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Early Arrival: New Yorkers Unleash Backlash on Racist Lawyer

Early Arrival is a Documented newsletter that provides a round-up of the most vital local and national immigration news. This is an archived edition of the newsletter.

Until this week, Aaron Schlossberg was a little-known commercial and insurance lawyer who operated out of an unremarkable office in Midtown. That all changed rapidly on Wednesday.

At 8:15 A.M. on Wednesday, writer and activist Shaun King posted a video on Twitter of a man in the midst of a racist meltdown in a Midtown Deli.

The video opens with the man gesturing angrily at a store worker and several people off camera. He’s angry that a customer and a member of the staff are speaking Spanish. “My guess is, they’re not documented,” he said, pointing off camera. “My next call is to ICE to get them out of my country.”

Aaron Schlossberg (Credit: Shaun King’s Twitter)

King tweeted the video with a call to action to find the identity of the man, and soon the internet went to work.

Classmates of Schlossberg apparently came forward to identify him. Within hours he had three thousand one-star reviews on his Google page. His office photograph was changed to a Mexican restaurant and subsequently, a luchador holding a giant sandwich. Critics pointed out he flaunted his Spanish fluency on his website and Linkedin.

Schlossberg spent all of Thursday being hounded by media. In one video, he gets cornered outside a building, while New York Post and New York Daily News reporters pepper him with questions like, “At what age did you decide to become a racist like this?” Schlossberg opened an umbrella and hid behind it as he ran into a building. Backed into a corner, he conducted a bizarre interview from behind the umbrella.

(Credit: John Levine’s Twitter)

Later, Schlossberg changed clothes and was confronted by an NBC New York news crew. He sprinted down the middle of the street to escape from them.

(Credit: NBC New York)

By Thursday afternoon, Rep. Adriano Espaillat announced he filed a grievance with the courts against Schlossberg. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined in on the complaint. The grievance could potentially get Schlossberg disbarred. City council members Carlos Menchaca and Jumaane Williams got lunch at Fresh Kitchen, the deli where the altercation transpired.

Also on that day, A GoFundMe campaign was launched to hire a mariachi band to play outside his office. The fundraiser blew past its goal quickly and a New York area mariachi band offered to play for free. Instead, the money will be used to rent a taco truck and set it up nearby. However, the organizers had to shift plans after users of the website 4Chan threatened to hold a counter-protest at the festivities.

Fresh Kitchen is just a month old. Time will tell if the old adage, “all press is good press” rings true for them. For now, fights about immigration have already kicked off in their online reviews. CNN, The New York Post, IBTimes, The New York Times

Ellis Island

Right to bond suit moves forward
On Friday, a judge will hear an argument in a case about the right to a bond hearing for immigrants who have been detained for six months or more. The lawsuit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU and Brooklyn Defenders Services on behalf of Augustin Sajous, a detained Haitian immigrant who was denied a bond hearing–similar to cash bail in a criminal context–after a February ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court said some immigrant detainees are not entitled to bond hearings. The case, Sajous v. Decker, will be heard at 40 Foley Square on Friday at 3:30 P.M. NYCLU

Report says ICE uses gang designations over-judiciously
A new report says ICE and local police departments in New York City and Long Island are unfairly targeting immigrants with allegations of gang behavior. The study was conducted by the New York Immigration Coalition and the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic at the CUNY School of Law. They surveyed 43 legal service providers and other groups and found that 78 percent of them had clients who were questioned by law enforcement officials about gang ties. Criteria used to link people to gangs is often tangential and unclear. Everything from what clothes people are wearing, the El Salvador country code of 503, lines shaved into the eyebrows and the Chicago Bulls logo was used as a pretext to flag potential “gang members,” leading to their potential detention and deportation. Newsday

