ICE raids are repugnant

Houston Chronicle

Published in the Houston Chronicle by David Leopold (A version of this commentary first appeared on

The Obama administration rang in the New Year with a series of heavy-handed immigration raids aimed at ferreting out and deporting Central American families who entered the United States after fleeing rampant violence in their home countries. According to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the focus of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation is families ordered deported by an immigration judge either because their asylum claims were denied or they didn’t appear for their immigration court hearings. The raids have caused widespread shock, fear and panic among immigrant communities in Texas and elsewhere.

The raids operation is shocking, outrageous and just plain wrong. This is something we would expect from a President Trump, not President Obama.

The president is reacting – actually overreacting – to a recent spike in the migration of Central American families and unaccompanied children to the United States. He apparently wants to deter others from making the arduous, life-threatening trip north to the United States and to show that his administration is adhering to its Nov. 14, 2014, immigration enforcement priorities that, in addition to criminals and national security threats, target noncitizens who entered the U.S. or were ordered deported after Jan. 1, 2014.

But it’s morally repugnant to send ICE agents into local communities to arrest and detain vulnerable families, including women and children, and deport them to places where their lives will be threatened by unspeakable violence – countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where gang and drug violence force innocent families to flee north to the United States in search of a haven.

We know that most are eligible for asylum or other forms of protection because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data show that an overwhelming percentage of the mothers and children in family detention centers in the United States can show a reasonable fear of persecution in their home countries.

Other Central Americans ordered deported in absentia may not have had a fair chance to plead their asylum case because they did not get adequate information from government bureaucrats explaining their obligation to go to court. Clearly, being ordered deported under those circumstances is not due process.

And this is exactly what the CARA Project – which provides pro bono legal assistance to families held at ICE detention centers in South Texas – found among the cases of Central Americans arrested in these raids. After project lawyers filed emergency appeals, the Board of Immigration Appeals temporarily stopped the deportation of at least seven Central American immigrants so their cases could be reviewed. As CARA Director Katie Shepherd cogently put it, “This is a clear indication that something is very wrong.”

Nor can it be said that deporting those whose asylum cases have been denied after a hearing before an immigration judge is any more reasonable or appropriate. Central Americans fortunate enough to make their case in court with a lawyer are burdened with complicated and exacting legal standards that govern asylum law.

An immigration judge’s refusal to grant a person’s asylum claim hardly means he or she does not face serious, life-threatening harm in the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala. The bottom line is that for many Central Americans, deportation means the forcible return to a cauldron of life-threatening violence.

At a minimum, the continued ICE raids should be immediately and unequivocally stopped. Raids destroy families, ruin economies and erode the community trust essential to effective local law enforcement.

Fearing deportation, undocumented immigrants may hesitate to report serious crimes to local law enforcement. Immigration raids targeting families, including women and children, should be assigned to the dustbin of history.

Unfortunately, Obama appears to be doubling down. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that the enforcement strategy will not change.

The president is making a colossal mistake by viewing this crisis solely through the lens of immigration enforcement. It’s much bigger than that – it’s a regional humanitarian crisis that demands a regional solution.

What’s needed now from Obama is leadership, not brutal enforcement policies targeting vulnerable families. Understanding the administration’s legitimate concern about preventing a new border surge, including its concern that those Central Americans who flee north to the United States face a life-threatening journey, Obama must do better than resort to ICE raids.

The president should work with regional partners toward a comprehensive regional solution aimed the root causes of the migration and devote resources to improving the economic and social situation in Central America. That solution includes regional safe havens, so Central American families fleeing violence can find shelter in the area rather than being forced to risk the treacherous journey north.

In the meantime, even if one accepts the administration’s argument that the Central American families targeted for deportation have received fair hearings – which I don’t – that still doesn’t explain why the administration is dispatching armed ICE agents into communities to arrest, detain and forcibly deport families. ICE has the power to allow people who’ve exhausted court proceedings to leave the country on their own. This heavy-handed approach tells me that the president is trying to send a broader message to Central American refugees – that they need not look to America for safety or shelter. That’s reprehensible, and something we’d expect from a President Trump, not President Obama.

