Undocumented Student Will Walk to DC to Seek Reform

Friends, we need the passage of the DREAM Act and other aspects of reform:

Jason Kane writes for TC Palm:

Manuel Guerra Casas may soon be deported.

The 26-year-old from Indiantown has been forced to withdraw from Kaplan University and was denied scholarships at a seminary. And if pending court proceedings don’t go his way — he’ll also be heading back to Mexico.

So Guerra Casas plans to start walking to Washington D.C.

On Jan. 1, four young people will lace up their sneakers and head north from Miami toward the nation’s capital along U.S. 1. The group hopes that each step will bring more attention to the fact that thousands of undocumented individuals, many who have lived in the U.S. since they were small children, are barred each year from continuing their education in the U.S.

Guerra Casas, also one of the organizers, plans to walk with them from Hobe Sound to Fort Pierce.

“The purpose of all this is to let the American people, Congress and the president know that we are no longer afraid of being undocumented — that we are going to show who we are,” he said. “We are coming out of the shadows.”

They’re calling it the Trail of Dreams, and the youth — associated with Students Working for Equal Rights and supported by the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Reform Immigration for America — plan to complete their trek to the National Mall by May 1. Click here for the rest of the story.

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Eight Things President Obama Can Do To Reform Our Immigration System Without Waiting For Congressional Action

As the Obama administration pursues “enforcement now, enforcement forever” policies, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano often says that Congress must act on immigration for things to improve.  For a contrary view, see “Eight Things President Obama Can Do To Reform Our Immigration System Without Waiting For Congressional Action by Harry DeMell.”

December 24, 2009 | Permalink

Health Care Reform Lessons for Immigration Reform Advocates

By GrayRiv on the Daily Kos:

Here are some of the lessons pro-immigration reform forces would be wise to keep in mind if and when immigration reform moves forward:

You will think everything is lost 12 times along the way and be wrong: On health care, only a week ago – and throughout the last several months – there were moments when all seemed lost.  The onslaught of lunacy and outright lies that exploded at the Town Halls in August will pale in comparison to what is in store from the opponents of immigration reform.  In the last weeks, moneyed interests in health care have steered the debate away from a public option and may be successful, and yet the movement forward has continued and we are on the verge of cracking the armor of inertia that has prevented any change on health care for 60 years.

On immigration, the fight has lasted at least 20 years and the inertia – and outright hostility to legal immigration – is formidable.  Already, fear and a loss of hope are cropping up.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is lowering expectations that immigration reform will be on the House agenda, pointing to a Senate-first strategy as the only way immigration will move.  But those who see immigration reform as already DOA are wrong and will be wrong for many months to come.  Take a breath, chill, fight and organize and let someone else throw in the towel, when and if that becomes necessary.

Pundits and the media will focus on the wrong battles and miss the real story: Conventional wisdom will overstate the power of those opposed to ANY change and understate the differences between those allied FOR change:  The chattering punditry of conventional wisdom shapers have a lot of TV, radio, Internet and newspaper space to fill, and will do so whether they understand the actual pulse of the American electorate or the dynamics of our dysfunctional Legislature or not.  Out of convenience, expedience or laziness, they tend to magnify the strength of the most vocal, passionate, and photogenic protagonists, whether they are actually powerful protagonists or not.

On health care, the weakened power of base Republican activists has received way too much attention, while the quiet, workmanlike efforts of the health insurance industry and their impact on Congress have been underreported.  The same will happen on immigration.

Opposition to immigration reform is loud but not nearly as large as it sounds.  Groups like NumbersUSA, FAIR, and ALIPAC – that are opposed to legal immigration but have seized on illegal immigration as a target of opportunity – are joined by allies who share an interest in defeating Democrats – the Republican Party, Tea partiers, and big-money conservative donors – and have the liability of a hard-core fringe of genuine nativists who drag them to the margins of acceptable politics.  But the Minutemen and Teabaggers showed us that if you make noise, say outrageous things, and manufacture outrage, they (the media and pundits) will come, regardless of your ability to spell or your truthiness.

However, that coalition of opponents to any change is not nearly as politically potent as the coalition that will fight for immigration reform.  The proponents of immigration reform extend well beyond the Latino, immigrant, or Asian communities that are perceived as the driving forces (and which are hugely significant in their own right).  Faith, labor, business, civil rights, and progressive advocacy organizations are deeply engaged and as a coalition command a lot of power.  Furthermore, those who accurately grasp the political power of the immigration issue to forge a new and long lasting base of power for the Democrats in key states want to win this issue – or at least want to give Republicans enough rope to hang themselves by opposing reform and frankly, opposing immigration and the aspirations of immigrants and their broader ethnic communities.

