In what seems like another attempt to control the massive immigration court backlog, the Justice Department has instructed immigration judges to prioritize the completion of family unit asylum cases. Judges in 10 cities, including New York, say they were instructed last year to complete their FAMU cases in one year or less, prompting them to bump other cases from their dockets to prioritize these ones.
Asylum cases typically need meticulous planning, and require claimants to gather documentation including police reports, witness statements, and news reports. With this case rush, attorneys worry they’re not able to guarantee a full and fair defense to their clients, leading them to clash with judges who are pressured to move the cases along. On the flip side, people whose cases are pushed back for family prioritization say they’ve lost witnesses and their own memories, jeopardizing their defenses.
On its face, the prioritization is supposed to clear cases quickly as record numbers of asylum-seeking families show up at the Southern border. Yet some attorneys believe it’s another attempt to dissuade families from crossing the border and claiming asylum.
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Brooklyn Councilmember Kicked Off Immigration Committee After Palestine Controversy
Kalman Yeger, a Democrat on the New York City Council representing parts of South Brooklyn, is being removed from the Committee on Immigration following a controversy over his comments on Palestine. Yeger recently tweeted “Palestine does not exist” in response to a Bklyner reporter. He did apologize for the comment nor denounce a protest held in support of him, even though several backers harassed the Bklyner reporter, who is Muslim. A spokesman for Council Speaker Corey Johnson said there had been consensus among Council leadership that Yeger should not continue his committee role. The Rules Committee needs to vote on his removal, followed by the full Council. Yeger said Johnson could run the Council as he saw fit, but blamed political correctness for his ouster. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
One Day to Protect New Yorkers in Final State Budget
A long-stalled bill that reduces the maximum jail sentence for certain Class A misdemeanor offenses to 364 days as opposed to 365 days is included in the finalized state budget. It may seem like a minor change, but The One Day to Protect New Yorkers Act would spare some noncitizens the possibility of deportation. Current federal law says immigrants convicted of crimes with a possible one-year sentence are subject to removability, even if they actually did not receive such a sentence. Class A misdemeanors run the gamut from certain sexual offenses and stalking to graffiti and false advertising. The bill failed several times in the formerly GOP-controlled Senate. The Queens Daily Eagle.
See a list of Class A misdemeanors in the state.
Arrest of Man Facing Rape Charges Prompts Local Scrutiny of Non-Cooperation Law
In Westchester County, ICE arrested a man facing third-degree rape charges after county officials refused to honor an ICE detainer and released him. This has prompted national controversy because the state’s highest appellate court recently ruled that local officials honoring ICE detainers violated state law. The local ICE field office’s head derided the county, but County Executive George Latimer said the county would not arbitrarily modify its ICE compliance standards just because of what this individual man was accused of. Latimer signed the noncompliance law last year, after a similar measure had passed a county board but was vetoed by Latimer’s GOP predecessor Rob Astorino. The Rockland/Westchester Journal News
Border Nonprofits Try to Deal With Mass Migrant Releases
As the number of migrants — and particularly families — arriving at the Southern border continues to grow, local nonprofits are struggling to provide housing and services for the hundreds of people released by border officials every day without much food, money, or guidance. The executive director of Annunciation House, an El Paso nonprofit, is looking to lease a warehouse to house more migrants after the nonprofit’s own shelters — two dozen affiliated churches and four budget motels — have filled up. He estimates he could soon be receiving 1,000 people a day. The Washington Post
Ohio Localities Receive Millions from ICE for Jail Services
City and County governments in Ohio were collectively paid at least $23.6 million between 2013 and 2017 for providing detention services to federal immigration authorities. When asked, several local government officials admitted their budgets had become reliant on ICE’s yearly injection of cash in exchange for the use of their local jails. Many of the jails have much more space than is necessary to deal with local incarcerated people. Yet many also are not built to hold people in long-term detention and lack the medical personnel to do so safely. Cleveland.com
Mexican Government’s Policies Might Increase Migration from Central America
The newly implemented government of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is working with the U.S. government to restrict Central Americans’ access to the U.S. border and letting the U.S. return asylum seekers to Mexican territory as they await immigration court hearings. Yet it is also easing up on deportations and granting more humanitarian visas, aiming to eventually incorporate some of the asylum-seekers into the Mexican economy. This forgiving attitude may lead more potential migrants to head for asylum in America, though they’ll only find the U.S. and Mexico are working to block them from doing so. The New York Times
U.S. On Pace to Resettle Fewer Refugees Than Annual Cap Allows
America’s cap on the number of refugees it allows to resettle was set at 30,000 for the 2019 fiscal year, the lowest ceiling since the refugee program was created. Yet the current pace of resettlements suggests even this number will not be met, as the U.S. has taken in only 12,099 refugees since the fiscal year began Oct. 1. Maintaining this trajectory means the country will have received only 25,000 refugees in the fiscal year, far below the average of almost 79,000 yearly refugees under previous administrations. This slowdown is occurring even as the number of refugees remains at historic highs globally. ABC News
Migration Protection Protocols to be Expanded and CBP Agents Reassigned
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has ordered the expansion of the Migration Protection Protocols, which forces many non-Mexican asylum-seekers to return to Mexico as their asylum claims are adjudicated. The program is already active at several ports of entry in California and Texas, and the expansion will lead to the forced return of “hundreds of additional migrants per day,” Nielsen said. She has also ordered 750 CBP to be reassigned to process migrants at the border as the surge of families arriving to claim asylum, either at ports of entry or by crossing the border and surrendering to U.S. personnel, continues. Politico
Washington — Castro’s Immigration Plan, Trump’s ‘Immigration Czar,’ Closing the Border
Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has become the first Democratic 2020 primary contender to release a detailed immigration plan. While he joins his rivals in endorsing permanent solutions for DREAMers and TPS holders, Castro goes much further in calling for statutes making unauthorized entry a federal crime to be taken off the books, and for the removal operations portion of ICE to be disbanded and its functions re-distributed. In essence, Castro is calling for the modern immigration enforcement system to be fully dismantled, and immigration reoriented out of the purview of crime and national security. VoxPresident Trump is reportedly considering former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for the position of public-facing immigration ‘czar,’ who would coordinate a unified administration immigration plan in the face of what he views as a sustained immigration crisis. Both Cuccinelli and Kobach — who helped run Trump’s now-defunct voter integrity commission — are known for hard-right views on immigration. Associated Press
Trump continued his threat to “close” the Southern border, even if it meant damaging the economy. The New York Times
Presidential son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner is acting as a ‘sounding board’ for legal immigration reform, with a focus on revamping the way employment and skill-based visas are distributed. CNN
Senior House Republicans have questioned Trump’s plan to cut aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, echoing expert concerns that such a move would only increase outmigration from those countries. Reuters
The Department of Homeland Security has sent a formal request to the Canadian government to reexamine the two nations’ Safe Third Country agreement, which allows each country to return migrants arriving from the other if they attempt to enter through a port of entry without documentation, even if claiming asylum. The Globe and Mail
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