Immigration raids belong in a Trump, not an Obama, administration

Originally posted on by David Leopold

The Obama administration is planning a series of ICE raids beginning in January to ferret out and deport thousands of Central American immigrants who entered the United States in 2014 after fleeing rampant violence in their home countries, according to The Washington Post.

An immigration judge ordered these families deported either because their asylum claims were denied or they didn’t appear for their immigration court hearings. The administration’s plan is shocking, outrageous and just plain wrong. This is something we would expect from a President Trump, not President Obama.

David Leopold

David Leopold

If the raids take place, the President would appear to be reacting — actually overreacting — to a recent spike in the migration of Central American families and unaccompanied children to the United States. He apparently also 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 November 14, 2014, immigration enforcement priorities that, in addition to criminals and national security threats, target noncitizens who have entered the U.S. or been ordered deported after January 1, 2014.

But It’s morally repugnant to send Immigration and Customs Enforcement 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. Reports such as one in the Guardian recount that undocumented immigrants deported to Central America have faced unspeakable violence, even murder, just days after their return.

Donald Trump's clueless immigration plan

We know that most are eligible for asylum or other forms of protection under the law because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data show that an overwhelming percentage of the mothers and children detained at family detention centers in the United States are able to 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 families should not be summarily removed from the United States for failure to appear at an immigration court hearing.

Nor can it be said that deporting those whose asylum cases have been denied by a judge is any more reasonable or fair. 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.

A key to America's power

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 El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala. That could include, for example, a woman whose asylum claim has been denied by an immigration judge after she fled gang and drug violence to save her children’s lives.

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 use of ICE raids to execute this plan should be immediately and unequivocally scrapped. The specter of armed ICE agents invading communities early in the morning harkens back to the darkest days of chaotic immigration enforcement. Raids like the ruthless ones inflicted onPainesville, Ohio, in 2007 and Postville, Iowa, in 2008 destroy families, ruin economies and erode the community trust essential to effective local law enforcement.

Faced with the fear that they or a relative might be deported, undocumented immigrants may think twice about reporting serious crimes like domestic violence to local law enforcement. Immigration raids targeting families, including women and children, should be assigned to the dustbin of history.

What’s needed now from the President 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 violent and life-threatening journey, we must insist that Obama do better than resort to ICE raids to force the immediate removal of vulnerable families.

Rather than sending families back to the very danger and violence they’ve fled, the administration should work toward a comprehensive regional solution to the humanitarian crisis that’s causing the migration and devote resources to improving the economic and social situation in Central America.

In the meantime, vulnerable families, whether or not they’ve had their day in immigration court, must be provided temporary haven, not threatened with roundups and deportation of the sort envisioned by the likes of Donald Trump.

Is the politically charged Texas immigration case about to become more politically charged?

As the 9 justices of the U.S. Supreme Court ponder whether to review the Republican lawsuit attacking President Obama’s immigration executive actions, back in Brownsville, Texas U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen—whom Republican politicians, led by the state of Texas, sought out late last year to block the actions known as DAPA and DACA expansion—appears to be making an already brazenly political lawsuit more political.

In a little noticed order issued earlier this month Hanen commanded the parties to appear in his courtroom on Tuesday December 15 to explain the effect of a procedural decision of the 5th Circuit Appeals Court “on the rights of individuals to intervene in the case.” (The intervenors are people who have expressed an interest in becoming parties to the Texas immigration case).

When I read Hanen’s order the first question that came to my mind was: Why have a hearing now?  Hanen’s temporary injunction blocking the immigration executive actions is currently on appeal to the Supreme Court.  If the Court agrees to hear the case this term the lawsuit will not likely return to Hanen’s court room for months, if ever.  Most legal scholars and observers believe that Hanen was wrong to block the president’s executive actions last February.  If the Supreme Court hears the case this term there’s a pretty good chance they’ll toss out the entire case, rendering a hearing on the intervenors pointless.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for Hanen to put the whole case on hold until after the Supreme Court reviews it?  Why waste precious tax payer dollars and limited judicial resources on a procedural hearing about the role of the intervenors if there is a chance the case won’t survive Supreme Court review?  On that point even the GOP politicians who brought the case seem to agree. They’ve joined the Obama administration in a motion asking Judge Hanen to shelve the case until after the Supreme Court makes a decision.

What’s driving Hanen to go forward with a hearing at this point? Doesn’t he have other cases on his docket that need his immediate attention?