Labor and business have deep pockets and their goals in reform are different but can be reconciled with each other and with the broader coalition.  This will be extraordinarily difficult, especially as we get closer to actual bills and actual votes that matter in either house.  More important are the splits within business and the splits within labor that could bust apart the coalition along the way.  This is where the critical make or break deals and compromises will either fly or fail.  They will not get much attention because they will not happen in the open, so almost all of the noise reported in the media will therefore be mostly irrelevant to what is actually happening.

Make the right choice when it comes to Democratic unity vs. bipartisanship: In health care, there was way too much energy spent attracting Republican votes that were never – and would never be – there.  Two moderate, pseudo-renegades in the entire Republican Caucus ever took the opportunity to put country above Party and vote with the Democrats.  The tougher job of addressing the great oxymoron of Democratic unity turned out to be much more important.

Alas, the opposite is true of immigration.  Democratic unity is unachievable.  On the right, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), wheeled to the floor in the dead of night to vote for cloture on health care, will probably never support an immigration reform bill also supported by members of the Democratic Caucus.  On the left, a Senator like Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who begrudgingly voted for cloture on health care despite losing on key aspects of the compromise, will be a very hard vote to get for politically viable immigration reform.

Unlike health care reform, moving immigration will require at least a dozen House and Senate Republican votes to make up for at least a dozen House and Senate Democrats who will not hold ranks with their Party.  The question is whether there is enough common ground to forge a compromise that keeps things moving forward and whether a slightly fractured Democratic Caucus can make up the difference with a few renegades from a much less fractured Republican Caucus.  I think so, but focusing too much on Democratic unity – like focusing too much on bipartisanship for health care – could derail things.

Conclusion: Health care reform and immigration reform are very different issues but they each have the potential to move forward in the current political environment.  Having apparently opened a small crack in Washington’s rock-solid inertia, will the President and the Democrats decide they have had enough? Will they seek a 2010 of “safe votes” and political wedging over an aggressive agenda to make the first two years of the Obama Administration monumental and change the game for the next elections?  Democrats are not known for seizing on political moments to snatch victory from defeat, but one can hope and pray that the momentum created by health care reform gives them a jolt of adrenaline and that they have the confidence that they are correct and hold popular positions and can change the country they lead.

Federal Immigration Prosecutions Surge

Susan Carroll writes for the Houston Chronicle:

Immigration prosecutions in southern Texas increased by more than 28 percent during the past fiscal year, helping to drive overall federal prosecutions to an all-time high, according to newly released data.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University reported Monday that overall federal prosecutions peaked at 169,612 during the past fiscal year, which ended in September, up nearly 9 percent from the previous year.

Immigration prosecutions helped to fuel that jump, the report found, totaling 91,899 last year — an increase of nearly 16 percent over the prior year. According to TRAC, immigration filings accounted for more than half of all felony and misdemeanor prosecutions at the federal level during the past fiscal year.

Much of that boost came from the Southern District of Texas, which led the nation with more than 32,200 immigration prosecutions last year — more than one-third of such filings nationwide, according to the TRAC data. Click here for the rest of the story.

Fiscal Year 2010 H-1B Cap Has Been Reached

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced yesterday that the H-1B cap for fiscal year 2010 has been reached with cap-subject H-1B cases received by the agency on and before December 21, 2009.  All cases received on December 21, 2009 will be subject to a computer-generated random selection process to determine which cases will be counted under the 2010 quota and which cases will be returned to the petitioner.

USCIS also stated that more than 20,000 cases falling under the exception from the traditional H-1B “bachelor’s” cap, for holders of U.S. Advanced degrees had been exceeded and the remaining cases would be counted against the general H-1B cap.

Source is from Maggio + Kattar, a well known immigration firm in Washington D.C.

Campaign for Cancer Prevention

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L.A. Immigration Judge Under Fire

John Roemer writes for the Los Angeles Daily Journal:

The rocky career of Los Angeles Immigration Judge Anna Ho hit another bump Wednesday as a federal appellate panel again blasted her bench behavior in deporting an illegal immigrant to Mexico.

