Public defender organizations that collectively form the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project are suing the federal government over the continued use of videoconferencing to conduct immigration court hearings in New York with detained immigrants held remotely.
The teleconferencing policy for the immigration court at Varick Street, where almost all detained docket hearings in New York City are held, was instituted last June after protestors gathered at the building’s entrance. ICE has since continued the practice, calling it safer and more efficient.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan Federal District Court, argue immigrants forced to appear in sensitive immigration court hearings by video link are deprived of due process thanks to a mix of technical and procedural problems. They also say immigrants not physically in court have a harder time presenting themselves sympathetically to the judge.
The attorneys have long sought to speed up their clients’ appearances in immigration court and increase the system’s efficiency, but they argue that the use of videoconferencing only serves to speed up deportations.
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New York Lawmakers Implore ICE to Pull Back from Courthouse Arrests
In the wake of an Immigrant Defense Project report documenting how ICE has increased detentions in and around New York courthouses, three dozen state assemblymembers asked Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to designate courthouses “sensitive locations” where the agency doesn’t conduct arrests. As local governments have curbed cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities, ICE says it is forced to arrest more people at courthouses. Defense lawyers and district attorneys have said the practice discourages immigrants from participating in the judicial system, as immigrants are taken into custody when responding to criminal charges or even serving as a witness in a case. The Times Union
Advocates Denounce Plan to Put Banking Chips on IDNYC Cards
At a City Council Hearing examining the IDNYC municipal identification program, multiple community and advocacy groups said they would stop telling undocumented immigrants to get the cards if plans to put banking smart chips on them go forward. The chips would allow the ID cards to be used for debit transactions, but advocates worry the additional transaction information in the chip could prove dangerous if leaked or otherwise misused. The cards are issued by the city and are particularly targeted at undocumented immigrants without legal status who otherwise could not access an official identification. New York Daily News
Refugee Starts Interpreter Business in Syracuse
A 25-year-old Somali refugee who grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in the United States at 15 with a second-grade education and no English proficiency is opening an interpreter service in Syracuse. Khadijo Abdulkadir is now studying at Syracuse University while running a nonprofit for refugee women and girls on top of her translation company, which employs 20 people who collectively speak 20 languages. The business hopes to combat poverty in refugee communities around Syracuse by hiring refugees to become interpreters and offering its services to local schools, hospitals, social service agencies, and government agencies. Syracuse.com
Activists Respond to ICE North Carolina Arrests with ‘ICE Watch’
Following reports of a series of at-large ICE detentions around North Carolina, partly as a result of several counties’ decisions to end ICE cooperation agreements, about 200 volunteers have directly responded to sightings of possible ICE agents out in the field getting ready to make further detentions. Two members of the group, which calls itself “ICE Watch,” said in a Monday press conference they had approached what appeared to be plainclothes agents outside an apartment complex and asked an agent to identify himself on camera. The alleged agent appeared caught off guard and left, possibly ending an effort to detain an undocumented immigrants. The Winston-Salem Journal
Difficulties for Asylum-Seekers Returned to Mexico to Await Proceedings
As the Trump administration’s Migration Protection Protocols remain in effect, non-Mexican asylum seekers arriving at the San Ysidro port of entry continue to be turned back to Tijuana after making asylum claims in the United States. Advocates and attorneys remain worried about safety for the migrants in Tijuana, which has seen drug-related violence and where migrants occasionally been specifically targeted. Another primary concern is asylum seekers’ access to counsel, seeing as they’ve apparently been given an English-language packet of pro bono attorneys with US numbers when they are turned back. Even if they can contact an attorney, there are concerns about the legality of those lawyers practicing in Mexico. PRI
California Governor Withdraws Border Troops
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed an executive order withdrawing the majority of the state’s National Guard troops that the Trump administration had deployed to the southwestern border. About 360 troops had been deployed by Newsom’s predecessor, former Gov. Jerry Brown, as part of a larger force to assist border officials. The troops, are not legally capacitated to engage in direct border enforcement, so they largely spent time stringing concertina wire. About 100 California National Guard soldiers will remain behind to assist CBP. Last week, the Pentagon announced plans to send an additional 3,750 troops to the region. The Sacramento Bee
Municipalities along the border region are already fighting back against the concertina wire that has been placed along the border. Quartz
Charlotte Allows Permanent Residents and Undocumented Immigrants to Join City Boards
The Charlotte City Council on Monday approved a change to requirements to serve on one of the city’s 35 advisory boards and commissions that would open them up to undocumented residents. The boards, which advise council on municipal issues such as transit and zoning, previously required members to be registered to vote. In the same session, the City Council also allowed the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to continue a controversial DWI checkpoint program that potentially could ensnare immigrants and bring them to the attention of federal immigration enforcement authorities. The program was continued after police assured officials the checkpoints are not conducted in coordination with ICE. The Charlotte Observer
21 Savage Released on BondGrammy-nominated rapper 21 Savage has been released on $100,000 bond after being detained by immigration authorities Feb. 3. His family brought him to the country as a child and he grew up in Atlanta before overstaying his visa. Attorneys say 21 Savage does not have a criminal record and has a pending application for a type of visa reserved for victims of crime, which ordinarily might prompt ICE to exercise discretion and avoid taking him into custody. The circumstances surrounding his arrest are unclear, though some supporters wonder if it’s related to his recent criticism of border and immigration policies. The rapper missed the recent Grammys award ceremony. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Washington — New Agreement on Funding, Harris’ Immigration Record, Companies Want DREAMer Solution
Democrats and Republicans in Congress reached a tentative funding deal to head off the possibility of another government shutdown, announcing on Monday night that a compromise had been reached and would head to President Trump’s desk for signature. In the final deal, the Democrats dropped their demand for a hard cap on the number of people that ICE could detain simultaneously, which had been the major sticking point in the negotiations. Instead, the deal continues funding for ICE to detain an average of over 45,000 immigrants through September, with the caveat that it should prepare to pare this number down to 40,520 in the interim.
That’s the level at which ICE detention had been funded last year, but ICE has simply overshot that number and asked for more money, which Congressional Republicans handed over. Now that the Democrats are in charge, ICE can no longer expect to keep pulling the lever for more funding whenever it runs out of detention money. The agreement also includes $1.375 billion for a physical barrier along 55 miles of the border, a concession that border-hawks have panned as insufficient. Vox
The president himself is unenthusiastic about the deal, saying he was “not happy” with its provisions, but has also intimated that he doesn’t want the government to enter another shutdown if another funding solution isn’t found by Friday. It’s unclear if he will sign it or not. At a rally in Texas on Monday night, he claimed to the crowd that he was going to “finish the wall,” insinuating that his administration had constructed any amount of wall that wasn’t already there when he took office, which it hasn’t. That perception, however, might get him an out with his base. The Wall Street Journal
Sen. Kamala Harris of California becomes the latest Democratic candidate for president forced to answer for past positions on immigration. While serving as the district attorney for San Francisco in 2008, she supported a policy to report undocumented juveniles who had been arrested on felony charges to ICE, regardless of whether they had been convicted. Dozens of undocumented juveniles were forwarded to immigration enforcement authorities for relatively minor crimes. CNN