Leopold, founder and principal of an immigration law firm in Cleveland that carries his name, is the past president of the Washington-based American Immigration Lawyers Association. 

BREAKING: DHS releases instructions on how to apply for or extend #TPS for #Syria

From the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has redesignated Syria for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and extended the existing TPS designation for the country from April 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2016. This allows eligible nationals of Syria (or persons without nationality who last habitually resided in Syria) to register or re-register for TPS in accordance with the notice published today in the Federal Register.

Who is Eligible Current TPS Status When to File
Current TPS beneficiaries from Syria Have TPS To extend your TPS, you must re-register during a 60-day re-registration period that runs from Jan. 5, 2015, through March 6, 2015.
Syrian nationals and persons without nationality who last habitually resided in Syria, who have:

  • Continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 5, 2015, and
  • Been continuously physically present in the United States since April 1, 2015.
Do not have TPS To obtain TPS, you may apply for TPS during a 180-day initial registration period that runs from Jan. 5, 2015, through July 6, 2015.

During the past year, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State reviewed the conditions in Syria. Based upon this review, Secretary Johnson determined that a redesignation and 18-month extension of TPS for Syria is warranted due to an ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Syria that prevent its nationals from returning in safety.

Individuals re-registering for TPS:

Current Syrian TPS beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during a 60-day period that runs from Jan. 5, 2015, through March 6, 2015. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible once the 60-day period begins. USCIS will not accept applications before Jan. 5, 2015.

The 18-month extension allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible Syria TPS beneficiaries who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of Sept. 30, 2016. USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current EADs expire. Therefore, USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Syria EADs with a March 31, 2015, expiration date for an additional six months. These existing EADs are now valid through Sept. 30, 2015.

To re-register, individuals must submit:

·         Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status (Re-registering individuals do not need to pay the Form I-821 application fee);

·         Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether they want an EAD;

·         The Form I-765 application fee, but only if they want an EAD (All individuals re-registering for TPS who want an EAD must pay the Form I-765 fee, regardless of their age); and

·        The biometric services fee if they are age 14 or older.

Individuals applying for TPS for the first time:

For Syrian nationals (and persons having no nationality who last habitually resided in Syria) who do not currently have TPS, the TPS redesignation may allow them to apply for TPS if they have continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 5, 2015, and have been continuously physically present in the United States since April 1, 2015. In addition, applicants must meet all other TPS eligibility and filing requirements.

To apply for the first time, individuals must submit:

·         Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status;

·         The Form I-821 application fee;

·         Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether they want an EAD;

·         The Form I-765 application fee, but only if they want an EAD and are 14 to 65 years old (Those who are under age 14 or are age 66 and older do not need to pay the Form I-765 fee with their initial TPS application); and

·         The biometrics services fee if they are age 14 or older.

Individuals who still have a pending initial TPS application under Syria do not need to submit a new Form I-821. However, if such individuals currently have a TPS-related EAD and want a new EAD, they must submit:

·         Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization;

·         The Form I-765 application fee, regardless of their age; and

·         A copy of the receipt notice for the initial Form I-821 that is still pending.

DHS anticipates that approximately 5,000 individuals will be eligible to re-register for TPS under the existing designation of Syria and estimates that approximately 5,000 additional individuals may be eligible for TPS under the redesignation.

Applicants may request that USCIS waive any fees based on inability to pay by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by submitting a written request. Fee-waiver requests must be accompanied by supporting documentation. USCIS will reject the TPS application of any applicant who fails to submit the required filing fees or a properly documented fee-waiver request.

Additional information about TPS for Syria—including guidance on eligibility, the application process and where to file—is available online at The Federal Register notice published today contains further details about this extension and redesignation of Syria for TPS, including application requirements and procedures, and the automatic six-month extension of current TPS Syria EADs.

All USCIS forms are free. Applicants can download these forms from the USCIS website at or request forms by calling USCIS toll-free at 1-800-870-3676.

Applicants seeking information about the status of their individual cases can check My Case Status Online or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833).



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