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Boarding Pass: City Council Hearings on Taxis and LGBT Immigrant Youth Legislation

Sept. 17's Edition of Boarding Pass: Sessions Contacts MS-13 Victim's Family — Commerce Secretary Ross' Citizenship Question — Border Wall Budget

Welcome to Boarding Pass, Documented’s subscription newsletter. In this weekly edition, you’ll get the latest New York immigration news, an analysis from my colleague Felipe, a look ahead to the week’s immigration events and much, much more.

This newsletter – which will come out every Monday – will be free to all for the next four weeks. To receive it in your inbox after that, sign up here for $5 per month. 

The primaries have come and gone, and as I pointed out in my post-election dissection, they don’t bode well for the possibility of aggressive state-level action to advance the interests of immigrants. It’ll be important to watch whether challengers who defeated former integrants of the GOP-supporting Independent Democratic Conference will have substantially different approaches to immigration policy than their predecessors, but that seems unlikely. On the national policy front, likely next attorney general Tish James has outlined some innovative strategies that include investigating private companies that form the “infrastructure” of the federal deportation machinery. It remains to be seen how committed she will be to this approach, and how she’d go about it in practice.

Looking ahead this week, the City Council committee on for-hire vehicles is having a jam-packed hearing at 10 a.m. Monday to discuss multiple bills building on the Council’s historic legislation capping the number of for-hire vehicle licenses and raising driver salaries, among other things. Questions remain over financing leased cars and the debt associated with taxi medallions. These ongoing hearings echo what New York Taxi Workers Association President Bhairavi Desai said outside City Hall on the day the initial measures were approved: This is only the beginning, and, having had a taste of victory, the immigrant-dominated taxicab workforce is going to push and push hard for further protections to counteract a bleak financial predicament.

At the same time as that hearing, the committees on immigration and youth services will hold a joint hearing on LGBT immigrant youth and consider legislation mandating the creation of a plan to help at-risk and homeless minors apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which helps abandoned or abused children gain residency. Like much else in the current immigration system, SIJ is the focus of controversy as the federal government has tightened its eligibility and attempted to deport kids who have already gotten it.

This is one specific issue, but it’s likely that city and state officials will have to stay in permanent rapid response mode as crises arise out of the Trump administration’s multipronged efforts to dissuade immigration and punish immigrants through any means possible. Just last week, a little-noticed United States Immigration and Citizenship Services policy memo went into effect and it could make it much harder to obtain new visas, green cards, or citizenship. Its repercussions have yet to fully manifest, but it’s part of a pattern of arcane policy shifts that fly under the radar but can have huge impacts, and states and localities have to constantly take notice. One of the most indicative cases bubbling up now is the issue of public charge, a proposed rule that would adversely impact immigrants who use any of a number of lawful government benefits, like food assistance. The rule hasn’t gone into effect, but immigrants are already pulling back from using a variety of benefits, and some advocates think the city and the state should step in and try to contain the damage.

By Felipe De La Hoz 


Sessions Contacts Family After Outspoken Mother of MS-13 Victim Dies

Attorney General Jeff Sessions contacted the grieving family of Evelyn Rodriguez on Sunday after she was fatally struck by an SUV on Friday shortly before a memorial for her daughter killed by MS-13 gang members. She was run over by a Nissan Rogue following a dispute with the driver over the disassembled shrine for her daughter. Rodriguez had met with the attorney general and President Donald Trump on the issue of MS-13, which the Trump administration has sought to use to justify its restrictive immigration policy. Newsday, The New York Times

Hudson County Activists Call For More Action on Ending ICE Contract

The all-Democratic Hudson County Freeholder board faced criticism from activists at its Thursday meeting over the board’s failure to quickly end its controversial contract with ICE to detain immigrants at the local jail. A vote on a plan to end the contract by 2020 slated for Thursday was delayed until Oct. 11. The move to end the contract has divided advocates, as some argue shutting down the detention center could lead ICE to ship arrested immigrants to remote parts of the country where they won’t have access to legal assistance. Ryan Brewer of The Bronx Defenders told the story of his client who may have been deported had he been detained farther away than the Hudson County jail. The Jersey Journal