Ho, a frequent target of displeasure by 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges, denied the woman a fair hearing over her 4-year-old U.S. citizen son’s psychological problems, the panel held.

That prejudiced Araceli Cruz Rendon’s ability to present evidence supporting her bid to remain in the U.S., wrote U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, who sat on the panel by designation alongside circuit judges Harry Pregerson and David R. Thompson.

The panel ordered the Board of Immigration Review to assign Ho to rehear the case. Cruz Rendon v. Holder, DJDAR 16875.

“We are deeply troubled by the IJ’s conduct in this case, which exhibits a fundamental disregard for the rights of individuals who look to her for fairness,” Fogel wrote.

His opinion identified Ho by name, a departure from the court’s standard practice that guaranteed she will be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s office of professional responsibility.

Immigration court rules prohibit Ho from speaking to the media. The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Dana Leigh Marks of San Francisco, said she could not comment on Ho directly, but contended that all immigration judges are overworked.

“We judges are extremely disadvantaged by the docket pressures we face,” she said Wednesday. “That can cause the most reasonable people to lose perspective.”

Indeed in 2005, the same year Ho heard the Cruz Rendon case, Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon described the “sobering realities” of the crowded docket in Los Angeles, where 26 immigration judges disposed of more than 28,000 cases, including more than 12,000 asylum claims.

In the case decided Wednesday, Cruz Rendon entered the U.S. illegally in the early 1990s, had a child who was automatically granted U.S. citizenship and supported her son and herself by ironing garments for a clothing manufacturer. The child’s father left at birth. Immigration authorities began deportation proceedings in 2004.

At a 2005 hearing, Ho conceded that Cruz Rendon had satisfied three of the four requirements that might allow her to remain in the country: she had been physically present in the U.S. for at least 10 years, had been of good moral character and had not been convicted of any of a list of offenses.

The fourth condition was the problem. To qualify, Cruz Rendon had to show that deportation would result in “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” for her child.

To make that case, Cruz Rendon presented a written psychological evaluation of her son, Jose, showing he exhibited symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, plus possible learning and speech disabilities. Such children do not respond well to changes in environment or in caretakers, the report noted. It concluded that separation from his mother or relocation to Mexico would create emotional distress for Jose and would worsen his condition.

Cruz Rendon testified that she feared Jose would suffer in Mexico, because based on her own childhood experience she believed that children often are mistreated and beaten in Mexican schools.

Ho criticized Cruz Rendon’s lawyer for failing to “go on the Internet to print some information about schools in Mexico.”

When Cruz Rendon said she would be unable to earn more than $5 or $10 a day in Mexico, Ho cut off that discussion because Cruz Rendon had not actually looked for a job in Mexico.

After some further dismissive comments, Ho delivered her oral ruling:

“The child is, as I said, only four years old. There is not definite indication as to exactly what the problem the child has. There is no evidence presented by the psychologist that whatever the hyperactivity this child had, the child is not going to grow out of it as the child grows older. I don’t know. There is no evidence presented that there is no such assistance in Mexico, so I can’t grant this case.

“In fact, I have read many articles that they have special education in Mexico. And, Mexico is really trying very hard to work on this.”

When Cruz Rendon’s lawyer asked for a continuance to marshal further evidence about schools in Mexico and Jose’s condition, Ho refused, saying she did not want to postpone matters.

The panel faulted Ho’s entire approach. “She appeared most concerned with the purported inconvenience to herself resulting from delay of the case,” Fogel wrote. “We have repeatedly warned that ‘a myopic insistence upon expeditiousness’ will not justify the denial of a meritorious request for delay,” he said, citing language in a prior case.

Further psychological documentation could have overcome Ho’s belief that Jose might simply outgrow his problems, Fogel added. “Moreover, had Cruz Rendon been afforded time to obtain evidence regarding the schools in Mexico, the IJ might not have relied impermissibly upon her own unsupported opinion” about Mexico’s special education efforts.

The panel noted other cases in which the circuit found fault with Ho’s judicial demeanor, including an opinion in June holding that Ho showed “obvious bias” and “badgered [a petitioner] with loaded, pejorative questions and effectively abandoned her role as a neutral fact finder.”

The circuit’s problems with Ho go back for years. In 2006, the Daily Journal reported that Ho and five other judges were under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a policy that required an investigation of any immigration judge criticized in a circuit court decision.

