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Early Arrival: Attorney General Candidate Talks ICE Prosecution

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: ICE Didn't Comply in Release of Pizza Deliveryman – Houston Courts Have High Denial Rates for Asylum – Tighter Refugee Cap Proposed

Appearing in a NowThis video, former gubernatorial and current New York attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout said that she supported the abolition of ICE, as well as using the powers of the office to investigate and potentially prosecute members of the agency. If elected, this would make her the first statewide law enforcement official in the country to consider criminally investigating the actions of the immigration agents. Whoever takes over from Acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood will inherit a series of lawsuits against the federal government that concern everything from the citizenship question on the census to the travel ban to DACA, as well as one of the most high-profile law enforcement jobs in the country. NowThis

Good morning, and welcome to Early Arrival. I’m Felipe De La Hoz, here to take you through the latest in local and national immigration news and analysis. If you have feedback, suggestions, tips or leads, reach out at felipe.delahoz@documentedny.com or on Twitter.

We’re always looking for deeply reported work on immigration in New York. If you have story ideas and are interested in writing for us, reach out at pitches@documentedny.com.

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Ellis Island

Williams on Trial for Arrest at Ragbir Protest
The trial of Brooklyn councilmember and lieutenant governor candidate Jumaane Williams on charges of obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct is underway. At issue is whether Williams acted appropriately in blocking the path of an FDNY ambulance that left the federal building at 26 Federal Plazacarrying prominent immigration activist and executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition Ravi Ragbir on January 11. Ragbir had been taken into ICE custody, pending deportation, and a central question in the trial is to what extent the local authorities, especially the NYPD and FDNY, were aware that their actions in helping the ambulance leave were de facto assisting federal authorities in carrying out a possible deportation. In a revelatory moment, an FDNY EMT testified that an ICE officer tried to get the ambulance to go straight to a detention center instead of a hospital. Felipe De La Hoz for Documented, New York Daily News

New York Immigration Judges Seem Unlikely to Easily hit New Quotas
A WNYC analysis of completed cases versus number of judges in some of the country’s busiest immigration courts found that immigration judges in New York seemed to have completed about 566 cases on average per year, under the quota of 700 cases that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced. The analysis used data from fiscal year 2016, the latest available. It is not yet clear what consequences, if any, judges would face for failing to hit the quota, but they have already begun to mobilize against it, with their union calling it a hit to judicial independence and due process. Other courts with much higher numbers of cases decided per year per judge, such as the Atlanta immigration court, also tend to have had much higher numbers of denials for asylum cases. WNYC

Panel Offers Support for Immigrants Facing ‘Gut-Wrenching’ Decisions, The Jersey Journal

National

It has been 120 days since Memphis-based journalist Manuel Durán was detained by immigration authorities after first being arrested by the Memphis Police Department while covering a protest. Documented will keep a running tally of how long Durán remains in detention

Houston Courts Have High Denial Rates
Houston’s court is among the immigration courts nationwide that asylum-seekers have a very difficult time getting relief in. Between fiscal years 2012 and 2017, 9 out of 10 immigration judges had denial rates higher than 80 percent. One judge had a denial rate of 97 percent. Three main factors seem to account for the huge differences in denial rates between Houston and a court such as New York’s, which has a 17 percent denial rate overall: Most immigrants in New York have access to counsel, both because of an abundance of accessible private attorneys and nonprofits; the types of asylum-seekers are different, with Houston receiving a lot of cases from recent arrivals alleging gang or domestic violence of the kind that the attorney general has de-emphasized in asylum applications; and simple politics, with the courts being more conservative in Texas than in New York. Houston Public Media

Community Colleges a Battleground in Immigration Fight
Among the many civic institutions affected by shifting attitudes and official actions on immigration are community colleges, which have typically seen themselves as welcoming to students of any type. California now has 40 centers statewide dedicated to helping students without legal status navigate the system, including through counseling on academics and financial aid. California estimates that about 70,000 of its community college students, about 3 percent of the total, are undocumented. Colleges fall under ICE’s sensitive location designation, meaning that enforcement actions are not conducted in them without a determination of extreme public safety concern, but administrators are fearful that things may change in the current political environment. The New York Times

