New York and New Jersey Attorney Generals joined 19 other states in in support of a class-action lawsuit against the Trump administration, saying one of its policies illegally denies asylum at ports of entry.
In the 2017 lawsuit, nonprofit legal services provider Al Otro Lado alleges that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had adopted a systemic “turnback policy” along the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent asylum seekers from entering. The federal government denies there was any “officially sanctioned policy” to systematically deny asylum seekers.
The lawsuit goes on to argue that CBP has used various methods to deny access to the asylum process, including, “misrepresentations, threats and intimidation, coercion, verbal and physical abuse.” It also highlights a practice known as “metering,” which places an artificial daily limit on the number of asylum-seekers allowed to cross the border.
The amicus brief was filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and 19 other states. California is leading the suit, and that’s also where the suit was originally brought. NJ.com
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Federal Judge asks for Ladder and Statue of Liberty Visit Before Sentencing Climber
The federal judge responsible for sentencing Therese Okoumou, the woman who climbed the Statue of Liberty in an Abolish ICE protest, made an unusual request during her trial: He wants to scale the statue to better understand the risks she took. In a Wednesday court order, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein requested a ladder and access to the area where Okoumou climbed. Okoumou was found guilty in December of misdemeanor charges in relation to her July 4 climb. Gorenstein said in the order that climbing the statue will help him “better appreciate the risks or hazards created by defendant’s conduct.” NBC New York
Immigration Dominates Upstate Congressman’s Town Halls
Republican Rep. Tom Reed, who represents New York’s 23rd District, has spent a lot of time discussing President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. At an event in Gorton, New York, Reed said the president was addressing a “legit crisis” at the border, but added that he wanted to limit presidential national emergency declarations. Reed, who remains fairly in line with Trump, stated his opposition to family separations via the government’s now-defunct “zero-tolerance” policy. But he cited “the broken immigration system” as the real problem, and said most border crossers were not asylum seekers but potentially a “security risk to our citizens.” Ithaca.com
Tompkins County Legislature To Consider Call for Driver’s Licenses for All
A committee vote on Thursday advanced legislation that would support expanding access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in the Tompkins County Legislature. Similar legislation recently passed in the New York City Council as pressure grows on New York state’s Legislature to pass the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act. That act would allow Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a driver’s licenses without requiring a social security number. The Tompkins County Sheriff has expressed support for the resolution. Twelve states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have passed laws that allow residents to access driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. The Ithaca Voice
Father Sues to Allow Daughter who Joined ISIS to Return
The father of Hoda Muthana, an American-born woman who joined the Islamic State terrorist group, launched a lawsuit to bring her back to the U.S. after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said she’s not a citizen. Ahmed Ali Muthana was a Yemeni diplomat when Hoda was born in New Jersey, limiting her from the 14th amendment’s promise of citizenship for anyone born on U.S. soil — except for the children of diplomats. Muthana’s lawyers contend he had resigned his post as a diplomat and was living in New Jersey as a legal permanent resident when Hoda was born. VOA
Deported Transgender Woman Killed in El Salvador after Failed Asylum Attempt
Camila Díaz Córdova, a 29-year old transgender woman, died Feb. 3 after seeking asylum in the U.S. and being deported. Doctors told Díaz Córdova’s friend that she was either brutally attacked or struck by a vehicle. According to ICE, Díaz Córdova had requested asylum in the summer of 2017 as she faced threats from gangs, but she had been deported by November 2017. She stayed in a LGBT center in Tijuana on her journey to the border. UN reports show that the majority of LGBT asylum seekers suffer sexual and gender-based violence in their home countries and when they enter Mexico. BuzzFeed News
Native Americans Push Back Against Tighter Border Restrictions
At late January’s Tribal Border Summit, an annual meeting of Indigenous communities from across the Western Hemisphere, in Tucson, Arizona, North America’s native communities discussed freedom of movement. Approximately 40 tribes’ territories straddle the U.S. borders, north and south. They have long moved freely across the border. They argued Trump’s border wall would threaten their territorial rights, among many other things. The summit laid out a number of key demands for trans-border Native communities, including firmer guidelines for border patrol. The Nation
Complications Arise in Denaturalization Case
Parvez Khan is the latest defendant targeted under the Department of Justice’s Operation Janus, which is an attempt to denaturalize potentially thousands of U.S. citizens the government argues obtained their citizenship through fraudulent immigration applications. The DOJ argues that the Pakistani-born Khan changed his name before applying for a green card to conceal a deportation order issued against him. Khan argues he never knew about the order due to poor interpreter and an shoddy lawyer. He was among the first three indictments officially announced in Operation Janus, but he is the only one to fight his case. The Intercept
Judge Grants Citizenship to Twin Son of Gay Couple
A 2-year-old now has one more thing in common with his twin sibling: They now both have U.S. passports. The State Department on Thursday reversed its previous refusal to grant U.S. citizenship to 2-year-old Ethan Dvash-Banks, the son of a gay couple living in California, because he did not have a “biological relationship” with his U.S. parent. The boys were conceived with sperms from each father, one of whom is an Israeli citizen while the other is American. The State Department had denied citizenship to the children of a number of same-sex couples in a similar position, leading to the lawsuit filed last year by Immigration Equality. The Associated Press
Washington — Democrats Attempt to Block Trump’s Declaration, ICE Mostly Detains Noncriminals, H-1B Visa Denials Increase
House Democrats announced they will vote Tuesday on a resolution to terminate President Trump’s national emergency proclamation. It has a slight chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate, but Trump has already promised a veto.
One of the bill’s main sponsors, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), said it will require historic unity to counteract the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the border. Some Republicans have expressed concern about the precedent Trump’s use of national declaration will set, with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) both indicating they could support the Democratic measure.
The president declared a national emergency on Feb. 15 to get more money for his proposed border wall after congressional Democrats refused to fund it in a budget bill. A coalition of 16 states filed a lawsuit against the administration to block the national emergency, saying it is a misuse of executive power. ABC News, Associated Press, BuzzFeed News
The president called a national emergency because the country was purportedly flooded with criminals coming across the southern border. New data from ICE, obtained by The Washington Post, has undermined this claim. As of Feb. 9, days before the president’s declaration, just under two-thirds of ICE detainees had not been convicted of any crime. While 18,124 of the 48,793 people in ICE detention on Feb. 9 had criminal records, an additional 5,715 had pending criminal charges, officials said. The severity of the crimes is not specified. An average of 59 percent of the detainees in custody during the fiscal year had no criminal history, according to ICE. The Washington Post
Additional data released on Friday indicated that delays of skilled worker visas is at a three-year high. Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services showed the government issued “initial denials” to over 61,000 H-1B applications in the 2018 fiscal year, double the number of denials over the prior year. This fiscal year looks set to be even higher, with 25,000 H-1B denials already issued in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019 — a 50 percent increase last year’s first-quarter total. USCIS says these increases are due to reforms aimed at prioritizing American workers and decreasing fraud. Reuters
Upcoming changes to the H-1B program also mean spouses of its recipients will no longer be able to work in the U.S. The proposed regulation to end work authorization for H-4 visa holders — spouse dependents of H-1B visa holders — moved forward to the Office of Management and Budget for review last week. The rule could still undergo a number of changes before its implementation and will likely face a 30-to-90 day public comment period. NBC News