John Liu is the first Asian American Win a Democratic Primary in State Senate

John Liu’s victory against incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella, member of the controversial Independent Democratic Conference, in the Democratic primaries last week was a first for an Asian American candidate. Liu was also the city’s first Asian American councilman and comptroller. He’s on track to become the state’s first Asian American state senator. Liu gained support from Asian Americans in the district despite pushback from Chinese residents in School District 26, who opposed his stance on specialized high school reform and campaigned for Avella. Sing Tao Daily via Voices of New York

Protesters Rally Against Gentrification, ICE in Brooklyn, NY Daily News

Reports & Courts

Commerce Secretary Ross May Have to Testify Over Citizenship Question

In a Manhattan court on Friday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman asked the government to clear Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s schedule for a day so he can be asked why he wants to add a question of citizenship in 2020, according to the NY Daily News. The judge also ruled Friday that three documents sent or received by Ross should be unsealed, as they “go to the heart” of why Ross decided to add the citizenship question. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue a question on citizenship will dissuade immigrants from answering the census and lead to an undercount in heavily immigrant areas. The U.S. government has opposed questioning over the census matter, leaving Ross’ deposition unresolved on Friday. NPR

Judge Will Likely Approve Settlement Allowing Parents of Separated Children to Seek Asylum

In a hearing in San Diego on Friday, U.S. federal judge Dana Sabraw said he is inclined to approve an agreement between the federal government and the lawyers in three separate cases, which would allow parents separated from their children at the border a second chance to seek asylum. Lawyers argued parents separated from their children due to the administration’s now-defunct zero tolerance policy were too traumatized to make an adequate case for asylum. Associated Press

Border Patrol Agent Accused of Killing Four Women

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been accused of embarking on a two-week long “serial killing spree” by the local district attorney. Juan David Ortiz, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, was arrested in connection with the deaths of four women after a fifth woman, Erika Pena, escaped and notified local law enforcement. Webb County-Zapata County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz accused Ortiz of killing four women since Sept. 3, including one transgender woman, all of whom were sex workers. Pena said Ortiz pointed a gun at her when she tried to leave his vehicle, which she had initially entered willingly. She eventually escaped and notified a local state trooper, which led to Ortiz’s arrest. The Texas Tribune

Almost All Hearings in Family Detention Conducted Over Video

93 percent of hearings in family detention were conducted remotely over video, according to a new report that analyzed court hearings between 2001 and 2016. A study on video hearings indicates they are more likely to lead to deportation. The American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration nonprofit, drew its results from 18,378 immigration court proceedings. It also found 86 percent of released family members and 96 percent of asylum applicants attended all their court hearings, contrary to a common refrain from the Trump administration. Read the full report

Los Angeles Scores Win in Sanctuary City Case

A federal judge granted the city of Los Angeles a win over the Trump administration on Thursday, as the court found the DOJ overreached when it withheld a federal grant from the city due to its refusal to cooperate with ICE. Sessions blocked a $1 million grant over LA’s failure to comply with detainer requests, but U.S District Judge Manuel Real ruled there was no indication the DOJ could add “civil immigration conditions” to the grant. Courthouse News

Study: Refugees Who Arrived the Early 90s More Productive Than The Rest of the U.S.

Refugees who arrived in the U.S. between 1987 and 1996 exceeded the total American population in median income, rate of home ownership and health insurance, among other things, a new study found. Donald Kerwin of The Center for Migration Studies, a migrant rights think tank, authored the study criticizing the government’s dramatic reduction in the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. The study analyzed demographic data on roughly half (1.1 million) of the refugees admitted to the U.S. between 1987 and 2016, finding refugees’ labor force participation (68 percent) and employment rates (64 percent) were higher than the U.S. population. Read the article in the Journal on Migration and Human Security

Mobile Home Park Tenants Can Proceed With Lawsuit Over Citizenship Policy

Latino residents of Virginia mobile home park were granted permission to proceed with a lawsuit fighting a park policy of requiring them to prove their legal status, saying it disparately impacts Latino residents. The Fourth Circuit ruled 2-1 in favor of the four families who filed the suit, overturning a decision from the lower court. The Waples Mobile Home Park in Fairfax, Virginia required all residents over 18 to provide documentation of their legal status or face eviction. Courthouse News