Maybe Hanen’s sense of urgency has more to do with who the intervenors are? Among those seeking to impose themselves on the litigation are Orly Taitz, queen of the disgraced and discredited birther movement, which challenged President Obama’s U.S. citizenship and legitimacy as President (Taitz specifically sought out Hanen to file several anti-immigrant lawsuits) and the infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s built his brand by terrorizing Latino neighborhoods, surreptitiously investigating the wife of a federal judge and violating folks’ civil rights.  Arpaio lost a case on this same issue in the D.C. District and on appeal at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  It’s difficult to imagine that either Taitz or Arpaio have a “concrete, personalized, and legally protectable” interest in the case as required for intervention. Yet Hanen has set the hearing for Tuesday, December 15 and that presumably means the interests of Taitz and Arpaio will be heard.

All this underscores the real nature of the Texas GOP attack on DAPA and DACA which, as a panel of the 5th Circuit appeals court observed in its order affirming Hanen’s hold on DAPA and DACA expansion, involves “policy disagreements masquerading as legal claims”. Taking the court’s apt description a step further, the Republican challenge to the deportation deferrals is more about the party’s rabid disdain for “anything Obama” than the sanctity of the law.  DAPA and DACA wouldn’t have even been necessary if the GOP House leadership had allowed an up or down vote on comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.  Everyone knows that immigration reform would have passed Congress and the President would have signed it into law obviating the need for a deportation deferral.  In the aftermath of the House GOP’s intransigence Obama set forth immigration enforcement priorities which target felons, national security threats and recent border crossers rather than DREAMers and undocumented parents.  While he was able to slap a temporary hold on DAPA and DACA expansion, Hanen—who has not shied away from launching gratuitous attacks on the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policies—knows that the President’s enforcement priorities are unassailably legal.

Is that why Hanen appears so eager to open his courtroom to a discussion of the role of the intervenors, including the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio and birther queen Orly Taitz, as the Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the Texas immigration case this term?

It seems that the participation of Apraio and Taitz will do little more than inject more nasty politics into the GOP’s shamelessly political lawsuit.

It’s time for the GOP to denounce Trump, clearly and unequivocally

I honestly did not think that Donald Trump could be any more vile and disgusting than he has been since he called Mexicans rapists and murderers during his campaign announcement last June. But today he outdid himself and I cannot remain silent.

Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. is hate speech pure and simple. There is no precedent for barring people from entering the U.S. based on religion. It’s never been done before. And the idea of a religioustest for admission to the U.S. flies in the face of everything this nation stands for as a beacon of liberty and freedom for people facing religious oppression around the word, including millions of Muslims who have been victimized by ISIS, Al Queda and other terrorist gangs.

Trump’s ugly call to ban Muslims from the U.S. raises a host of disturbing questions. How does Trump propose to enforce the ban? What about Muslim immigrants and visitors who are already here? Is he proposing to include them in the racist based mass deportation of Latinos that he has proposed? What about immigrants who convert to Islam after they arrive in the U.S.? What about American citizens who are Muslim?

Trump’s hateful, bigoted call to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. is un-American, illegal and immoral. Where does his brazen hatred stop?

Trump has run a campaign based on hatred and bigotry. He’s aimed his venom at Mexicans, Latinos, women, war heroes and others. It’s high time for the Republican Party, including all the GOP presidential hopefuls, to denounce Trump clearly and unequivocally. No major political party should tolerate such bigotry and hatred from a candidate regardless of his poll numbers. And Republicans should make clear that they will not support Donald Trump even if he is nominated as a result of the primaries.

Unfortunately Donald Trump isn’t the only GOP presidential candidate who is using hatred and fear mongering to round up votes. Ted Cruz’s shameful proposal to place a three year moratorium on refugees coming from Muslim countries where ISIS or Al Qaeda control a substantial amount of territory targets the very refugees who are most in need of protection. Let’s not forget that thousands of men, women and children are fleeing these despicable terrorists who have murdered an untold number of Muslims and Christians. Rather than play on Americans’ worst fears Cruz should stand up and fight for protecting all refugees in need of safe haven.

That’s what America is about.

America doesn’t turn its back on refugees

Possible Government Shutdown Threatens Statue Of Liberty With Closure

 (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Originally Posted on by David Leopold

This week, we’ve seen politicians launch an ugly, vicious campaign against Syrian refugees. They’ve singled out this group of people for partisan gain. In doing so, they’re ignoring basic humanity.

