Lo Mein Loophole: How U.S. Immigration Law Fueled A Chinese Restaurant Boom

Chefs at work in the kitchen of a restaurant in New York’s Chinatown, circa 1940. For many Chinese, opening up restaurants became a way to bypass U.S. immigration laws designed to keep them out of the country. Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

Maria Godoy on NPR reports on how some openings in the Chinese exclusion laws made the proliferation of Chinese restaurants in the United States possible.  An important exception to the exclusions laws allowed some Chinese business owners in the United States to obtain special merchant visas that allowed them to travel to China, and bring back employees. Only a few types of businesses qualified for this status. In 1915, a federal court added restaurants to that list. A restaurant boom was born.  The number of Chinese restaurants in the U.S. doubles from 1910 to 1920, and doubles again from 1920 to 1930.  In New York City, the number of Chinese eateries quadrupled between 1910 and 1920.

More on this story here.

Fatal Neglect: Report on Deaths in Immigration Detention


The American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigrant Justice Center, and Detention Watch Network have issued a report, “Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention.

The report emphasizes that “there have been 56 deaths in ICE custody during the Obama administration, including six suicides and at least one death after an attempted suicide.”  This particular report “focuses on the eight deaths where ODO [ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight] identified noncompliance with ICE medical standards as contributing causes; the ODO identified four of these deaths as preventable.”  The report goes on to explain that “this focus should not excuse several other cases in which ODO identified similar violations of ICE medical standards without drawing causal links between these violations and the deaths,” and asserts that the “process is broken; even in the eight cases where ODO death reviews concluded that violations of ICE medical standards contributed to people’s deaths, ICE’s deficient inspections system essentially swept those findings under the rug.”

The key recommendations are as follows:

  • Immediately reduce immigration detention,
  • Improve the delivery of medical care in detention,
  • Ensure inspections provide meaningful oversight, and
  • Increase transparency of inspections, deaths, and serious medical incidents in detention.

They Are Refugees: An Increasing Number of People Are Fleeing Violence in the Northern Triangle

SOURCE: AP/Manu Brabo The son of Alberto Hernandez—a man who was kidnapped and murdered by gang members—embraces his mother in a rural area near Caserío el Chumpe, El Salvador, June 2015.

A report from the Center for American Progress focuses on violence in Central America. Central America’s Northern Triangle region—made up of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—has gained notoriety in recent years for its extreme levels of organized crime, gang violence, and poverty. As these problems have intensified, the number of people fleeing from the Northern Triangle to other countries has also skyrocketed. While lower than the surge in summer 2014, the uptick in the number of unaccompanied children and families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in the latter months of 2015 is still historically high and serves as a stark reminder of the region’s worsening conditions.

El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala were among the five most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere in 2015. While Honduras’ homicide rate has decreased over the past few years, El Salvador’s homicide rate has deteriorated significantly—making the country more than 24 times as dangerous than the United States. (see Figure 1).


Undocumented Immigrants Pay $11.6 Billion in State and Local Taxes; Contributions Would Substantially Increase Under Reform

Undocumented immigrants contribute more than $11.6 billion to state and local coffers each year and pay an average 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes according to a newly updated 50-state study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). ITEP’s analysis also finds that the combined state and local tax contributions of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants’ would increase by more than $800 million under full implementation of the administration’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions and by more than $2.1 billion under comprehensive immigration reform.

The report, Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions, provides state-by-state and national estimates on undocumented immigrants,’ current state and local tax contributions, including a breakdown of sales and excise, personal income, and property taxes. The report further provides estimates for each state showing how much larger these tax contributions would be if all undocumented immigrants were granted legal status under a comprehensive immigration reform and if President Obama’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions were upheld. The report’s key findings:

• Undocumented immigrants contribute significantly to state and local governments, collectively paying an estimated $11.6 billion in state and local taxes.

• Undocumented immigrants’ nationwide average effective state and local tax rate (the share of income they pay in state and local taxes) is an estimated 8 percent. (The top 1 percent of taxpayers nationwide pay an average effective tax rate of just 5.4 percent.)

• Granting legal status to all 11 million undocumented immigrants as part of a comprehensive immigration reform and allowing them to work in the United States legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2.1 billion a year. Their effective tax rate would increase from 8 to 8.6 percent.

• The state and local tax contributions of the 5 million undocumented immigrants who could be directly impacted by President Obama’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions would increase by an estimated $805 million if the actions are upheld. State and local revenue gains from the executive actions are smaller than gains from granting legal status to all undocumented immigrants because the actions (if upheld) would only affect about 46 percent of the undocumented population and the actions do not grant a full pathway to lawful permanent residence.

To view the full report or to find state-specific data, go here.

