legal obligations. All of these dedicated men and women deserve our recognition, support and gratitude.)

 

Fifth, DHS is building additional detention capacity for adults who cross the border illegally in the Rio Grande Valley with their children.  For this purposeDHS is establishing a temporary facility for adults with children on the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s campus at Artesia, New Mexico. The establishment of this temporary facility will help CBP process those encountered at the border and allow ICE to increase its capacity to house and expedite the removal of adults with children in a manner that complies with federal law.  Artesia is one of several facilities that DHS is considering to increase our capacity to hold and expedite the removal of the increasing number of adults with children illegally crossing the southwest border.   DHS will ensure that after apprehension, families are housed in facilities that adequately provide for their safety, security, and medical needs. Meanwhile, we will also expand use of the Alternatives to Detention program to utilize all mechanisms for enforcement and removal in the RGV Sector.  DOJ is temporarily reassigning immigration judges to handle the additional caseload via video teleconferencing.  These immigration judges will adjudicate these cases as quickly as possible, consistent with all existing legal and procedural standards, including those for asylum applicants.  Overall, this increased capacity and resources will allow ICE to return unlawful migrants from Central America to their home countries more quickly.

 

Sixth, DHS has brought on more transportation assets to assist in the effort.  The Coast Guard is loaning air assets to help transport the children. ICE is leasing additional charter aircraft.

 

Seventh, throughout the RGV Sector, we are conducting public health screening for all those who come into our facilities for any symptoms of contagious diseases or other possible public health concerns.  Both DHS and HHS are ensuring that the children’s nutritional and hygienic needs are met while in our custody; that children are provided regular meals and access to drinks and snacks throughout the day; that they receive constant supervision; and that children who exhibit signs of illness or disease are given proper medical care.  We have also made clear that all individuals will be treated with dignity and respect, and any instances of mistreatment reported to us will be investigated.

 

Eighth, working through FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center, we are coordinating with voluntary and faith-based organizations to help us manage the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border.  The American Red Cross is providing blankets and other supplies and, through their Restoring Family Links program, is coordinating calls between children in the care of DHS and families anxious about their well-being.

 

Ninth, to stem the tide of children seeking to enter the United States, we have also been in contact with senior government officials of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico to address our shared border security interests, the underlying conditions in Central America that are promoting the mass exodus, and how we can work together to assure faster, secure removal and repatriation.  Last week President Obama spoke with Mexican President Peña Nieto about the situation, as has Secretary Kerry.  This past Friday, Vice President Biden also visited Guatemala to meet with regional leaders to address the influx of unaccompanied children and families from Central America and the underlying security and economic issues that are causing this migration. The Vice President announced that the U.S. will be providing a range of new assistance to the region, including $9.6 million in additional funding for Central American governments to receive and reintegrate their repatriated citizens, and a new $40 million U.S. Agency for International Development program in Guatemala over 5 years to improve citizen security. An additional $161.5 million will be provided this year under the Central American Regional Security Initiative to further enable Central American countries to respond to the region’s most pressing security and governance challenges. I will travel to Guatemala on July 8-9. The government of El Salvador has sent additional personnel from its consulate in the U.S. to South Texas to help expedite repatriation to its country.

 

Tenth, DHS, together with DOJ, has added personnel and resources to the investigation, prosecution and dismantling of the smuggling organizations that are facilitating border crossings into the Rio Grande Valley.  Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of ICE, is surging 60 additional criminal investigators and support personnel to their San Antonio and Houston offices for this purpose. In May, ICE concluded a month-long, targeted enforcement operation that focused on the logistics networks of human smuggling organizations along the southwest border, with operations in El Paso, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio, and San Diego that resulted in 163 arrests of smugglers. ICE will continue to vigorously pursue and dismantle these alien smuggling organizations by all investigative means to include the financial structure of these criminal organizations.  These organizations not only facilitate illegal migration across our border, they traumatize and exploit the children who are objects of their smuggling operation.  We will also continue to work with our partners in Central America and Mexico to help locate, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal smuggling networks.

 

Eleventh, we are initiating and intensifying our public affairs campaigns in Spanish, with radio, print, and TV spots, to communicate the dangers of sending unaccompanied children on the long journey from Central America to the United States, and the dangers of putting children into the hands of criminal smuggling organizations.

 

In collaboration with DHS, the Department of State has launched public awareness campaigns in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, to warn families about the dangers encountered by unaccompanied minors who attempt to travel from Central America to the U.S., and to counter misperceptions that smugglers may be disseminating about immigration benefits in the United States. Our embassies in Central America have collaborated with CBP to ensure both the language and images of the campaign materials would resonate with local audiences. I have personally issued an open letter (see attached) to the parents of those who are sending their children from Central America to the U.S., to be distributed broadly in Spanish and English, to highlight the dangers of the journey, and to emphasize there are no free passes or “permisos” at the other end.  We are stressing that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “DACA,” does not apply to children who arrive now or in the future in the United States, and that, to be considered for DACA, individuals must have continually resided in the U.S. since June 2007.  We are making clear that the “earned path to citizenship” contemplated by the Senate bill passed last year will not apply to individuals who cross the border now or in the future; only to those who have been in the country for the last year and a half.