I’ve been representing Syrians fleeing persecution in Syria since the turmoil began in 2011. In all my years as an attorney, I have never encountered a more vulnerable and frightened group of refugees. To a person, the Syrians I’ve represented have sat in my office terrified, their fear of being sent back to Syria palpable. In painstaking detail, they recount the horror of the arrests, disappearance and murder of loved ones, close friends and colleagues. With the chaos that has enveloped their country, they describe the horror that would befall them if ISIS or some other terrorist gang invaded their homes.

One story is more terrifying than the next. The Syrian refugees include doctors targeted by the regime and rebel groups alike who aim to ‘neutralize’ their medical skills to keep them from treating a potential political or religious rival; LGBT Syrians targeted for their sexual orientation and political beliefs; and women fleeing violence to protect their children and themselves.

The Syrian clients I have been so privileged to represent have come to America, like generations of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers before them, in search of a safe haven, freedom, and a better life for their children. Now is not the time to follow the lead of cynical politicians who seek to exploit the horrific tragedies in Paris, Beirut and Sinai for political purposes. Now is not the time to recoil in fear and xenophobia. Now is the time to stand tall as Americans and protect our nation’s great legacy as a beacon of hope, safety and freedom for all refugees who grace our shores.

I am also the son of a refugee. My father, his parents and younger brother fled the horror of Nazi Germany in 1938, shortly before Kristallnacht. They were among the lucky ones, able to enter the U.S. on the limited number of quota visas that were allotted to Jewish refugees of Hitler’s Germany.

Most Jews were not so fortunate, including my grandmother’s sister, who was murdered by the SS in a Nazi death camp. At the time, allowing Jews fleeing Nazi Germany safe haven in the U.S. was not popular. In an informative piecepublished Tuesday in The Washington PostIshaan Tharoor recounts a pollpublished in Fortune magazine in 1938 showing that less than 5% of Americans “believed that the United States should raise its immigration quotas or encourage political refugees fleeing the fascist states in Europe — the vast majority of whom were Jewish — to voyage across the Atlantic. Two-thirds of the respondents, meanwhile, agreed with the proposition that ‘we should try to keep them out.’”

Even more chillingly, Tharoor writes: “Two-thirds of Americans polled in January 1939 — now well after the events of Kristallnacht — said they would not take in 10,000 German Jewish refugee children.”

In the aftermath of ISIS’s horrific attacks on Paris and Beirut, we must ask ourselves a fundamental question: Are we going to turn our backs on those fleeing the terror of Assad and ISIS? Some politicians, including candidates for president and governors, have predictably answered by calling for a ban on Syrian refugees. Others have cynically chosen to exploit the tragedy to further their ugly, nativist anti-immigrant agenda.

If we follow the lead of those who trade in fear and xenophobia, we will compromise the very principles upon which this great nation was founded. Closing the door to Syrian refugees would be a shameful abdication of America’s global leadership role. Europe’s right wing anti-immigrant parties will win the day and refugees fleeing war and persecution will be either trapped in a land where 250,000 have died or we’ll see more children’s bodies washed up on the shores of Europe and, likely, America.

Fundamentally, the Syrian refugee crisis presents Americans with an historical challenge to define our essence as a people, as a culture, and as a country. It forces us to consider where we have been and where we are going. What kind of a nation do we want to be? Do we want to be a welcoming nation that opens its arms to people from all over the world, and from all walks of life, or do we want to turn our backs on those in need, and restrict critical opportunities for engineers, entrepreneurs, researchers and scientists like Albert Einstein, who was, by the way, a refugee?

I know which nation I want.

We will never know how many murdered Jews, Gypsies, LGBT and others would have survived the war had the U.S. opened its doors as Hitler’s killing machine was gearing up. We will never know which murdered children might have grown up to become renowned scientists, artists, writers or world leaders. What we do know is that America’s decision to slam the door shut in the face of refugees was a decision that we, as a nation, have lived to regret.

We should not repeat that grave mistake.

David Leopold is a Cleveland based immigration attorney and the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

On Immigration, “A Mistake Has Been Made” And The Supreme Court Must Fix It

Yesterday’s 2/1 decision by the 5th Circuit was expected, given the make-up of the panel.  But the sharp and persuasive dissent authored by Judge Carolyn Dineen King should not be overlooked, as it points the way for the Supreme Court to step in and correct this egregious mistake.