Border Wall Could Lead to Environmental Damage

Building a border wall could have a devastating impact on local wildlife and ecosystems, a new report from the ACLU argues. The report argues a border wall could fragment and degrade critical habitat for endangered species such as the jaguar Sonoran pronghorn, the Mexican wolf, and the ocelot. It could also affect the health of rivers and wetlands such as the Tijuana River Estuary. Due to the Real ID Act of 2005, DHS can skip critical environmental impact assessments, the report says. Read the report here

Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States, Migration Policy Institute

Immigrant Detainees On Hunger Strike In Tacoma Have Refused Food For 24 Days, KNKX

The Political Impact of Immigration: Evidence from the United States, Cato Institute

44.5 million

That’s the number of foreign-born people living in the U.S. in 2017, according to data released by The Census Bureau. This amounts to 13.7 percent of the population, the highest percentage since 1910. The composition of immigrants coming to the U.S. has also changed, as the Brookings Institution analysis found that 41 percent of the people who said they arrived since 2010 came from Asia, a change from Latin America’s previous domination of the immigrant population.


Lawmakers are trying to push back negotiations on a budget for the border wall until after the midterm election, hopefully avoiding a blockade on discussing other spending initiatives as they rush to meet the Sep. 30 budget deadline.

Both Republicans and Democrats are hoping to avoid an embarrassing government shutdown in the runup to midterm elections. This fear has led to uncharacteristically fast negotiations on funding a range of programs that would run out of money on Oct. 1.

The president has repeatedly threatened to shut down the government in order to secure funds for the border wall. On Saturday, he wrote on Twitter that Republicans were being “played like a fiddle by the Democrats on Border Security and Building the Wall.” Reuters, The Hill

The Hispanic Caucus is not concerned with what the president has to say, as they declined an invitation to attend the White House’s Hispanic Heritage Month reception due to the administration’s immigration policy. In a letter posted on Twitter, the Chair of the Caucus Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham cited the decision to rescind DACA and Temporary Protected Status from several Central American countries, as well as the former zero-tolerance policy which led to the separation of families, as reasons why the caucus would not be attending.

Week Ahead

Monday, Sept. 17

6:30pm – Popular Education Series: Who Benefits from Deportation Machine, hosted by the New Sanctuary Coalition. Vanderbilt Hall, New York, NY. Vanderbilt Hall, New York, NY

Tuesday, Sept. 18

5:30pm – Community Mobilization Around Human Rights in NYC. NYC Commission on Human Rights hosts networking and salon talk-like event around fostering intergroup relationships and building coalition within the African Immigrant, African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Latinx communities and other self-identified Black Communities. 1 Centre St, New York, NY 10007-1610, United States

Thursday, Sept. 20

4pm – Community Back to School Town Hall. Will discuss racially motivated discrimination of students by peers, teachers and law enforcement. Arab American Association of New York, 7111 5th Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11209

7pm – Know Your Rights: What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police or ICE, hosted by the New York Civil Liberty Union’s Lower Hudson Valley Chapter. This training informs immigrant New Yorkers, both documented and undocumented, of their rights when interacting with both immigration officers and police. Newburgh Free Library, 124 Grand St, Newburgh, New York 12550

Friday, Sept. 21

5pm – Valued Voices: Immigration and Sanctuary cities, HI New York City Hostel hosts a discussion on immigration in concert with the U.N.’s International day of Peace. 891 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, New York 10025

6pm – Racialization/Alliance-Building in Korean-Am Immigrant Rights. Presentation based on 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork that explores attempts by Korean American immigrant rights organizers to build interracial solidarity movement with their Black and Latinx counterparts. Asian American / Asian Research Institute – City University of New York, 25 W. 43rd St, Room 1000, New York, New York 10036

7pm – Summer Solidarity Film Series: En el Séptimo Día, hosted by NYC Democratic Socialists of America. Screening of Jim McKay’s new film set in Sunset Park and follows lives of undocumented men working in the service industry and playing soccer. 64th Street Community Garden, 373 64th St, Brooklyn, New York 11220

Saturday, Sept. 22

12:30pm – 14th Annual Vendy Awards. The longest-running street food celebration in the U.S. Governors Island, New York, New York 10004

Sunday, Sept. 23

2pm – Elvira: The Immigration Play. Follows the life of international activist Elvira Arellano as she works to defend undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Directed by Misti Wills. Jones Auditorium, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, 7 W. 55th St, New York, NY 10019, New York, New York 10019

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