 

Twelfth, given the influx of unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, we have increased CBP staffing and detailed 115 additional experienced agents from less active sectors to augment operations there.  I am considering sending 150 more border patrol agents based on my review of operations there this past week.  These additional agents allow RGV the flexibility needed to achieve more interdiction effectiveness and increase CBP’s operational footprint in targeted zones within its area of operations.

 

Thirteenth, in early May I directed the development of a Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Planning effort that is putting together a strategic framework to further enhance security of our southern border.  Plan development will be guided by specific outcomes and quantifiable targets for border security and will address improved information sharing, continued enhancement and integration of sensors, and unified command and control structures as appropriate.  The overall planning effort will also include a subset of campaign plans focused on addressing challenges within specific geographic areas, all with the goal of enhancing our border security.

 

Finally, we will continue to work closely with Congress on this problem, and keep you informed. DHS is updating Members and staff on the situation in conference calls two times a week, and we are facilitating site visits to Border Patrol facilities in Texas and Arizona for a number of Members and their staff.

 

I have directed my staff to be forthright in bringing to me every conceivable, lawful option for consideration, to address this problem.  In cooperation with the other agencies of our government that are dedicating resources to the effort, with the support of Congress, and in cooperation with the governments of Mexico and Central America, I believe we will stem this tide.  Thank you.

Opinion: Why Can’t The Children Be Turned Around At The Border And Sent Home?

Originally published on Fox News Latino

There is a humanitarian crisis in South and Central America. Political turmoil, ravaged economies, and social problems have led tens of thousands of children to flee Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to escape abuse, criminal gangs and violence. Others are forced leave their home countries as victims of human trafficking or abandonment.

While the U.S. is not the only country effected, thousands of victims of violence have made their way north to the Southwest border. Among the latest inflow are growing numbers of female victims and children under the age of 12. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 60,000 fleeing children will enter the U.S. by the end of this fiscal year. That’s a staggering 35,000 more than entered in 2013 and nearly 55,000 more than entered just a decade ago.

What’s being done to respond to the crisis?

The Obama Administration has set in motion an interagency effort to deal with the crisis and protect the children. FEMA is leading and coordinating a government-wide effort to identify appropriate facilities to house the minors, transport them to Health and Human Services custody as required by law, and provide medical and other services to children in the overcrowded Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers.

But more must be done to protect them. The Administration must ensure that these children are not subject to further abuse and neglect while it the custody of the U.S. government.

Why can’t the children simply be turned around at the border and sent home?

While the immigration laws provide for the expedited removal of noncitizens seeking to enter without valid documents, there are humanitarian exceptions for children and others fleeing persecution and violence.

Children who flee to the U.S. from countries other than Canada or Mexico cannot be immediately returned across the border. Our laws further require that vulnerable youngsters who are forced to make a long, arduous and dangerous trip north from South and Central America be transferred by the Department of Homeland Security to the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours.

The policies behind these laws – which were enacted well before the Obama Administration – reflect Congress’ belief that children, particularly those who have been abandoned or are victims of human trafficking or other horrible crimes, are the most defenseless immigrants. Ensuring their safety is a fundamental priority. They are deserving of special protection.

Nevertheless, children fleeing danger – many of whom have suffered unspeakable violence, including sexual assault and human trafficking – are subject to deportation from the U.S. While some may be eligible for asylum, special immigrant juvenile status or visas which protect crime victims, most will eventually be ordered deported to their home countries – Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras – and back to the violence and dead ends they originally fled.

Nor does the system provide unaccompanied minors legal representation in immigration court, even though very few have the means to hire an attorney. Thankfully, the Obama Administration, in an unprecedented move, has sought to make lawyers available to the children so they do not have to face the daunting task of representing themselves in complicated legal proceedings.

It’s also important to note that the children fleeing violence and arriving at the Southwest border will not qualify for DACA, the deportation reprieve President Obama put into place for DREAMERs in 2012, or earned legalization under the various immigration reform bills passed by the Senate or pending in the House of Representatives. All reform legislation cuts off eligibility for undocumented immigrants who recently entered the U.S.

Predictably, anti-immigrant politicians and their supporters seek to capitalize on the humanitarian crisis in an effort to kill immigration reform efforts in the U.S.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for example, whose rabid hatred of immigrants and immigration reform has made him the darling of the nativist/restrictionist movement, has been quick to falsely claim that it’s the result of the Obama Administration’s alleged failure to enforce the immigration law. Never mind that, according to the Congressional Research Service, illegal immigration has dropped nearly 75 percent since 2000, or that more than 1 million undocumented immigrants have been deported under the President’s watch. Cynical politicians bank on the fact that perception is often more valuable than reality.

In fact, the surge of children fleeing South and Central America is an international humanitarian crisis — the result of regional social, economic and political turmoil in the region. While it may be tempting for some to use the agony of victimized children to score cheap political points, responsible members of Congress ought to reach across the aisle in a bipartisan effort to ensure that vulnerable children are protected, and their lives back home are improved so they aren’t forced to make this difficult and dangerous choice.

David Leopold is the former national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and currently practices immigration law in Cleveland, Ohio.

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