The Caravan Visit

Last Friday I went to Tijuana to work with the migrants who are part of the “caravan.” We left Los Angeles at 5 am and arrived in San Ysidro about 7:30 am. We parked and walked across the El Chaparral pedestrian bridge to Tijuana. It was very quiet with a handful folks headed to the USA, probably for work, and Dennis, my paralegal, and I the only folks headed to Mexico.

After crossing the bridge the first thing we see is a parking lot with a big colorful block sign announcing we’re in Tijuana. In the far corner of lot there are a couple of pop-up tents and folding tables and an orderly line of people waiting. The man sitting at table has a ledger book – this book is La Lista. This is the list of folks waiting to turn themselves into US border patrol to request asylum. Border patrol only interviews about 40 people a day and there are some five thousand migrants in Mexico waiting for their turn. The list is not organized by the US government or the Mexican government although there is some question about this – but by the migrants themselves. Asylum-seekers are given a number. Each number represents 10 people. On this morning the list had reached 1695 (or 16,950 people) and border patrol was due to start at 1170 later that day. This puts the number of folks waiting to present themselves to border patrol at approximately 5,250. If border patrol keeps up their current pace of 40 folks a day – folks at the end of the line will be waiting approximately 4 1/2 months. Keep in mind they’re not waiting at the Sheraton Hotel.

Dennis and I leave the border and head to Enclave Caracol – a restaurant that also serves as the offices for Al Otro Lado – the nonprofit run by US immigration attorney Nora Phillips – that’s spearheading the legal assistance for the migrants.  There are about 30-40 volunteer legal representatives from all over the USA at the meeting. We talk about know your rights presentations, consultations and legal observing. After the meeting Dennis and I head over to Campo Unidad Benito Juarez soccer field where many of the refugees are camped out. The field is a muddy mess scattered with soggy sleeping mats and clothing. Children are  being children. Adults are talking, making food and waiting. The Mexican Federal police are in numbers but are only observing. There is no visible conflict. In fact on that day buses had arrived to move folks to shelters because the field was such a mess of mud and water. There were media a plenty on hand which creates gaze and representation issues. I’m aware of my role as well – knowing full well that at the end of the day I’ll be at home in my comfortable house in the USA.

One man we met on the soccer pitch distills the current dilemma with his question to me. “Why is Trump doing this to us?” Why is Trump – and many of his supporters – sending troops and tear gas – costing millions of dollars- to meet poor suffering refugees rather than sending asylum officers and immigration judges?

After our visit to the Benito Juarez soccer pitch we head back to Al Otro Lado to do consultations. We met with a Honduran man – traveling with 16 relatives – whose family is being terrorized because of a vendetta from a neighboring family. The real injustice was that this individual was granted asylum in the US in 1998 but was deported in 2005 for simple possession of marijuana. That said this is a problem that might be fixable. I gave him my contact info to follow up.

After this consultation, which lasted nearly 3 hours, it was time to head back to the USA. Upon entering the USA, I was screamed at multiple times by a border patrol officer who was angry because I didn’t obey his commands to stop immediately. He was loud and disrespectful. I was reminded that if this is how they treat a US citizen Anglo male how do the migrants from Central America stand a chance? He was just doing his job? Fat chance. We hear stories of border patrol officers telling migrants that the USA no longer grants asylum. Officers coercing folks to sign documents in English that forfeit custody of their children and their right to apply for asylum. My blood was boiling but I calmed down and left. For now.

The trip reminded me of the starfish parable.

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”. The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?” The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”

Until we can make macro changes to our immigration policies we can all do our part and do what we can.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Changing Asylum Law

Changing Asylum Law

Our current president has issued a proclamation changing U.S. asylum law. What’s the difference between a proclamation and an executive order? They’re pretty much the same thing although I surmise the president likes the sound of the word proclamation because it sounds more like something a king would issue.

Prior to the issuance of this order by the president, any person present in the United States could apply for asylum as long as they did so within one (1) year of arriving, with some exceptions to the one year requirement for extraordinary circumstances. This regulation is based on international law and is in place because of the extremely important nature of asylum protection. Folks must be forgiven for not entering at a border checkpoint if their lives are in danger.  There is too much at stake. The president wants to bar asylum protection for those who enter at our southern border between border checkpoints.

Does the president have the authority to change the law sans congress? He does have a great deal of authority with regard to immigration law if there’s a “national security issue” at stake. This is the basis of the recent travel bans. Of course national security is our president’s highest and virtually only consideration when he analyzes our immigration policies and laws.  Unfortunately, this reflects the attitude of his political base despite how much it contradicts our countries guiding principles.

Fortunately our president is not a king, despite his fantasies to the contrary, and we have co-equal branches of government. To that end the ACLU in conjunction with other immigrant rights groups filed a law suit to enjoin the proclamation. “The asylum ban is flatly unlawful and will put people’s lives in danger. The President has no authority to simply discard a law Congress passed,” ACLU lead attorney Lee Gelernt told CNN.

The founders of our country were wise enough to create safeguards to protect us from our lesser angels and so far the American Dream still stands a fighting chance.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Immigrant Hordes

The evil immigrant! This is a trope that unfortunately has been used for years. Why is it working now, when in fact the truth is that many of those arriving have a right to seek asylum, unauthorized migration is near historic lows, border communities have among the lowest crime rates and there are CERTAINLY no “middle easterners “ (aka terrorists)  in the caravan. In addition, unauthorized migrants commit crime at a lower rate than lawful residents and United States citizens.