Judge King cogently asserts that, simply put, the Republican assault on Obama’s executive actions does not belong in court:

The policy decisions at issue in this case are best resolved not by judicial fiat, but via the political process.  That this case essentially boils down to a policy dispute is underscored not only by the dozens of amicus briefs filed in this case by interested parties across the ideological spectrum—Mayors, Senators, Representatives, and law enforcement officials, among others—but also by the district court’s opinion, which repeatedly expresses frustration that the Secretary is “actively act[ing] to thwart” the immigration laws and “is not just rewriting the laws [but is] creating them from scratch.” The majority’s observation that this suit involves “policy disagreements masquerading as legal claims” is also telling.  Whether or not the district court’s characterization of this case is accurate—though the record number of removals in recent years demonstrates that it is not—to the extent some are unhappy with the vigor of DHS’s enforcement efforts, their remedies lie in the political process, not in litigation.

King’s biggest swipe is aimed at her colleagues, Judges Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod, for their inexplicable slow-walking of the decision which threatened to delay Supreme Court review until June 2017, months after President Obama leaves office.

I have a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made.

King writes,

That mistake has been exacerbated by the extended delay that has occurred in deciding this “expedited” appeal.  There is no justification for that delay.

I dissent.

That’s some very tough language.  And it raises the obvious question—which many have been asking since the panel failed to decide the case within the 5th Circuit’s 60 day decision target: Did Judges Smith and Elrod intentionally delay their decision?

As King correctly observes, in March the 5th Circuit granted the Department of Justice’s request to fast-track the case.  On July 10, Smith, Elrod and King heard argument on the merits of the case.  Why then did it take four long months for the panel to decide; especially when there was little doubt about what Smith and Elrod were going to do?

Nearly everyone watching the case knew the two Republican appointees were all but certain to side with the GOP challenge to Obama’s deferred action program. That’s because in May they both refused to temporarily lift Hanen’s hold on the administration’s immigration actions, stating: “Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay and the request to narrow the scope of the injunction.”

King is right to highlight the court’s incomprehensible delay, which exemplified the legal maxim “Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.”  This case does not just involve legal principles, it involves the lives of 5 million American children and their parents.

On the merits the ruling was hardly a surprise.  The 5th circuit appeals court is considered by many to be the most conservative federal appeals court in the country, and Judges Smith and Elrod are among the most conservative judges on the court. Most observers expected them to side with the Republican governors and attorneys general that filed the case in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, Texas who earlier this year blocked President Obama’s immigration executive actions from being implemented.

At bottom, Smith’s and Elrod’s decision yesterday was a more detailed version of their order earlier this year refusing to lift the hold that Hanen had put on the executive actions.  In her dissenting opinion King methodically and convincingly dismantled their reasoning.  Her forceful analysis, which provides a clear roadmap for the Supreme Court to reverse the 5th Circuit decision, is perhaps best summarized by King herself:

Even if this case were justiciable, the preliminary injunction, issued by the district court, is a mistake. If the [President’s deferred action guidance] is implemented in the truly discretionary, case-by-case manner it contemplates, it is not subject to the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements, and the injunction cannot stand.  Although the very face of the Memorandum makes clear that it must be applied with such discretion, the district court concluded on its own—prior to DAPA’s implementation, based on improper burden-shifting, and without seeing the need even to hold an evidentiary hearing—that the Memorandum is a sham, a mere “pretext” for the Executive’s plan “not [to] enforce the immigration laws as to over four million illegal aliens.”…That conclusion is clearly erroneous.  The majority affirms and goes one step further today.  It holds, in the alternative, that the Memorandum is contrary to the INA and substantively violates the APA.  These conclusions are wrong.  The district court expressly declined to reach this issue without further development…and the limited briefing we have before us is unhelpful and unpersuasive.  For these reasons, as set out below, I dissent.

King also correctly makes a point of reminding her colleagues that deferred action to shield undocumented immigrants is nothing new. It dates back to the Eisenhower administration and has been used by every president since; the most notable example being the “Family Fairness” policy implemented by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr.  As King writes:

Much like pretrial diversion in the criminal context—which also developed over a period of decades without express statutory authorization—deferred action channels limited resources by allowing certain low-priority offenders to work openly and contribute taxes, thus reducing their burden on the system.  Notably, such prosecutorial discretion is heightened in the immigration context.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but in legal terms yesterday’s decision was actually good news for supporters of Obama’s immigration executive actions and for the millions of DREAMers, American children, and parents who have been patiently waiting for justice.  There is still time for the U.S. Supreme Court to take it up this term and make a decision by June.

