USCIS Chastised for Lack of Timeliness on FOIA Requests

An important Case relating to the Freedom of Information Act:

A federal district court in San Jose, CA has determined that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) engaged in a longstanding pattern and practice of violating FOIA’s time-limit provisions and prejudiced immigration attorneys’ abilities to fairly represent their clients before the government.  In a ruling on October 13, the Court granted plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief requiring USCIS to provide a copy of a requestor’s file within the twenty day time limit mandated by FOIA and give written notice if a ten day  extension of time is needed due to “unusual circumstances”.  The Court also determined that the government had a history of violating FOIA dating back to a previous FOIA lawsuit filed in 1985.  That lawsuit ended in 1992 with a Settlement Agreement  which provided for the establishment of a national policy on priority processing for FOIA requests.  It included a provision for expedited processing of FOIA requests where the failure to process a request immediately would impair “substantial due process rights of the requestor”.  The Court found that the two Plaintiffs could seek to enforce the Settlement Agreement. The case is now online at Hajro v. USCIS, 2011 WL 4854021.

Asian American Population Growth

From the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice:

Dear Friends,

We are pleased to announce the release today of a ground-breaking new demographic report, A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans in the United States, 2011, co-authored by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Asian American Justice Center, members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. This is the first in a series of demographic reports to be released on the state of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders over the next few years.

With the 2012 elections upon us, Community of Contrasts comes at a most opportune time.  The Asian American community has grown faster than any other racial group over the past decade: More than 46 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the report’s analysis of Census data.  That means more Asian Americans then ever before are poised to influence next year’s presidential election, and we are ready to speak up and voice the issues that matter most to us.  At the same time, our community needs citizenship assistance, voter registration and Get Out the Vote programs to ensure we reach our full potential.

Our population is also dispersing throughout the U.S.  Texas now has more Asian Americans than Hawaii and a third of the states now have Asian populations greater than 225,000.

The report also found significant social and economic diversity among Asian American ethnic groups, with some enjoying prosperity and others experiencing hardship. For example, while Asian Americans have made considerable contributions to the U.S. economy over the past decade (e.g., Asian American businesses issued more than $80 billion in payroll), other data shows that certain ethnic groups like Hmong, Bangladeshi and Cambodian Americans are among the country’s poorest (e.g., nearly one in four Hmong Americans live below the poverty line).  Limited fluency in English remains a significant barrier for many.

Copies of the report are available online at www.advancingjustice.org.

National Immigrant’s Day is October 28th

The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO), a not-for-profit agency founded in 1984 by Lee Iacocca and others which promotes immigration rights, supports diversity and religious tolerance, along with assisting partners in life-saving initiatives such as disaster relief and bringing healthcare to children in need, as well as maintaining the Ellis Island monument.

NECO is the sponsor of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor which is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.

This Friday will mark the 24th anniversary of ‘Immigration Day’, today a little remembered proclamation signing by President Reagan in the 1980s. NECO is using this day to speak out on the positive impact immigrants have had on our country since its founding as well as sending a message to Wall Street that immigrant entrepreneurs can be a major force in our country’s economic reinvention.

Stephen Colbert Sticks Up for Illegal Immigrants

Watch Stephen Colbert’s incisive commentary on Alabama’s immigration law and a farmworker shortage.

From LA Times:

Stephen Colbert would really like to solve the country’s immigration problem, if only to ensure a steady supply of tomatoes for his BLTs.

As he lamented on last night’s “Colbert Report,” “Our country’s tomato industry is plum screwed.” Alabama recently enacted the toughest immigration laws in the country, and, as a result, migrant workers have left the state in droves. Colbert joked that “Hispanic farm workers have fled Alabama, stealing yet another thing Americans would like to do.”

The mass exodus has left many farmers in the state without enough laborers to harvest their crops, and Americans are hardly lining up to fill the vacancies. One frustrated Alabamian farmer claimed, “They’re not as hard workers as the Hispanics.”

Read more here.

Woman Turned Over to Immigration after Domestic Violence Incident

Elena Cabrera, seated, says she was turned over to immigration authorities after she called Escondido police to report a domestic violence matter. Her daughter, Tayana Zarate, 17, was left alone to care for herself and her three younger siblings. EDWARD SIFUENTES | esifuentes@nctimes.com

Edward Sifuentes of the North County Times writes:

“A woman who called the Escondido Police Department to report that she was beaten by her boyfriend was herself arrested and later turned over to immigration authorities after she was booked at the Vista jail, a case that critics say illustrates the problems inherent in local police getting involved in immigration enforcement.”

Unfortunately, this kind of thing occurs all too often. See here and here.

Local police involvement with federal immigration enforcement makes it more difficult for police to gain the trust and cooperation of immigrants who live in our communityies. They are less likely to report crime or serve as witnesses at trial. That is why some local police chiefs are frustrated with local involvement in immigration enforcement — it makes the job of local law enforcement in fighting crime and maintaining public safety more difficult.

What’s it like to Live in a Family with Mixed Immigration Status?

Are you in a family that has mixed immigration status? It’s a common situation in Southern California, but seldom mentioned outside the family. What’s it like to be part of a family where some are U.S. citizens or have legal status and others could be arrested or deported? What insecurities arise at work and school? Are there things your family can’t do that others take for granted? How does mixed immigration status change the lines of authority within a family? How do you protect one another?

Help KPCC (Southern California Public Radio, click here) understand how a mix of immigration statuses works within the same family. Responses are confidential, and seen only by journalists. Nothing published without your permission.