So what can be done? Surely when presented with the facts folks will see the truth? Unfortunately our current political climate is detached from the truth. There is a daily onslaught of lies from our president along with his attacks on the media’s effort to correct his untruths. We can’t reason folks out of beliefs that they were not reasoned into.  As Jennifer Rubin wrote in the Washington Post, “…logic and facts are no match for irrational resentment.”

Kesha Ram, a class mate of Stephen Miller (Trumps immigration adviser) at SAMO High School in Los Angeles, has sage advice. “If we write everyone off who is part of the alt-right as a sociopath, then we’ll probably miss something really critical in our effort to stop it.” This is the way out of our bubble.  These folks exist in numbers and must be taken seriously despite our anger and frustration with their perceived ignorance.

Jennifer Rubin goes on to say, “One can understand why logic and facts are no match for irrational resentment. Trump captured, stirred and magnified the animosity these voters feel about their laundry list of villains (immigrants, elites, urbanites, the media or any other sources of information that undercut their irrational views, etc.) As a political matter, it is hard to figure out how to wean people from the grip of an irrational sense of persecution and racial resentment. They are unmoved by data showing that immigrants are not harming them.”

These folks conflate our countries values – freedom, individual rights and democracy – with the white race and Christianity. Our values are available to people of all races and religion. Until the folks who are under the spell of resentment and rage come to their senses what can be done? VOTE. Outvote Trump’s hyper-powerful base, thanks to the Electoral College and the senate’s imbalance, out of office. There’s a lot at stake.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Invisible Wall

The invisible wall is up and running. The Trump administration has not needed funding for a border wall to effectively turn the USA in an anti-immigrant nation. They have some very well informed folks cranking up the enforcement of current rules and taking current regulations to an extreme.

Very publicly the enforcement machine has run rampant. ICE officers are at schools, in court houses and knocking on doors in the community. Not to mention Legal Opinions by the AG limiting asylum for refugees from Central America and abusive and criminal behavior by Customs and Border Patrol at our southern border.

Less publicly the Department of Homeland Security has made it much more difficult for legal immigration. In the past folks applying for a green card through employment didn’t have an interview at Citizenship and Immigration Service because such an interview serves no useful purpose. Interviews were reserved for family based immigration where fraud is often a problem. Now all green card applicants are interviewed. As a result of the increase in green card interviews the work load for immigration officers has increased exponentially however there have been no staffing increases. This has caused processing times to double and almost triple; a passive aggressive approach to limiting immigration reform. As a result the spouse of a United States Citizen will wait 1 -2 years for a green card up from 6-8 months 2 years ago.

In addition, in the past applicants who submitted an incomplete visa application package would receive a request for further evidence. Now the Department of Homeland Security has implemented a new policy that mandates that officers to deny incomplete applications outright with no request for further evidence. There is now a push to disqualify folks from citizenship if they or family members ever received any kind of government support – including subsidies for Obama care. This ban will also extend to United States Citizen family members who received such benefits. The current administration has also beefed up the de-naturalization unit – another attempt to remove immigrants from our country.

There’s a coordinated and systematic effort to keep people out by abusing the regulations this country has in place to let folks in. Sad.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


What don’t you understand about the word Temporary? Temporary Protected Status is an immigration protection that has been extended to folks from various countries over the years. The reason is typically unsafe conditions in the individuals home country resulting from a natural disaster or civil unrest. Recently protection was extended to folks from Syria, because of the ongoing conflict, and Haiti as a result of the 2010 earthquake. El Salvadorans were granted TPS in 2001 and Hondurans 1998 due to natural disasters in their home country. These folks have now resided legally in the United States for two decades or more.

Most of those opposed to ongoing TPS emphasize the word temporary. “The people who accepted our offer of TPS did so with the full understanding that the benefit was a temporary one and that, at some point, they would be required to leave.” Says Ira Mehlman, media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). (The Hill, 10/26/2017) He goes on to say that return to their home countries might be “inconvenient.” This lack of empathy and even understanding of our basic values and the underlying principles of fairness is unfortunately emblematic of our current social and political climate.

Putting aside the simple humanitarian disaster that results from ripping people from what is now, for all practical purposes, their home country not to mention separating them from their United States citizen children there are real legal principals at hand. First is the notion of a waiver of remedy or rights. At some point in the TPS process, one that requires a renewal by Congress every eighteen (18) months, the United States government waived their right to suddenly enforce the notion that this relief or benefit was temporary. Second, Western jurisprudence also allows for a statute of limitations on virtually all law enforcement actions. The only criminal acts that are an exception to this legal principle are murder and related charges. Is living in the United States as a non-citizen the equivalent of murder? Keep in mind that TPS is terminated for the commission of relatively minor crimes accordingly TPS is not a shield for wrongdoers.

The termination of TPS is another example of how the values and aspirations of the American experiment are being degraded by our current administration.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in IMMIGRATION LAW | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in IMMIGRATION LAW | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in IMMIGRATION LAW | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in IMMIGRATION LAW | Leave a comment