Of course the Department of Justice must now do everything in its power to get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court immediately.  And once it gets there will be incumbent on the Supreme Court to clean up the integrity that 5th Circuit majority besmirched; to decide the merits of the GOP assault on Obama’s immigration actions without politicizing the case on a partisan basis; to base its decision on facts and precedent rather than conjecture, and do it without engaging in political delays.

[Update:  The Department of Justice has announced it will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the 5th Circuit Appeals Court decision]

#MoreThanALabel: Immigrant Stories Define What It Means to be American @lorellapraeli & @juansaaa

Originally posted on SocialWork@Simmons

In my experience, there is no issue that impassions people more than immigration. Why? Fundamentally, I believe it is because immigration is visceral: It is about our essence as individuals, as a people, as a culture, and as a nation. It is about where we have been and where we are going. What kind of a country do we want to be? Do we want to be a welcoming nation that opens its arms to people from all over the world, and from all walks of life, or do we want to turn our backs on those in need, and restrict critical opportunities for engineers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and scientists like Einstein, who was, by the way, a refugee?

I know which nation I want.

Let me tell you about two immigrants who inspire me. Two outstanding individuals who have taught me much about what it means to be an American.

Lorella Praeli

Lorella was born in Ica, Peru. At 2 years old she lost her right leg in a horrific accident caused by a drunken driver. Determined that their young daughter receive the best medical care available, Lorella’s parents brought her to the U.S. several times a year for treatment for her high amputation. Eventually the travel took its toll, and Lorella’s parents had no choice but to permanently move the family to the U.S. so she could receive the health care she needed. The family settled in New Milford, Connecticut, where Lorella’s aunt lived.

Lorella excelled at school but also endured cyberbullying because she was physically challenged, a Latina, and an immigrant.

But Lorella was not deterred. In high school, she became active with the Anti-Defamation League’s Names Can Really Hurt Us program and worked hard to promote bullying awareness and reconciliation.

Lorella went on to graduate at the top of her high school class and was awarded a full academic scholarship to Quinnipiac University, where she went on to graduate summa cum laude.

But despite her amazing accomplishments, Lorella was burdened by a secret. She was an undocumented immigrant — a fact she had learned when she needed a social security number to apply for college. Like so many other undocumented immigrants who have been brought to the U.S. as children, Lorella lived with the constant gnawing fear of arrest, detention, and deportation.

Yet she was not deterred. Lorella eventually went public as an undocumented immigrant in the DREAM movement, the heroic campaign to pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented youth. Lorella fought successfully for in-state tuition for undocumented students in Connecticut and went on to become Director of Advocacy and Policy for United We Dream, the largest organization of undocumented youth in the United States. While at United We Dream, Lorella was a driving force in the struggle that eventually led the Obama Administration to institute Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which offers qualified individuals a temporary reprieve from deportation and a chance to pursue higher education.

In June Lorella became the Director of Latino Outreach for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaignwhere she focuses on issues of critical concern to the Hispanic community across the U.S.

She has only begun to fight for what she believes in.

Juan Escalante

Juan is the oldest of three brothers, and the son of Vilma and Saul Escalante. When they arrived in the country in 2000, the Venezuelan family settled in Kendall, Florida, a suburb of Miami.

Although they entered the country legally on intracompany transferee visas, the Escalante family, including Juan, became undocumented in 2006. An immigration attorney provided bad advice, leaving them without visas and green cards. Even though they followed the rules, the Escalantes found themselves without legal documents and without a way to legalize their immigration status.

Despite these obstacles Juan persevered. He studied hard in school, earned a 4.0 grade-point average and a spot at the top of his high school graduating class. Juan was accepted into numerous universities across Florida, some of which awarded him scholarships. However, because he was undocumented, Juan did not qualify for either in-state tuition or for the scholarships that he’d earned.

But Juan refused to be cowed by the unfairness of a broken immigration system. Adept at social media and other forms of online communication, he became an advocate for the DREAM Act. Juan developed innovative strategies designed to maximize the impact of young people on the national immigration reform agenda. He was instrumental in the public defense of countless unjust deportation cases, and focused his energy on lobbying and educational outreach.

