During the State of the Union Tuesday night, area lawmakers made sure immigrants affected by President Trump’s policies were represented in the audience. Both women who had initially come forward in The New York Times as having worked at the Trump Organization’s golf clubs in New Jersey while undocumented were present, having been invited by members of Congress from New Jersey and California.
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), who last week told Documented that her Homeland Security Committee would be formally looking into federal immigration agencies, brought student and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient Gregory “Ronnie” James. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Harlem) brought Yeni Gonzalez Garcia, a mother who had been separated from her children at the border in May of last year. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) brought Temporary Protected Status recipient Gerard Michaud. And Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) brought Jin Park, a DACA recipient and the first undocumented Rhodes Scholar.
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Firings Continue at Trump Golf Clubs
Following reports of the Trump Organization’s use of undocumented workers at one of its New Jersey golf clubs, executives fired workers who initially come forward and then audited remaining workers to determine whether they were working in the country legally. An initial wave of 12 firings hit the golf club in Westchester, New York golf club, and firings have continued at at least four other properties in New York and New Jersey. Undocumented workers who were let go, some after working for years or even decades, say managers were aware they had used fraudulent documents and never cared about it before. The Washington Post
Buffalo Citizenship Process Among Best in the Nation
According to data obtained by the pro-immigration group Boundless, Buffalo ranks among the best municipalities in the country for obtaining citizenship. It took an average of just 5.3 months for an entire citizenship process in Buffalo in fiscal year 2018. That’s almost half the time it took in New York City and less than a third of how long it took in Dallas or Houston. Local immigrants point to a helpful United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office, where they can take a citizenship test locally. Buffalo has in recent years seen an influx of refugees from around the world, which local leaders have credited with revitalizing the economy and labor market. The Buffalo News
Pennsylvania Limits State Police Immigration EnforcementNew Pennsylvania state police regulations stop troopers from questioning people about their immigration status and detaining them on suspicion of being in the country illegally until immigration agents arrived. The shift is the result of a ProPublica/The Philadelphia Inquirer investigation last year, which showed state troopers were questioning mostly Latino residents — including native-born U.S. citizens — about their immigration status, often after having pulled them over in a traffic stop. The policy stops short of restricting officers’ abilities to contact immigration enforcement after a traffic stop is complete, and still allows ICE to be notified if an arrest is actually made. ProPublica/The Philadelphia Inquirer
Border Already Being Wired with High-Tech ‘Wall’
Despite fights in Washington over the funding and construction of the president’s proposed border wall, sections of the southwestern border are already being wired up with advanced electronic systems meant to detect unusual activity, such as migrants attempting to cross. Anduril, started and helmed by pro-Trump internet troll and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, has already deployed cameras, sensors, and artificial intelligence along the border near San Diego under a Customs and Border Protection contract. Later this month, Anduril is set to install a similar system in California. The Washington Post
Meanwhile, civil liberties and immigration groups are calling on Democrats in Congress to reject invasive surveillance technologies at the border.
San Diego Launches Initiative to Help Immigrants
In contrast to immigration hawks’ picture of a lawless border region where residents are clamoring for immigration restrictions, the city of San Diego on Monday unveiled a list of recommendations designed to help the city welcome and better serve its immigrant population. A year of community discussions went into the recommendations. They include calls to improve civic engagement and education, a project that will be overseen by a new city immigrant affairs manager and possible expansion to a full-fledged office of immigrant affairs. The plan was unveiled Monday by Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Democratic City Council President Georgette Gómez. The San Diego Union-Tribune
Government Gearing Up to Construct Already-Appropriated Wall, Faces Local Pushback
The border wall standoff continues in Washington, but hundreds of millions of dollars for new barriers along the southwest border were already approved by Congress last year. Customs and Border Protection is moving ahead with building plans this month. These plans are already facing challenges from local residents and organizations whose land the government wants to use for the border barriers, including the nonprofit National Butterfly Center. The federal government even faces lawsuits in its efforts to use public lands, and some members of Congress are considering stepping in to protect areas with environmental and cultural significance. Associated Press
Immigration Courts Struggle to Get Back Up to Speed in LA
Los Angeles’ immigration courts, the second busiest in the nation, are having difficulties restarting court operations following the five-week government shutdown. Even if cases were not skipped during the shutdown, judges have been forced to reset some hearings for later dates because they have not been able to read all of the associated filings. Despite Justice Department efforts to move immigration cases more quickly, the shutdown extended wait times for non-detained cases by years. Immigrants can request an earlier court date once their hearings have been rescheduled, but the enormous court backlog makes it unlikely that will work out. LAist
New Details and Disputed Facts in HIgh-Profile 21 Savage Case
Attorneys for rapper 21 Savage, who was taken into custody by ICE agents on Sunday, disputed statements by federal agents. ICE claimed 21 Savage — whose legal name is Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph — initially arrived in the United States with a one-year visa in 2005, when he was 12 years old. Attorneys say Abraham-Joseph first arrived when he was seven, briefly left in 2005, and returned that same year. The local district attorney’s office was not able to confirm whether he had a criminal record, citing a law that allows first offenders in some cases to have records expunged and sealed. Abraham-Joseph’s attorneys also revealed the rapper has a pending U-visa application for crime victims, which immigration authorities would typically let play out before performing a detention. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Washington — Trump’s SOTU Falsehoods, New Shutdown Looms
A large portion of the president’s address to Congress on Tuesday was focused on immigration, which has time and again emerged as the Trump’s signature issue and his point of primary connection with his base. Trump repeated his oft-used strategy of highlighting victims of crimes that had been committed by undocumented immigrants, at one point singling out a family in the audience, his guests at the address, whose relatives had allegedly been murdered by immigrants.
He also repeated well-worn falsehoods about immigration, such as claiming that border crossings are at crisis levels (in fact, the numbers remain relatively low), and that multiple “organized caravans” were making their way to the United States.
In a revealing moment, Trump actually ad-libbed an immigration line that was not in his official speech, saying he wanted legal immigrants to enter the country “in the largest numbers ever,” in an apparent attempt to strike a conciliatory tone and prove that he wasn’t against immigration in general. That statement, however, was at odds with his administration’s actual policies, which have sought to cut down on legal immigration as well, whether family-based, work-based or humanitarian.
The speech also didn’t provide much reassurance that the president will work closely with Congressional Democrats to reach a satisfactory budget deal to stave off another government shutdown, which is slated to come in just over a week if no funding solution is found. TIME, The Washington Post, The New York Times