AILA National Day of Action

I recently attended the AILA National Day of Action in Washington DC. We were tasked with meeting our representatives to motivate and educate them about immigration issues.

Or first stop was the office of Congressman Brad Sherman. We met with one of his staffers in their crammed office. There was no indication that money was being wasted on space as a number of folks were squeezed into a pretty small space.

We were assured that the congressman, “my boss” as all staffers refer to their representative , was on board with all the immigration reforms we were championing – first and foremost a fix for DACA. The staffer echoed the news of the last year and a half – telling us that with the Republicans in power his boss wasn’t able to move anything forward on immigration.

Next stop was the office of Senator Diane Feinstein. The offices were much more spacious and less cramped. It’s good to be a senator! We also met in a conference room rather than a crammed table near the front door of the congressman’s office.  Her staffer, Senior Counsel Jennifer Piatt, was very informed on the machinations of immigration in the United States in fact I believe she may have been a former immigration lawyer herself. Her boss, like Congressman Sherman, was also very much stymied by the current balance of power. That said, the day before our meeting the Attorney General “temporarily” terminated the Legal Orientation Program for detainees. Senator Feinstein’s office characterized this as a bipartisan affront because the program was created by congress and the Attorney General did not have the authority to terminate it. Feinstein’s staff felt they would have a good chance at pushing back against Mr. Sessions. Overall it was a good meeting and we all came away impressed with Senator Feinstein’s knowledge and efforts. Sorry Kevin.

What became clear very early on in our day is that not much would happen until the midterm elections because immigration is such a third rail across the aisle. This became abundantly clear at our next stop.

We met with a staffer from the office of Republican Congressman Cook. Cook is a very conservative representative from the Adelanto, California region – the site of our private prison immigration detention center. The staffer we met seemed to have been tapped moments before we arrived and had virtually no knowledge of immigration issues and quite honestly evoked sympathy from us because of his deer in the headlights appearance. This should have been a hot meeting considering all of the issues surrounding the use of private prisons to profit from illegal immigration as well as the many failings reported at the Adelanto facility. In the end, the staffer repeatedly stated he was “not familiar with that” and would “tell his boss.” Frustrating.

After lunch we met with Congressman Schiff’s staffer who echoed the refrain that the mid-terms are key. He also inferred that his boss was more concerned about other overarching issues – possible Mueller firing and the continued threats to the institutions of our government. Indeed it echoed my desire to ask what their bosses were doing about the worrisome creep toward an authoritarian regime.

Next was the office of Senator Harris. Her staff too was frustrated however they were very concerned about whistle blowers in the immigration machinery and what if any knowledge or experience we had with that.

Our final stop was the office of Congressman Gomez. He is the son of Latino immigrants and is solidly on the side of justice of the community. Unfortunately his staff repeated the refrain that the mid-terms were the only hope in the near future.

So the take away is to go out and vote and canvas for a Democrat – preferably a Democrat in a Purple district.

END

 

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U-Visa for victims of crime

A U-Visa is available to folks that are victims of certain crimes in the United States. The reason that U-Visas exits is to encourage folks to report crimes to the police. If you are undocumented and you are the victim of a violent crime and you reported the crime to the police you may be able to obtain a work permit and ultimately a green card.

The crimes that qualify are domestic violence, robbery, assault and battery and kidnapping among others. If you’ve been the victim of one of these crimes and did report it to the police you have a tremendous opportunity to help yourself and your family members. Not only is the U-Visa available to the victim of the crime but also to his minor children and spouse.

The first step is to obtain a copy of the police report. Contact the relevant department and ask them what the procedure is to obtain the report. They may allow you to pick it up in person or they may require a written mail request. Once you have the report check to see if the crime noted is one that qualifies for a U-Visa. If so you will need to have the police certify your application stating that you were indeed a victim of that crime and that you cooperated with them. There is no need for a conviction or even arrest of the perpetrator.

Once the police have certified the form you will need to complete the remainder of the application and apply for any waivers you may need. If the police have certified your application there is a very high chance the U-Visa will be approved. The only real barrier is if the applicant him or herself has been convicted of a dangerous crime. Keep in mind that drug trafficking is considered a dangerous crime.

Because the u-Visa program is so effective there is a backlog of about three and a half years for an approval. While this may seem like a long time it’s a very important investment in your future. Indeed after an applicant has been in U-Visa status for three years he or she can then apply for a green card. This is a fantastic silver lining for a non-citizen who has suffered at the hands of a criminal.

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What to do in a home ICE raid

In today’s increased enforcement climate ICE raids have increased. Maybe not as much is perceived because ICE ultimately has limited resources however there is more emphasis on picking up people particularly in a state like California that does not allow immigration officials unfettered access to folks who are in jail.
What do you do if ICE comes knocking on your door? First and foremost stay calm. If ICE is attempting to enter private property, even if you are undocumented, you have rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution.

Ask the officer through the closed door to identify himself. You can say, “What agency are you with?” The officer might say that he is with the “Department of Homeland Security” or “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” The officer might name another agency. He may even merely state he is a police officer. No matter what, keep the door closed. Through the closed door, ask the officer if he has a warrant. If he says “yes,” still do not open the door. Ask him to show you the warrant by slipping it under the door.