‘Immigrants Are Not Criminals’: Respectability, Immigration Reform, and Hyperincarceration by Rebecca A. Sharpless


‘Immigrants Are Not Criminals’: Respectability, Immigration Reform, and Hyperincarceration by Rebecca A. Sharpless University of Miami – School of Law April 3, 2015 53 Houston Law Review 691 (2016)

Abstract: Mainstream pro-immigrant law reformers advocate for better treatment of immigrants by invoking a contrast with people convicted of a crime. This Article details the harms and limitations of a conceptual framework for immigration reform that draws its narrative force from a contrast with people — citizens and noncitizens — who have been convicted of a criminal offense and proposes an alternate approach that better aligns with racial and class critiques of the U.S. criminal justice system. Noncitizens with a criminal record are overwhelmingly low-income people of color. While some have been in the United States for a short period of time, many have resided in the United States for much longer. Many are lawful permanent residents with strong family ties, including U.S. citizen children. Convicted noncitizens who have served significant time in our penal system have experienced the well-documented harms associated with both criminal and civil incarceration. Despite the significant size of this population and its location at the convergence of two heavily criticized law enforcement regimes, these individuals rarely serve as an example for what is wrong with our immigration system. To the contrary, convicted noncitizens are typically regarded as foils for more deserving immigrants. Immigration reformers are not the first to employ a deserving/undeserving narrative as a means of obtaining political gains for some at the expense of others. Across all areas of law reform, policy makers and advocates have sought to generate empathy for groups of people by invoking a contrast with others. In drawing a contrast between a favored group and others who are degenerate, deviant, or less deserving, the “politics of respectability” depends on a contrast with an “out” or deviant group. Racial justice proponents, much more than immigration reformers, have made significant headway in moving beyond respectability politics, especially when critiquing hyperincarceration. This Article describes a different conceptualization of immigrants and crime as well as examples of how certain immigration reform groups have sought to implement aspects of this alternate frame.

Justice Dept Describes Immigration Judges as Low-Level Gov’t Employees

Judge Gavel

A Politico article describes oral arguments that took place in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation brought by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  In American Immigration Lawyers Association v. Executive Office for Immigration Review, et al., No. 13-840 (D.D.C. filed June 6, 2013), AILA seeks disclosure of the names of Immigration Judges who have been the subject of disciplinary action.  (A copy of the complaint filed in district court is available here).

The article also notes that a counsel at the Department of Justice argued that immigration “judges are low-level employees, similar to FBI agents, Drug Enforcement Agency agents or so-called ‘line’ Assistant U.S. Attorneys.”

State Misdemeanant, Federal Felon: Adolescent Sexual Offenders and the INA by Michael J. Higdon

6a00d8341bfae553ef01b7c8179829970b-800wiState Misdemeanant, Federal Felon: Adolescent Sexual Offenders and the INA by Michael J. Higdon,University of Tennessee College of Law February 8, 2016

Abstract:  At the age of eighteen, Alberto Velasco-Giron had sex with his fifteen-year old girlfriend. As a result, he was deported.

To understand how this could happen, we have to back up a bit. In 1988, Congress amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) to state that any alien who commits an “aggravated felony” is subject to deportation. Since that time, Congress has continuously supplemented the definition of aggravated felony to include more and more crimes, the result being that noncitizens were subject to deportation for an ever-growing list of offenses. In 1996, the definition was revised yet again to include “sexual abuse of a minor.” And, on first blush, most would agree that an alien who sexually abuses a child should be removable from the United States.

The problem, however, is that the term Congress chose to use was “sexual abuse of a minor,” not “sexual offense involving a minor.” As a result, some state convictions might involve both sex and minors, but may not necessarily be abusive. Statutory rape provides a prime example of this class of convictions. Today, statutory rape law is quite different than it was when first introduced. No longer is the crime gender-specific and no longer does the crime equally penalize all sexual activities with children under the age of consent. Instead, most states have enacted Romeo and Juliet exceptions, exempting consensual sexual contact between adolescents close in age from the harsher penalties that flow from other forms of child rape. In most instances, activities falling under such an exception qualify as either a misdemeanor or no crime whatsoever — the justification being that these crimes typically are not abusive in nature. Indeed, going back to Velasco-Giron’s case, although he was convicted of statutory rape, his crime was labeled a misdemeanor and his only punishment was unsupervised probation.

Unfortunately, it would take the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) almost twenty years to recognize that statutory rape is not inherently “abusive.” As a result, during that time, immigration law largely required that individuals like Velasco-Giron be deported, equating their statutory rape convictions with “sexual abuse of a minor” and, thus, an aggravated felony under the INA. In 2015, however, the BIA reconsidered its earlier position and held that some “meaningful age differential” is required before a statutory rape conviction will categorically qualify as an aggravated felony.

Pope Blesses U.S.-Mexico Border


Pope Francis traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border this week to offer a blessing. In CNN’s footage, you can see the pope ascending a ramp to overlook the Rio Grande. The crosses before him represent migrants who died in their efforts to reach the United States.

After this benediction, Pope Benedict said mass in Ciudad Juarez. The L.A. Times reports that the pope:

decried the global “human tragedy” that forces people to migrate unwillingly, risking death — “each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted.”

Reserving special mention for women “unjustly robbed of their lives,” Francis said migrants “are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations.”

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