Juan also made continuing his education a priority. He earned his associate degree from Broward College in 2009 and, with the encouragement of Florida State University President T.K. Whetherell, enrolled in FSU. There Juan became active in the Student Government Association where he helped pass resolutions highlighting the DREAM Act. In 2011 Juan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international affairs.

But he didn’t stop there. In 2012 Juan, as a beneficiary of the DACA program, re-enrolled in FSU and, on August 8, 2015, earned a Master of Public Administration.

Today Juan is the Director of Digital Campaigns for America’s Voice, one of the most prominent immigration reform groups in the U.S. He frequently writes about immigration policy and provides cutting edge analysis on immigration issues to major media outlets, including the New York Times.

Promoting Immigrant Pride    

Lorella and Juan inspire me as do the thousands and thousands of immigrants with whom I have had the honor of working over the years.

When I think of immigrants, I think of research physicians in America’s foremost medical centers devoted to finding cures for life-threatening diseases such as cancer, cognitive heart failure, and AIDS. I think of engineers in Silicon Valley reining in the future with bold, creative ideas. I think of highly skilled workers in fields, farms, nurseries, hotels, and restaurants across this great land whose labor is the lifeblood of America’s economy.

In 1989, in his final address to the nation President Ronald Reagan described his vision of America as a shining city. He said:

[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Reagan understood that America’s strength is its openness: its celebration of creativity and new ideas. We are a welcoming nation, and it’s our job to celebrate the immigrants who grace our shores, no matter how they got here.

David Leopold practices immigration law in Cleveland, Ohio. He is an immigration reform advocate and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. To learn more about Mr. Leopold, visit his website

What happened to the lawsuit against Obama’s #immigration actions?

HOMESTEAD, FL - JULY 09: Donatila Diego, originally from Guatemala, (L) and Juana de Leon, originally from Guatemala, stand with others as they show their support for the Obama administration's immigration reform plan on July 9, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. The organizers held the protest the night before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is expected to consider lifting the injunction on the Obama administrations executive action to allow parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to gain temporary status in the U.S., as well as to expand the deferred action program for undocumented youth. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Originally  posted on by David Leopold

The legal maxim “justice delayed is justice denied” pretty much sums up the procedural posture of the Obama administration’s appeal of the Republican lawsuit attacking the president’s executive actions on deportation. The appeal—which asks the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate a hold placed on the deportation deferrals by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen—has been in the hands of a three judge panel of the court since it heard final argument on July 10.

But nearly three months later, the panel has failed to rule, leaving 5.5 million DREAMers and undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful residents unable to apply for a deportation reprieve, undergo background checks and temporarily come out of the shadows until Congress sees fit to do its job and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Were this a routine civil case, the panel’s delay in ruling probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. But this litigation is anything but routine. It directly impacts the lives of millions of Americans across the country – real people like Andrew of Stow, Ohio, who wakes up every morning fearing that his mom, Maria, will be taken from him. Or Ashley of Findlay, Ohio, who fears her undocumented husband, Manny, will be deported to Germany.

The Texas immigration lawsuit is unquestionably a brazen political attack on the president’s November 20, 2014 executive actions on deportation. Before the ink was even dry on the deferred action guidance, the state of Texas, joined by mostly GOP governors and attorneys general from 25 states, shopped for a friendly judicial forum in which to launch their legal assault on the deportation reprieve. And they found one in the Brownsville, Texas, courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who’d made a name for himself in other cases excoriating the Obama administration for what he described as its “failure to enforce current United States law.”

RELATED: The cruel reality of Trump’s deportation plan

Apparently Judge Hanen is unaware that under Obama more than 2 million immigrants have been deported, far outpacing any previous president. Nor does he seem to grasp that undocumented population in the U.S. has stabilized, reflecting the lowest levels of unauthorized immigration in many years. In February, as many expected, Hanen issued an order temporarily blocking DACA and DAPA. The Obama administration appealed and, in March, the 5th Circuit granted its request to fast-track the case. On July 10, a three judge panel of the court heard argument on the merits of the case.

That was three months ago and still no ruling.

Compounding the frustration of delay, there’s little doubt about what this panel is going to do – it’s all but certain to uphold Hanen’s injunction. We know that because in May, two of the three panel judges, Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod – both Republican appointees – refused to temporarily lift Hanen’s hold on the administration’s immigration actions reasoning that “Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay and the request to narrow the scope of the injunction.”