Review the warrant and look for your name, your address, and a signature. This can help you decide whether or not the warrant is valid. If the warrant does not look valid, you should return it under the door and say it is incorrect. If the warrant the officer shows you looks real, look to see if it was issued by a court or by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Only if the valid warrant was issued by a court should you open the door.

If the warrant is issued by a court you must open the door. Do not sign anything and tell the officer you want to talk to a lawyer before you say anything. Do not give him or her any kind of identification documents that say what country you are from.

Most important to remember is do not open the door if he cannot show you a warrant.

You can keep this by the door and state this to the officer (or slide it under the door to him or her):

I do not wish to speak with you, answer your questions, or sign or hand you any documents based on my 5th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.

I do not give you permission to enter my home based on my 4th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution unless you have a warrant signed by a judge with my name on it that you slide under the door.

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The economy, stupid

“The economy stupid,” the infamous quote by James Carville during Bill Clinton’s 1992 run for president is an idea at the heart of our nation’s current debate about immigration. Much has been made of the changing demographics of our country and the rise of nationalism, racism and autocracy. There is a lot of hand wringing, myself included, among those on the left. Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are experts in what makes democracies healthy — and what leads to their collapse. They warn that American democracy is in trouble. Certainly immigration is at the heart of this struggle. The overarching concern may be that the white straight male patriarchy don’t go down easy – as the white population will become a minority in little than twenty five years.

Is it simply racism? Sort of. But maybe more importantly it’s economic concerns. U.S. immigration policy throughout history has been tied to the economy. Our country has been historically generous during times of prosperity and restrictionist during downturns – this despite the fact that studies show that immigration is a primary engine in our economy and does not create job loss.

Indeed many on the left are arguing the issue backwards. Sort of like the chicken and the egg challenge. The relevant discourse, for the general public, is not what effect immigration has the economy – folks already have preconceived if not incorrect notions about this. The better discussion is what effect the economy is having on immigration policy as well as the greater divide and hostility between factions in the USA. The “American Way of Life” for many folks has been under threat for decades. Particularly for those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Jobs have been out sourced to other countries and automation has replaced workers. Folks are hurting and as a result they retreat to tribal, racialized thinking and lash out in irrational ways. Ironically much of the job loss can be blamed on the right and the Republican party whose members are champions of Capitalism. They privilege profits over people and now we’re reaping the unintended consequences of psychopathic pure capitalism.

The immigration problem and probably the greater divide in the country is better addressed by looking at the “economy stupid” rather than name calling and reactionary panic.

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Good Immigrant v Bad Immigrant


DACA is all over the news of late – especially now that the Trump has decided to cancel the program. They are admittedly a VERY sympathetic group of people. They’re blameless, as they were brought here as children by their parents. They’re students. Indeed many are college students. They speak perfect English and have “American” accents. They have no criminal convictions. They are us. They are actually no longer the “other.” Even the Trump, with all of his bile and anger, has said he “doesn’t want to hurt them. He’s said, “We love the dreamers.”

While immigration advocates justly champion this group because of their righteous cause, the larger issue is the other 10 million undocumented folks living in the United States. They are the parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and the older brother and sister of the dreamers. They often don’t speak English very well or virtually no English at all. They are not in college, in fact, many have only a rudimentary formal education. Finally, according to critics, they have “no skills” and are stealing American jobs. To the contrary, they are the engine that makes this country go. They’re raising our children, cleaning our houses, mowing our lawns, parking our cars, stocking our warehouses and cooking our food. The skill they possess is the ability to do “hard work.” What is happening is that these folks are being exploited by our capitalist system that needs labor. As Justin Chacon and Mike Davis write in “No One is Illegal”, immigration policy is a means to control labor. Keeping folks undocumented “atomizes the working class” and works to discourage labor organizing and unionization – which benefits capital. Undocumented workers are often underpaid or not paid at all; often they receive no benefits and have no effective labor law protection. Not helping these folks is wrong.

There are many myths that work to oppress the “bad immigrants.” First and foremost is that they’re criminals – as we all heard during the last presidential election. But study after study has knocked down this straw man despite the chorus from the right. The New York Times reported in January of this year that “Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes.” “There’s no way I can mess with the numbers to get a different conclusion,” said Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, which advocates more liberal immigration laws. Equally bellicose is the assertion that the “bad immigrants” are stealing our jobs! Not true. The New York Times reported in August, “Fewer Immigrants Mean More Jobs? Not So, Economists Say.” “The average American worker is more likely to lose than to gain from immigration restrictions,” said Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California, Davis. Even low skilled immigration is a benefit and not a job destroyer because they often work at jobs that wouldn’t exist if low cost labor wasn’t available and generally they provide a boost to the rest of the economy.

Taking care of the non-DACA undocumented population is a more difficult lift. This is the lift that is most American if you will; more in keeping with the promises of the Statue of Liberty and of values of merit, inclusion, fairness and justice – ironically, so central to the white Anglo-Saxon protestant vision for America. To their credit many DACA kids are now “woke” to this issue and are becoming very vocal about their opposition to any deal that uses their status as a bargaining chip to deport the rest of their family. Indeed, they are more American than members of congress and our own president.

Turning to Chacon and Davis again, they write, the official response to immigration in the United States has always been schizophrenic, “embracing immigrants at some moments and decrying them at others. It has always included prophets of doom, convinced that immigration will destroy the nation, yet both immigration and the nation continue.” Let’s not forget the “bad” immigrants when we set out to help the “good” immigrants.

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