our latest newsletter: http://www.immigrantsolidarity.org/Newsletter/Spring17.pdf
3/7: New Travel Ban, Same Poisonous Policy
Trump's revised travel ban should fail for exactly the reason the first one did.Elizabeth Goitein | Contributor – US News & World Report
President Donald Trump's second try at an executive order halting immigration from certain majority-Muslim countries takes a markedly different tone from the first. It spends several pages discussing the perceived need for the policy, and it emphasizes the exceptions to the travel ban, rather than downplaying them as the prior version did. The clear intent is to convince the courts that the ban is the result of careful deliberation rather than religious animus.
But the tactical tweaks in this latest edition cannot rescue the order's constitutionality. Underneath the softened rhetoric and other adjustments lies the same poisonous policy: an effort to restrict Muslims' entry into the U.S.
The outlines of that effort are now familiar to both the American public and the courts. Subject to discretionary, case-by-case exceptions, the revised order bars the issuance of visas to people from six majority-Muslim countries – Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen – for 90 days, and suspends the refugee admissions process for 120 days. The stated purpose of the freeze is to give federal agencies time to shore up the vetting process for people seeking entry to this country. Once that process is revamped, the ban will be extended for countries that cannot provide whatever new assurances the U.S. government seeks.
Multiple courts have already found these measures to be constitutionally suspect. In the Ninth Circuit (encompassing the western states), a trial judge and a federal appeals panel concluded that the first travel ban appeared to violate the Constitution's due process clause, impinging on important rights without giving notice or a hearing to those affected. A court in Virginia found that it likely violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause because it had the intent and effect of disfavoring one religion.
Judges across the country also probed the motivation behind the ban. They highlighted the lack of evidence of domestic terrorism by nationals of the selected countries – and the ample evidence that the policy was a sanitized, smaller-scale version of Trump's campaign promise to bar Muslims from the U.S.
Administration lawyers have done their best to sanitize the order even further. In the new version, they removed a provision stating that religious minorities should be given preference in future refugee applications – thus excising the order's only expressly discriminatory language. This change was necessary, but hardly sufficient. Unconstitutional bias in official policy is rarely self-announced. Courts have plenty of experience in reading more subtle cues.
The revised order also exempts green card holders, current visa holders inside the U.S. and people overseas who had already obtained visas when the original order was issued. The due process implications of the travel ban are most obvious for these categories of immigrants, who have already developed ties to the U.S. But contrary to the new order's suggestion, these are not the only groups that prompted "judicial concerns." In declining government attorneys' invitation to narrow the ban themselves, the judges of the Ninth Circuit were careful to note that such a "solution" would not address the due process claims of refugees, non-visa holders currently inside the U.S. and Americans who have an interest in foreigners' ability to obtain visas.
Moreover, exempting those who are currently authorized to be in this country does nothing to address the order's First Amendment flaws. The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from preferring one religion to another, regardless of whether that preference is applied to people inside the United States or people seeking entry.
Another change in the new version is the removal of Iraq from the list of designated countries. This was more of a public relations move than a legal strategy. The rank unfairness of the travel ban was perhaps most evident here, given the U.S. invasion and the assistance many Iraqis provided to our troops. Unfortunately for the administration, giving Iraqis a pass also tore a giant hole in the national security fig leaf. Apparently, public safety didn't require the exclusion of visitors from Iraq – despite Trump's vehement assertions to the contrary a mere month ago. The sudden shift throws the previous security claims even further in doubt.
The absence of a plausible national security justification remains the order's exposed Achilles heel. The revised order recites the political chaos and terrorist presence within each of the six named countries. But these conditions are exactly why the current vetting procedures for would-be travelers from those countries are so rigorous, resulting in high rates of visa denials. The conspicuous missing link in the administration's argument for a temporary stay is any indication that these procedures have failed.
In the several weeks since the courts made clear they would demand better evidence, the administration has managed to locate two examples of actual terrorist activity to support the order. The first involves two Iraqi refugees who were convicted of multiple terrorism-related offenses; the second involves a Somali American convicted of plotting to detonate a bomb in Portland, Oregon. The Iraqi refugees, however, were imprisoned for plotting terrorist attacks inside Iraq – not in the U.S. The Somali-born American, who came to the U.S. as a child, was the subject of an FBI sting in which federal agents devised and led the fake "operation." The fact that these are the strongest examples the administration could find speaks volumes about what the order's real motivation was – and was not.
The order also mentions, almost in passing, that the attorney general "has reported to me that more than 300 persons who entered the United States as refugees are currently the subjects of [FBI] counterterrorism investigations." Devoid of additional context, this statement raises more questions than it answers. Are these "predicated" investigations, which are based on evidence, or so-called "assessments," which can be based on anonymous tips or simply an agent's hunch? How many of them were initiated after the courts noted the lack of a security justification for the refugee ban? How does the administration explain the discrepancy between the dearth of actual terrorist activity and the number of open investigations?Most important is what the order fails to do. It does not – and cannot – erase the many statements Trump made, both as a candidate and as president, betraying the real intent behind the order and the prejudice underlying that intent. Having proudly advertised the policy as a Muslim ban, the president cannot now foist amnesia on the courts through better wordsmithing. The new order should fail for exactly the reason the first one did. Our Constitution stands for religious freedom, equality and fairness – even when our president does not.