Yet despite the uncertainty about when the 5th Circuit will rule, one thing’s for sure – whatever the court decides, the final word on the Obama’s executive actions will come from the U.S. Supreme Court. The GOP lawsuit is aimed at millions of mixed-immigration status American families and raises serious constitutional questions about whether the case is even properly before the court. In another challenge to the immigration executive actions brought by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell dismissed the suit as improper, ruling that that “The role of the Judiciary is to resolve cases and controversies properly brought by parties with a concrete and particularized injury – not to engage in policymaking better left to the political branches.” Moreover, observed another panel of the 5th Circuit earlier this year, the question of standing to sue the president is “especially rigorous,” when the lawsuit requires the court to decide whether an action taken by the commander-in-chief is unconstitutional.

But time is short. The Supreme Court begins its term this week. Unless the 5th Circuit rules soon – like in the next two or three weeks – it’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court will be able to decide the case before June 2017. That means the panel’s protracted delay will effectively leave 5.5 million low enforcement priority undocumented immigrants and their families in immigration limbo until well after Obama leaves office.

The panel’s delay feeds directly into the strategy of the GOP plaintiffs who clearly brought the suit to block the implementation of DAPA and DACA. Of course it’s impossible – indeed counterproductive – to speculate about why the 5th Circuit judges may be is taking so long to decide a case of such magnitude. But one thing is certain: It’s time for Judges Smith, Elrod and Carolyn King to rule. Further delay serves no purpose. To the contrary, it now threatens to deprive millions of American families of the justice they deserve.

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

Immigrants sue USCIS and DOS over rollback of green card filing dates. READ COMPLAINT –>

Earlier this month, as part of President Obama’s executive actions, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State announced a streamlined green card process which allows applicants with approved immigrant visa petitions who are subject to backlog to file their adjustment of status (green card) applications BEFORE their priority dates are current.  This is significant because it will allow backlogged applicants to port to new employers and will permit them and their spouses to file for employment authorization and advance parole.  The development was welcome news to many long backlogged Chinese and Indian advance skill professionals.  Many were looking forward to October 1 when they could begin filing their applications for adjustment to green card status.

But last week the USCIS and DOS issued a revised visa bulletin pushing back the October 1, 2015 green card filing dates, effectively preventing many immigrants from applying for their green cards and sending them back to backlog purgatory.

Late yesterday immigrants from across the US who would have been eligible to begin filing their adjustment of status applications on October 1 filed a class action lawsuit in Seattle, Washington asking a federal judge to reinstate the previously announced green card filing dates.  You can read the lawsuit —> here.

The legal complaint was filed by Greg Siskind of Memphis, Tennessee.

BREAKING: State Department revises October visa bulletin, rolling back green card “Filing Dates”

Earlier this month, as part of President Obama’s executive actions, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State announced a streamlined green card process which allows applicants with approved immigrant visa petitions who are subject to backlog to file their adjustment of status (green card) applications BEFORE their priority dates are current.  This was significant because it will allow backlogged applicants to port to new employers and will permit them and their spouses to file for employment authorization and advance parole.  The development was welcome news to many long backlogged Chinese and Indian advance skill professionals.  Many were looking forward to October 1 when they could begin filing their applications for adjustment to green card status.

Not so fast.

Today the USCIS and DOS issued a revised visa bulletin pushing back the October 1, 2015 green card filing dates, effectively preventing many immigrants from applying for their green cards and sending them back to backlog purgatory.

Here’s who’s been moved back by today’s revised bulletin:

  • EB2 China: Moved from 5/1/2014 to 1/1/2013 (1 year 5 months)
  • EB2 India: Moved from 7/1/2011 to 7/1/2009 (2 years)
  • EB3 Philippines: Moved from 1/1/2015 to 1/1/2010 (5 years)
  • FB1 Mexico: Moved from 7/1/1995 to 4/1/1995 (3 months)
  • FB3 Mexico: Moved from 10/1/1996 to 5/1/1995 (1 year 5 months)

This is a shining example of the broken system.

The shocking reality of Donald Trump’s plan to deport millions

Posted on by David Leopold

DALLAS, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets have been distributed for the event. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

DALLAS, TX – SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets have been distributed for the event. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty

It’s not clear what was the most shocking about Donald Trump’s rally Monday night in Dallas, Texas: his description of undocumented immigrants as part of a “dumping ground for the rest of the world,” or the reaction of the nearly all-white crowd who awarded his rhetoric with a standing ovation and chants of “USA, USA.”