TWO Television Exposés on Immigration Detention on PBS and NBC on Oct. 18th

From Detention Watch Network:

Documentaries Highlight the Massive Expansion of the Immigration Detention System

On Tuesday, October 18th, PBS and CNBC will be airing two different investigative reports on immigration detention. DWN’s Executive Director, Andrea Black was interviewed for both documentaries which highlight the massive expansion of the immigration detention system and its key drivers.

DWN is conducting a national campaign for “Dignity not Detention” to end mandatory detention laws, which are among the primary reasons for the explosion in immigration detention. To endorse the campaign and learn more visit www.dignitynotdetention.org.

PBS Frontline: Lost in Detention
Last year, the Obama administration set new records for detaining and deporting immigrants who were inside the country illegally. The government plans to best those numbers in 2011, removing more than 400,000 people. In partnership with American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, FRONTLINE correspondent Maria Hinojosa takes a penetrating look at Obama’s vastly expanded immigration net, explores the controversial Secure Communities enforcement program and goes inside the hidden world of immigration detention in Lost in Detention, airing Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings).

CNBC: Billions Behind Bars: Inside America’s Prison Industry
A CNBC original documentary, goes behind the razor wires to investigate the profits and inner-workings of the multi-billion dollar corrections industry. With more than 2.3 million people locked up, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. One out of 100 American adults is behind bars – while a stunning one out of 32 is on probation, parole or in prison. This reliance on mass incarceration has created a thriving prison economy. The states and the federal government together spend roughly $74 billion a year on corrections, and nearly 800,000 people work in the industry. ALL TIMES IN ET: Tuesday, 10/18/2011: 9:00 PM, 10:00 PM,  12:00 AM, 1:00 AM. Friday, 10/21/2011: 8:00 PM. Sunday, 10/23/2011: 10:00 PM.

Dayton, Ohio Passes Plan to Revitalize Economy through Immigrant Integration

Immigration Impact reports that DaytonOhio has passed legislation that welcomes and integrates immigrants with the hope that they will revitalize their slowing economy. Faced with a declining population, Dayton’s City Commission voted unanimously last week to adopt the Welcome Dayton Plan—a plan that is tapping into the very economic stimulus that Alabama is driving out.

The Welcome Dayton Plan focuses on four aspects crucial to attracting and integrating immigrants—business and economic developments, increased government participation, improved access to health services, and involvement in the culture, arts, and educational opportunities. Specifically, the Welcome Dayton Plan seeks to:

  • Create an inclusive community-wide campaign around immigrant entrepreneurship that facilitates startup businesses, opens global markets and restores life to Dayton neighborhoods.
  • Offer language services to access government and health services, and educate immigrants about government participation and laws.
  • Issue “municipal identification cards for community residents who are not eligible for any other accepted identifying document.”
  • Advocate for immigrant friendly laws at the state and federal levels through the City and County lobbying efforts
For more on this story, click here.

California Gov Signs State DREAM Act

 

California Governor Jerry Brown, signing AB 131, California Dream Act second bill Image Credit: Getty Images

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday October 8th granted undocumented immigrants access to state financial aid at public universities and colleges. He also vetoed a measure that would have allowed state universities to consider applicants’ race, gender and income to ensure diversity in their student populations. For the L.A. Times story on the significance of the new California DREAM Act, click here.

The following is an excerpt from Governor’s website  regarding the signing:

“Taking action to expand educational opportunity to all qualified students, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed the California Dream Act.

AB 131, authored by Assemblymember Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) allows top students who are on the path to citizenship to apply for college financial aid. “Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking. The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us,” said Governor Brown.

Under current law, undocumented students pay resident tuition rates if they have graduated from a California high school and affirmed that they are in the process of applying to legalize their immigration status. Effective January 1, 2013, AB 131 will make this limited pool of students eligible to apply for Cal Grants and other state aid.

The legislation builds on AB 130, also authored by Assemblymember Cedillo, signed into law by Governor Brown on July 25, 2011. AB 130 makes financial aid from private sources available to the same pool of students. The two laws are collectively known as the “California Dream Act.”

The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 students will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of AB 131, at a cost of $14.5 million. The overall Cal Grant program is funded at $1.4 billion, meaning that 1 percent of all Cal Grant funds will be potentially impacted by AB 131 when the law goes into effect. For full text of the bill, visit: http://leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano Defends Immigration Policy

Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. (CNN)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday October 5th at American University defended the Obama administration’s enforcement of the immigration laws, touting the dramatic increase in the numbers of deportations over the last few years. Her response was directed at Republican critics who have claimed that the administration is not enforcing the immigration laws.

A recent article by Alicia A. Caldwell, Associated Press writes that Republicans say making it a priority to deport those immigrants amounts to a back-door way of granting amnesty to other people who are living in the U.S. illegally but haven’t committed crimes. Yet to immigration advocates, the administration is still deporting such illegal immigrants.

She said policies inherited from the Bush administration “allowed as many resources, if not more, to be spent tracking down and deporting the college student as were spent on apprehending criminal aliens and gang members.”

Authorities would conduct large raids at companies without consistently punishing the employer or targeting individuals who posed a threat.

“Public safety wasn’t enhanced by these raids, and they sometimes required hundreds of agents and thousands of hours to complete,” Napolitano said.

Now, she said, the Department of Homeland Security is using fingerprints collected from those held in local jails to identify and deport criminals and repeat immigration violators

Advocates for an immigration overhaul say this program, known as Secure Communities, has resulted in the deportation of people accused of traffic violations or other misdemeanors. Several states have said they don’t want to participate, arguing that immigration is a federal, not state, responsibility.

There are many critics who still feel that the Obama administration is too aggressively enforcing the immigration laws through a dedication to an “enforcement now, enforcement forever” approach to immigration.

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