Democratic legislative majorities with Democratic governors in both New York and New Jersey have created momentum to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, which neither state currently allows despite existing precedent in several other states.
Opinion polls have shown that in New Jersey, where bills to this effect have already been introduced, the measure is broadly popular with the electorate. Registered voters favored allowing the undocumented to get licenses — and by extension, car insurance — by about a 2-1 margin.
Nevertheless, the initiatives face determined opposition from conservative lawmakers and members of the public who are concerned about cost and fraud. Voice of America
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Albany Weighs Allowing Undocumented to Purchase State Health Insurance
A lesser-known and much less complicated initiative than the New York Health Act could potentially extend Essential Plan insurance to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, and it’s already part of state’s health insurance marketplace. Federal law explicitly makes undocumented immigrants ineligible to receive federally-subsidized health insurance in the vast majority of cases. Still, proponents of the so-called Coverage 4 All campaign believe utilizing the state’s existing insurance infrastructure without using federal dollars would dodge that prohibition. Still, it would have to be entirely state-funded, with a predicted cost of more than $530 million. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) left the plan out of his budget proposal, so activists are turning to the state legislature to get a bill passed. Read more at Documented
New York Among States Suing over Emergency Declaration
Hours after President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in an attempt to seize funds to build his long-promised border wall, the ACLU sued the administration. Now, 16 states, including New York, have filed their own suit, arguing the move unlawfully attempts to supersede Congress’ power of the purse. “Declaring a National Emergency when one does not exist is immoral and illegal,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. It is now one of New York’s multiple lawsuits against the administration, including litigation on the Census 2020 citizenship question and the DACA program. The New York Times
NYIC Presents 2019 City Budget and Legislative Agenda
The New York Immigration Coalition — an advocacy group and umbrella organization encompassing other immigration and community groups — presented its priorities for municipal policy and the city budget at a legislative breakfast Tuesday. Some priorities have consistently remained throughout recent history, including the expansion of both defensive and proactive legal services for immigrants and increased language access across city services. Others, like increased funding for Census 2020 outreach, are new. Notably, Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson spoke about increasing “options” for banking and financial services for immigrants, an apparent reference to the administration’s continued commitment to putting smart chips on IDNYC municipal ID cards. Several pro-immigrant groups have raised serious concerns about the banking chip addition. Felipe De La Hoz for Documented
Detention Company May turn to Private Land After Governor Kills Property Sale
After Immigration Centers of America, a private immigration detention company based in Virginia, had reached a $35 million deal with the Michigan Land Bank to purchase a closed state prison, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) axed the sale last week. Local activists had been calling on her to step in, and Whitmer said one of the main factors in her decision was that ICA could not guarantee the facility would not house immigrants separated from their families. ICA executives said the company may now be forced to buy private land to complete its goal of building a detention center within 150 miles of Detroit. Michigan Advance
ICE Uses State DMV Data for Immigration Enforcement in California
As debate in New York continues over providing access to driver’s licenses for undocumented people, such licenses have been available in California since the passage of AB 60 in 2013. The program, though, has had unintended consequences: It maintains data about undocumented people that federal immigration agents can use for enforcement. While California says there is no way to differentiate between AB 60 licenses and regular licenses in its databases, federal agents can still get information on specific individual, which they appear to have done in several cases. The state maintains the information can only be accessed as part of a criminal investigation, but there seems to be little oversight of how DHS agencies actually use it. Voice of San Diego
Draconian Immigration Bills Advancing in Virginia Legislature
HB 2270, which would require local officials notify ICE about the release date of any “alien,” including legal permanent residents, passed Virginia’s House of Delegates last week and is headed to a full Senate vote. SB 1156, which would prohibit the establishment of local “sanctuary” policies of non-cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, cleared the House Cities, Counties and Towns Committee late last week. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has vetoed similar anti-immigrant legislation in the past, but has been less vocal about his intentions this time around as he remains embroiled in his own racism scandal. Patch
An anti-sanctuary bill is also advancing in the Florida Legislature. The Tampa Bay Times
Adult Migrant Dies in Border Patrol CustodyA 45-year-old Mexican man who remains unidentified died in Border Patrol custody on Monday after being apprehended in Roma, Texas, earlier this month near a port of entry. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement the man had been hospitalized twice during his time in custody. During his second medical examination, he was found to have liver cirrhosis and congestive heart failure, for which he spent two weeks in intensive care at the McAllen Medical Center before dying. It’s the third death in 3 months for people under Border Patrol’s supervision, following the deaths 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo in December. The New York Times
Confusion Over ‘Remain in Mexico’ Leads to Prison-Like Conditions for Asylum-SeekersAbout 2,000 would-be asylum-seekers are being held in a former body-bag factory in Mexico and prevented from leaving as confusion reigns over the Trump administration’s policy of forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their applications proceed. The migrants have not yet been allowed to even present themselves at a U.S. port of entry to begin the asylum process, as Mexican authorities apparently want to prevent a rush of asylum-seekers all doing so at once. According to reports from Inside the facility, detainees are facing biting cold and food shortages in prison-like conditions, despite seeking humanitarian status. The Daily Beast
Washington — Immigration Provisions in Spending Bill, TPS for Venezuela, Questions Over Force-Feeding, Sessions’ Immigration “Obsession”
While Congressional Democrats failed to get an ICE detention bed cap into the ultimate spending bill negotiated with their GOP counterparts, they did manage to include several provisions designed to increase ICE oversight. One provision provides increased appropriations for inspections of Department of Homeland Security facilities that house detained immigrants, in light of concerns over their safety and services for immigrants. Others stipulate that funds cannot be used to prevent members of Congress from entering facilities with children, would prevent the destruction of DHS records, would limit the restraint of pregnant women, and would prevent ICE from using background check information of potential unaccompanied child sponsors for enforcement purposes in most cases. Yahoo News
As lawmakers and some advocacy groups push the federal administration to enact Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan nationals, documents show officials within the State Department have seriously weighed recommending such a move. Although DHS has the ultimate say on whether to institute the designation, the State Department has a good deal of influence over the process. The Daily Beast
Former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, who is on a media tour promoting his memoir, said in an interview Tuesday that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to whom he reported, had an “obsessive focus” on immigration and would bring the topic up in unrelated conversations. During his tenure, Sessions enacted multiple policy shifts designed to make it more difficult for people to immigrate to the United States. Newsweek
A group of 49 lawmakers have sent a letter to DHS’ Inspector General, asking the office to investigate reports that ICE detainees were force-fed by the agency after going on a hunger strike. The practice was halted after a ruling by a U.S. district court judge. The U.N. had expressed concerns over the force-feeding earlier this month, saying the U.S. could be in violation of the Convention Against Torture. Associated Press