One day – hopefully soon – when the presidential candidacy of Donald Trumpreaches its ignoble end, perhaps we’ll better understand how a real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star turned-politician could become the front-runner in the Republican primary. But for now, we must take Trump at his word: If elected president, he plans to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants – including their U.S. citizen children. What’s more, Trump claims he’ll do it all within 18 months to two years. It is, according to Trump, just a question of “good management.”

It is surprising, then, that as we head into the second Republican debate Wednesday night at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, that Trump’s brazen call for mass expulsion of all undocumented immigrants has largely escaped scrutiny in the media, either because he isn’t taken seriously or journalists are afraid of offending him and losing access. But now that the “summer of Trump” has turned into fall, it’s high time that someone call on Trump to explain what he means when he declares that undocumented immigrants “have to go.”

We’re left asking this question in 2015: How would Trump actually deport 11 million people in less than two years?

The leading GOP candidate is talking about ferreting out, arresting, and forcibly removing a population of men, women and children roughly the size of the state of Ohio. Setting aside the Constitution for the moment – something most of Trump’s immigration platform ignores – let’s imagine what a grand scale deportation would mean in real terms. It’s frightening, extreme – and decidedly un-American.

First there would be the rooting out of undocumented men, women and children throughout the entire United States. Department of Homeland Security enforcement agents would have to fan out all over the country looking for undocumented immigrants. Since many work in agriculture, we’d likely see agents combing through rural areas and small town America – places like Painesville and Findlay, Ohio.

We got a glimpse of what that would look like in 2008, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the Agriprocessors kosher meat packing facility in Postville, Iowa. Hundreds of armed ICE agents swooped into the town – population 2,000 – with helicopters and prison buses to arrest nearly 400 undocumented immigrants, most of whom were Guatemalan laborers. ICE then locked up the immigrants at the National Cattle Congress – which had been turned into a makeshift immigration prison – in nearby Waterloo, where they awaited criminal trials and deportation.

But Postville was just one small town in Iowa. Trump’s mass deportation plan would recreate that disturbing scene in every American community in all 50 states – every county, town and city. As Malcom Harris recently observed, “Sending an amped-up ICE on a mass-deportation mission wouldn’t just be an assault on undocumented people and their families, it would be an attack on American cities, where more than 90 percent of them live.”

Trump’s deportation dragnet would likely start by wreaking havoc on the lives of millions of U.S. citizens. To find undocumented immigrants, immigration enforcement agents would have to whittle down who they question about their immigration status, and that would include interrogating U.S. citizens. Further, because so many undocumented immigrants are part of mixed immigration status families, Americans would be put in the untenable position of having to decide whether to stay in their country, separated from their loved ones facing deportation, or leave the U.S.

In Trump’s America, where the newly inaugurated president would seek to make good on his campaign promise to deport 11 million people within 2 years, what would happen to core American values including family, hard work, community and fairness?

Would our citizens be coerced into becoming immigration informants? Would Americans rat on their neighbors, friends or relatives out of a misguided feeling of patriotism or, perhaps worse, vengeance and retribution? Would undocumented women, children and elderly be exposed to abuse by those who would take advantage of Trump’s deportation machinery to extract control, money or other unspeakable forms of abuse under threat of being exposed to homeland security agents?

Would non-white American citizens and lawful residents be at greater risk of stop, arrest and investigation based on their manner of dress, accent or skin color? And what about unscrupulous employers? One of the strongest arguments in favor of comprehensive immigration reform is that a pathway to earned legal immigration status will reduce workplace exploitation, including sweatshop wages and sexual abuse. One can only imagine the horrible price a corrupt employer might extract from an undocumented immigrant who is desperate to avoid deportation and separation from her family.

Even if Trump were elected president, he would not be able to fulfill many of his draconian promises on immigration – including mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants. Trump’s ugly agenda assumes there is no Constitution, no separation of powers, and no checks and balances which would prevent him from carrying out mass expulsion of undocumented immigrants. Nevertheless, the media has a professional and ethical obligation to the American people to press Trump for specifics on how he would implement his stated immigration agenda, so that voters know exactly what they’d be signing up for if they accept Trump’s offer to “make America great again.”

Tomorrow night in Simi Valley would be a good time to start.

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

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