South Carolina’s Secretive Immigration Enforcement Police
A state police unit in South Carolina known as the Immigration Enforcement Unit was created in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, purportedly to crack down on on violent criminals, drug pushers, sex traffickers, and the like. Instead, The Post and Courier found that the unit’s investigations had largely focused on cracking down on immigrants merely using fake documentation to try to get work. Just nine of the 123 cases that the newspaper reviewed were found to have references to gangs, drugs, or trafficking. It was created as part of a package of legislation aimed at making life difficult for undocumented immigrants in the face of President Obama’s perceived failure to crack down. Some lawmakers now describe the program, the only known state-level immigration enforcement police force in the country, as waste of time and resources. The Post and Courier

Toddler Allegedly Dies Following Release From Immigration Detention
A Washington, D.C.-based lawyer said that a migrant toddler who had been held in an ICE detention center in Dilley, Texas, had died shortly after their release from the center. Dilley is known as a site where migrant families are held in detention, and where some family reunifications have taken place following the end of the zero tolerance policy. A lawyer who knows another attorney who’s been in direct contact with the victim’s family posted on Twitter that the child died as a result of a respiratory illness contracted from another child in the facility, and subsequent substandard care. The American Immigration Lawyers Association confirmed that it was aware of the death but could provide no further information. ICE denied a child had died in custody, but did not comment on whether it was aware of a death following release from custody. The Washington Post

Youth Care Shelter Worker Charged With Sex Crimes Against Minors
A former worker at a Southwest Key facility in Arizona that houses migrant minors has been charged with 11 sex offenses after being accused of committing multiple acts of sexual assault on minors in his care between August 2016 and July 2017. The worker had allegedly groped, performed, and attempted to perform sex acts on boys between 15 and 17 years old, and disclosed after his arrest that he was HIV positive. It is not the first case of sexual crimes alleged to have been committed by employees of Southwest Key. The case was initially investigated by local police and is now proceeding through the U.S. District Court in Phoenix. ProPublica

Hitting Immigration Detention Through Your Checkbook
Some people with investment or retirement portfolios are beginning to divest their holdings from stocks that support immigration enforcement or imprisonment. As stocks for private prison companies like CoreCivic and the Geo Group have gone up as immigration detention is expanding, some activists are having success at convincing both individual people and larger institutional investors to take their money out of funds that hold investments into those and other companies profiting off immigration detention. This presents a longer-term risk for these companies, as profits depend on increasing imprisonment, and a mounting public backlash could cut down their viability. MarketWatch

Immigration Judges are Rebelling Against the White House’s Efforts to Turn Courts into Deportation Machines, GQ

Kris Kobach’s Lucrative Trail of Courtroom Defeats, ProPublica

In Trump Country, ICE May Chill Immigrants’ Crime Reports, The Marshall Project

Immigrants in Texas Detention Center Mount Hunger Strike, Advocates Say, Bloomberg

How Family Reunification Actually Works at the Border, The Atlantic

Washington – Tighter Refugee Cap Proposed

Stephen Miller, the White House adviser and white ethnonationalist, is pushing a drastic reduction in the number of refugees that could be admitted to the United States next year, lower than the already historically low number of 45,000 the administration settled on for this year. Some sources within the administration say the cap for 2019 could be set as low as 15,000, part of a long-term attempt to reduce immigration, both legal and illegal. Politico

The ACLU has filed another lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing that over a thousand immigrants who have been taken to federal prisons are suffering under “inhumane” conditions that include lack of access to adequate medical care and an overly punitive setting. The organization says that the administration created a crisis and is attempting to solve it by housing civil detainees in facilities meant for convicted felons. Bloomberg

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump administration’s efforts to block public safety grants to jurisdictions that had adopted “sanctuary” policies was unconstitutional. The decision came as part of a lawsuit brought by two counties in California. The appeals court nevertheless struck down a lower court’s nationwide ban on the practice, sending the case back for more arguments. Associated Press

As the focus of the ongoing fight over family reunifications from zero tolerance moves to parents already deported by the United States, the government is now arguing in court that it should be the ACLU that uses its “considerable resources” to attempt to track down deported parents in order to facilitate reunification. The ACLU has argued that the government is dragging its feet and not using all the tools at its disposal. The Washington Post

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