2/4: 8,000+ in Utah march for refugees
Over 8,000 Utahns rallied in a March for Refugees Saturday (Feb. 4) in Salt Lake City. Mormons March for Muslims had begun organizing a march when they found that a larger effort was underway and the efforts were merged into Utah March for Refugees.
The March for Refugees was sponsored by the local American Indian-led organization working in solidarity with Standing Rock (PANDOS), by the Latinx community organization Communidades Unidas, refugee support organizations like Women of the World, Catholic Community Services and the International Rescue Committee, by the leading LGBTQ organization Equality Utah and by Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County.
In late January Salt Lake City mayor Jackie Biskupski and SLC Police Chief Mike Brown announced that the city would not cooperate with Trump's agenda on immigration and refugees. The following day Salt Lake County mayor Ben McAdams said that Salt Lake County would join the city in resisting Trump's agenda.
Both Biskupski and McAdams spoke at the rally held inside the State Capitol building as did representatives of the other main sponsoring organizations. The Imam of the Islamic Society of Utah spoke and got silence from the crowd as he gave a prayer. One of Utah's Latina state legislators spoke as did Utah's only Black woman state legislator. Among all the speakers the "Burundi Drummers" got a joyous response.
High school student Saida Dahir, wearing her Black Lives Matter shirt, explained that she is a refugee, a Muslim, Black and a woman so that "my whole identity has been attacked." Saida read the brief poem she wrote for the march called "Paper and a Pen" which you can watch/listen to here
The International Rescue Committee turned over the bulk of their time to a recent Syrian refugee arrival. Through a translator she pressed to use her bit of time to explain why she and other Syrians had to flee. She said that Utahns might expect that the president of Syria would be protecting the Syrian people but in Syria "it is just the opposite, the president is killing the people" (2.5 minutes into this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7MXhyGLDPA
The most popular chants during the demonstration were "No Hate, No Fear, Refugees Are Welcome Here" and "No Ban, No Wall." Some reporters said this march was even bigger than the Utah Women's March of January 23 which i think is true but they should have mentioned that there was a snowstorm on January 23 while February 4 was a warm sunny winter day. Of course there was no sense of competition with many participants wearing their 'pussyhats' from the Women's March.
3/9: China issues report on U.S. human rights
China published a report on the United States' human rights situation on Thursday.
3/31: Empty jails hope to cash in on "illegal" immigration crackdown
Claudia Lauer - Associated Press
DALLAS — Several Texas counties that are struggling with debt because their jails have few or no prisoners hope to refill those cellblocks with a different kind of inmate: immigrants who have entered the country illegally.
The debt dates back to the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s, when some rural counties were losing employment prospects and population. To bring jobs and money, they built correctional centers with hundreds and sometimes more than a thousand beds that could be used to house inmates from other counties as well as prisoners for the state and federal governments.
In some cases, the strategy worked, at least for a while. But a decline in crime and an increase in alternative sentencing reduced the Texas prisoner population and created a glut of jail space.
Now the debts, utility bills and maintenance are becoming so burdensome that counties are confronting a difficult choice. They can seek a federal contract to house some of the immigrants expected to be detained in President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown. Or they can sell the vacant detention centers to private prison companies that aim to do the same.
Jails and private prisons across the country are weighing their options after the Department of Homeland Security announced in January that it was shopping for more jail space as part of its efforts to secure the border.
In some places, the situation is the reverse of Texas, with public prisons full and states paying for extra beds. A private prison operator that had been housing 250 inmates for Vermont recently dropped the state as a client because the federal government will probably offer more for the same space.
“Anyone with vacant beds is hoping the federal government will lease them at a much higher rate,” Lisa Menard, acting commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections told lawmakers in February. “Immigrations and customs enforcement are looking to lease beds everywhere.”
Three vacant Texas detention centers have been sold to private prison companies in the last few weeks, according to county officials and records filed with the national Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.
Some of the jails require updating to meet U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards, but the existing facilities could put Texas at an advantage compared with other states where the companies would have to spend months building detention space.
Meanwhile, the traditional inmate-holding business is still declining. A proposed budget from the Texas Senate would end state contracts with four facilities, including three that are privately run, making it more important for those companies to get immigrant contracts to stay profitable.
ICE would not discuss how many beds the agency might need or its timetable for obtaining them. Agency spokesman Carl Rusnok declined to discuss any negotiations, citing the confidentiality of the federal contracting process.
At least one advocacy group is wary of the secretive process and of putting more detainees in privately run facilities after complaints and violations of inmate-care standards.