She once deported an American citizen, despite being shown his Oregon birth certificate. In that case Ho “did not conduct herself as an impartial judge but rather as a prosecutor anxious to pick holes in the petitioner’s story,” the circuit observed. Rivera v. Ashcroft, 394 F.3rd 1129 (2005).

Ho has worked at various immigration courts on the West Coast, where her asylum denial rates ranged from 79.9 percent in Seattle to 67 percent in Los Angeles, according to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a Syracuse University unit that studies immigration cases.

Ho is herself an immigrant, a native of China who was raised in Taiwan, according to an interview that she granted to a Seattle-based weekly newspaper in 1998.

Ho told Northwest Asian Weekly that after leaving Taiwan, she spent time as a young adult in Spain and learned to appreciate the differences in people as well as learning Sichuan, Cantonese, Spanish and English. “I try to pay attention to what people are saying,” she told the newspaper.

One Los Angeles authority thinks Ho may be taking the circuit’s criticism seriously. Niels Frenzen, who directs the USC Law Immigration Clinic and has appeared for clients before Ho, said old cases such as the Cruz Rendon matter continue to haunt her.

“But her reputation has improved in recent years,” Frenzen said. “She is running her court more fairly than in the past. It is certainly very unusual for an appellate court to name names, and I think Anna Ho has gotten the message.”

Frenzen faulted Department of Justice lawyers who defend questionable Ho decisions before appellate panels. “Why is the DoJ fighting these appeals? When they see glaring due process violations, they should in fairness join the side of the applicant,” he said.

After Healthcare, Tough Road for Immigration Reform?

Josh Gerstein wrote in Politico.com:

Immigration reform advocates are launching a concerted drive this week to make sure their issue doesn’t get the election-year sidestep from Congress and a White House already wrestling with complex and far-reaching legislation on health care, climate change and regulating Wall Street.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and more than 20 other Democratic House members [introduced] legislation Tuesday that would allow millions of illegal immigrants to legalize their status in the United States.

“We have waited patiently for a workable solution to our immigration crisis to be taken up by this Congress and our president,” Gutierrez said in a statement previewing the announcement. “The time for waiting is over. This bill will be presented before Congress recesses for the holidays so that there is no excuse for inaction in the new year.”

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are expected to introduce an immigration bill in their chamber early next year. Advocates want the Judiciary Committee to take up the issue by February.

“In terms of the Senate, the Judiciary Committee is not dealing with climate or financial regs,” said Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum. “You could have a floor debate later in the spring. … It’s also something that has bipartisan support, as opposed to anything they’re talking about now.”

However, some congressional analysts see rough sailing ahead for the legislative effort on immigration, particularly as midterm elections approach.

“They can introduce the bill, but it’s going to have a very difficult time with all of the other agenda items,” said James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “We have lots of Democratic seats in trouble in the House, and this particular issue is an issue that doesn’t play very well in some of those Blue Dog districts. I think the leadership will be very careful about pushing it, and the president will also.”

A representative for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hopes the Senate can take up the issue “in the first half of next year.”

During a trip to Mexico in August, President Barack Obama said he was “confident” Congress would ultimately pass an immigration overhaul, but he indicated action on such legislation would have to wait for lawmakers to complete their work on health care, energy and regulating the financial markets.

“That’s a pretty big stack of bills,” the president noted. “When we come back next year, we should be in a position to start acting [on immigration]. Now, am I in a position to snap my fingers and get this done? No. This is going to be difficult.”

Since that time, health care reform legislation has slipped past a couple of deadlines imposed by Obama. And while the severe recession turned attention away from immigration reform, the relentless focus congressional leaders are now promising on job creation could actually undercut support for legalization of illegal immigrants.
“At a time where the unemployment rate is 10 percent, I believe it’s not responsible to invite or allow illegal workers to take jobs that should be available to American citizens and legal immigrants,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said last week.

When the last major push for immigration reform died in the Senate in June 2007, the unemployment rate stood at 4.6 percent, according to the Labor Department. Now it’s more than double that.

“In my opinion, [reform] will be even more unpopular than last time,” Thurber said. He called arguments that legalization will benefit the economy “very hard” to make. “People don’t see it.”

However, immigration reform proponents insist they can overcome any new resistance created by increased unemployment and the perception that illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans.

“It will certainly confuse the debate a lot more, but at the end of the day, what we have to understand is that fixing this system will be good for American workers,” Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a conference call with reporters Monday. Click here for the rest of the column.

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