National

Social media vetting algorithm is scrapped
ICE officials have abandoned a project to design a machine learning computer program to vet visitors to the U.S.. The project was intended to be part of Trump’s push to increase “extreme vetting” of non-citizens traveling to the U.S.. Instead, ICE will hire around 180 people to comb through the social media posts of 10,000 people DHS flagged as “high risk.” The program was conceived of as an investigative lead generator, that could analyze social media posts of foreign visitors to see if they were likely to commit criminal or terrorist acts. It was met with fierce criticism from academics and free speech advocates. According to the Washington Post, the current contract could cost more than $100 million. The Washington Post

Under Trump, ICE has stepped up non-criminal arrests
Since Donald Trump was elected president, ICE has been arresting an increasing number of immigrants without criminal records, according to a report from USA Today. ICE agents have arrested an average of over 4,143 undocumented immigrants who haven’t been convicted of a crime each month. Under the last two years of the Obama administration, the agency arrested an average of 1,703 per month. The data was released on Thursday and signifies an abrupt change in priorities within the agency. Under Obama, ICE was instructed to focus on violent offenders and other people convicted of federal crimes. Under Trump, the agency has been given a wider mandate.USA Today

US refugee acceptance rates plummet, aid organizations left idling
The U.S. is on track to let in fewer refugees than it has in 35 years, according to a report from The New York Times. Across the country, organizations that would normally help refugees to acclimate are lying dormant: donations are piling up, facilities lie empty and the people who work with refugees are left to wait. The slowdown was caused by multiple factors, including the travel ban. Nearly half of refugee officers at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency were transferred to the asylum desk, taking the focus away from refugees abroad to internal candidates. The Trump administration has made the vetting process more cumbersome, which has also increased the wait times. The New York Times

California Governor Jerry Brown signs bill preventing disclosure of immigration status in court, The Mercury News.

US and Mexican officials discussed a potential pact to manage the flow of asylum seekers on Wednesday, Politico

Data disproves the idea that Central American immigrants in the US don’t assimilate, Quartz

Opinion:

  • Why are for-profit US prisons subjecting detainees to forced labor? by Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director at Project South. The Guardian
  • Abolish the ICE Prison Complex, by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an associate professor of law at the University of Denver. The New Inquiry
  • Her Husband Beat Her and Raped Her. Jeff Sessions Might Deport Her, by Jane Fonda, actor and activist, and Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings College of the Law.The New York Times

Washington – Trump calls deportees “animals”

PresidentDonald Trump called some deported people “animals” on Wednesday during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials.

“We’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before,” he told the meeting’s attendees who had gathered to discuss California’s sanctuary law.

Trump was responding to a comment from Sheriff Margaret Mims of Fresno County, Calif. who was bemoaning the fact that ICE can’t enter their jails to speak to certain arrested MS-13 members. 

Vox noted that Trump has a history of calling members of the gang animals. During a speech in Long Island in 2017, he said of MS-13: “They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They are animals.” He has referred to the gang in this manner at least one other time.

According to ICE data, Trump’s statement about his deportation rate was also false. Trump is deporting fewer noncriminal detainees than Obama did in 2011.

During the same meeting, ICE Director Thomas Homan briefly lost composure as he spoke of the work of his agents and the criticism they have received from Congress members and the public. Vox

The Trump administration has begun discussing replacements for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Quartz reports. Some of the names that were floated include Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and retiring ICE chief Homan. Nielsen reportedly almost resigned last week after Trump scolded her during a meeting but had a change of heart. She denies the reports.Quartz

A moderate Republican group is inching closer to a forced vote on DACA and other immigration matters. Twenty members of the House have signed a “discharge” petition to force action on several immigration bills. If it reaches 25 signatures the bills will go to the floor for a vote. House Speaker Paul Ryan has scrambled to prevent the petition and has whipped together a more conservative immigration bill that could possibly win over Republicans and some Democrats. House GOP leaders have attempted to drum up support for a conservative immigration bill but fell short. The Washington Post

ICE has missed a reporting deadline for its detention centers twice, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Queens, New York – April 27, 2018: Views inside of a restaurant in the Jackson Heights neighborhood near the 7 train. Photo: Christopher Lee for Documented.

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