“If this is the plan to expand to the bottom of the barrel in detention centers, that should raise huge red flags for people concerned about immigrants’ well-being and rights,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, which seeks immigration and detention reform.
Management and Training Corp. recently purchased a South Texas detention center that was shuttered after a 2015 inmate riot left it uninhabitable. The Willacy County Correctional Center, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of the Mexico border, fetched close to $68 million, allowing the county to pay off the construction bonds.
Until the riot over alleged deficiencies in medical care, the company ran the facility in a private-public partnership with the county.
Company spokesman Issa Arnita said MTC was “working closely with ICE and hoping to get a contract.”
Officials in Maverick and Jones counties confirmed that their empty correctional centers were being purchased by the private prison company known as the GEO Group Inc., which runs the most immigrant detention facilities of any private company operating in Texas.
A spokesman for GEO said the company does not comment on specific transactions.
Like a handful of other counties across Texas, Maverick County formed a nonprofit corporation — the Maverick County Public Facility Corporation– to obtain financing through municipal bonds and insulate the county from direct financial responsibility. A private operator would then run the detention center and split the profits.
After a 2013 contract disagreement with GEO over the division of profits, the private company pulled out and the county tried to operate the facility and repay the bonds, said Maverick County Judge David Saucedo, the county’s top administrative officer.
The county eventually reached an agreement with bondholders to foreclose on the facility.
Other counties have entered into agreements with private prison companies to renovate their empty facilities in expectation of reopening if immigrant detention opens opportunities.
However, some county officials say they have no plans to work with prison companies because of previous experiences.
After Emerald Correctional Management pulled out of its contract to run a 600-bed facility in 2014, La Salle County decided to operate the detention center itself.
With 350 to 450 prisoners on any given day, many picked up by the U.S. Marshals Service, the county about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Laredo is finally turning a profit. Judge Joel Rodriguez was cautious about the prospects of an increase in immigrant detentions.
“There are a lot of facilities in Texas sitting empty,” he said. “And I don’t know if they will be filled because of this.”
1/27: Washington Post on Trump EO, Privacy Act, and risk to DHS databases
1/29: 2000 protestors filled 2 floors of the Abq airport tonight chanting "No ban! No wall! Equal rights for all!"
1/30: Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Who Defied Him
2/1: Armenian Bar Association Reaction to Executive Order
2/2: Exclusive: Trump to focus counter-extremism program solely on Islam – sources
2/2: US Customs Provides Data on Early Results of Trump's Executive Order
2/4: 8,000+ in Utah march for refugees
2/8: HIAS Challenges Legality of Refugee Ban
2/11: NILC document summarizing the recent ICE Raids
3/7: New Travel Ban, Same Poisonous Policy
3/8: Cambodian Deportation Halted Due to Groundswell of Community Support
3/9: China issues report on U.S. human rights
3/9: Fatima Avelica Watched Her Dad Get Arrested by Immigration Officials While Taking Her to School
3/10: Muhammad Ali Jr., Detained Last Month at Airport, Stopped Again
3/10: Revised Trump travel ban suffers first legal blow
3/13: AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS URGES COMPASSION AND APPROPRIATE CARE FOR IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE CHILDREN
3/13: The Underground Railroad for Refugees (1)
3/13: The Underground Railroad for Refugees (2)
3/13: The Underground Railroad for Refugees (3)
3/13: The Underground Railroad for Refugees (4)
3/14: Daniel Ramirez Medina: I am a dreamer, but immigration agents detained me anyway
3/15: 400+ Orgs/Individuals Urge ICE to Protect Detention Access
3/15: Federal judge blocks new Trump travel ban
3/15: How Trump’s ‘travel ban’ impacts women’s groups and activists in the Middle East
3/16: U.S. President Trump’s 2018 Budget Outline Includes Significant Cuts For State, USAID, NIH, Other Agencies
3/21: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana: Why These Trump Voters Are Sticking Up For An Undocumented Neighbor
3/22: Love Wins in Louisiana Court rules that Louisiana may not deny immigrants the right to marry
3/23: San Francisco passes preemptive law against religious registry
3/23: U.S. embassies ordered to identify population groups for tougher visa screening
3/27: Nearly 300 Legal Experts: Attorney General Sessions Wrong on “Sanctuary” Cities
3/31: Empty jails hope to cash in on immigration crackdown
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Immigrants Shape California: New "Access to Justice" Laws
ICE custody program and its budget
Refugee Appropriations Docs & Resources
Immigration Bond: How to Get Your Money Back (1)
Immigration Bond: How to Get Your Money Back (2)http://www.immigrantsolidarity.org/cgi-bin/datacgi/database.cgi?file=Issues&report=SingleArticle&ArticleID=1709
Thanks for GREAT works from Detention Watch Network (DWN) to compiled the following information, please visit DWN website: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org
Raids to Deportation-A Community Resource Kit
Useful Handouts and Know Your Immigrant Rights When Marches
Immigrant Marches / Marchas de los Inmigrantes
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