Even though driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants did not ultimately make it into the finalized state budget, supporters still intend to push for it as standalone legislation. In particular, upstate farmworkers, who live in a region where supermarkets, medical offices, and schools are seldom within walking distance or reachable by public transit, are the face of the ongoing campaign to put the measure before Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Cuomo has said he will sign it, though he has refused to implement the measure unilaterally, as predecessor Eliot Spitzer attempted.
With a fully Democratic state government for the first time in decades, immigration activists see an ideal political moment for implementing the proposal that has been tossed around in Albany for over a decade. State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx), the main sponsor of the legislation, told Documented this week he believes passing licenses for all is closer than many observers political observers expect.
The campaign secured a prominent ally in the form of Harlem Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D), who this week endorsed the proposal. NY1 reporter Zack Fink tweeted yesterday that sources in Albany said the measure had secured 30 votes in the State Senate out of a needed 32.
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Federal Judge Rules SIJ Petitions Must be Re-adjudicated
Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York ruled yesterday against the federal government, which had argued that New York Family Court judges did not have the authority or jurisdiction to let young immigrants between 18 and 21 qualify for federal Special Immigrant Juvenile status. The designation lets abused or abandoned immigrants up to 21 to apply for legal status and a path to residency and citizenship. The status’ requirements include a certification from a local state family court, and since the government decided family courts no longer had jurisdiction over people above 18, they couldn’t present this certification. The judge has now ordered that young immigrants with pending cases or who were denied as a result of this policy be informed of their class status and have their cases re-adjudicated. Courthouse News Service
Only 287(g) Agreement in the State to be Renewed
Rensselaer County Sheriff Patrick Russo has announced that he intends to renew his office’s 287(g) agreement with ICE in June. The agreement allows some of his officers, namely guards at the county jail, to run immigration checks on people who have been arrested in the county and inform ICE on their status. Russo’s office joined the program last year, and he remains the only sheriff in the state to participate in it. The program doesn’t bring any revenue to the county, and other local officials have criticized the county’s involvement in the program. The Times Union
Activists Unable to Question Bergen County ICE Revenue, Will Do So Next Week
Immigration activists went to the Bergen County Freeholder Board’s annual sheriff’s budget hearing in Hackensack yesterday, hoping to question local legislators about the money ICE gives the county for housing immigration detainees in its local jail. The county has had a contract with the federal government to hold immigration detainees for almost two decades, but revenues from this agreement increased sharply as detention climbed under the Trump administration. Activists want this year’s estimated $16 million profit to be used to improve detainee conditions, but they were unable to question freeholders Tuesday because there was no public comment period. They expect to raise the issue at next Wednesday’s meeting. The North Jersey Record
Seeing Others Seek Asylum, More Cubans Trekking to Border
Cubans no longer enjoy the special immigration treatment they had for decades under the so-called “wet food, dry foot” policy, which let those who reached U.S. soil, no matter their status, to apply for residency within a year. The program was ended in 2017 by then-President Barack Obama, but many have since seen news of migrant caravans forming in Central America and join them or seek asylum another way in the United States. In the northern Mexican city of Juárez, Cubans make up about 75 to 80 percent of the roughly 3,600 migrants awaiting the chance to claim asylum in the United States, according to the director of the state commission for population. Reuters
Restaurant Employees Say ICE Took Valuable Possessions Without Explanation
The employees of a now-shuttered restaurant in Crofton, Maryland, say ICE agents searched their homes and took money, passports, green cards and cell phones, and arrested three people without any explanation. A spokesperson for ICE said an investigation was ongoing, and that she could not reveal any more details about why Osaka Grill & Buffet was targeted. A group of the mostly Chinese workers gathered outside of the closed restaurant over the weekend, pleading for donations and legal assistance. The employees were supposed to get paid on the day of the ICE searches. The Capital Gazette
Three Lawmakers Denied Access to Florida Children’s Shelter
Democratic Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala were denied entry to a facility used by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to house unaccompanied minors from the border. The congressmembers had been attempting to inspect the Florida facility, seeing as it’s headed for another planned expansion despite being one of the largest such shelters in the country and despite a documented history of understaffing, lack of space, and lack of services. The legislators announced they would pursue legal action for the refusal, citing a recently enacted law that lets members of Congress oversee conditions at these facilities. NBC 5
Increase in Courthouse Detentions Around Washington State
Advocates and attorneys in Washington have observed an increasing number of immigration arrests in and around courthouses as local jurisdictions diminish their cooperation with ICE. There have been reports of not just ICE but Border Patrol making arrests, even far from the border, and reports that say these agents refuse to respond to questions from attorneys or intended targets. In a civil rights complaint filed last year, one person claimed a plainclothes officer eavesdropped on an entire conversation they had with their attorney inside the courthouse and later arrested then. Some court administrations, including the King County Superior Court and the Seattle Municipal Court, have instituted policies prohibiting most such arrests. Crosscut
As California Localities Cancel Detention Contracts, Private Providers Step in
Following the passage of a recent California law that prevents local governments from expanding their ICE detention contracts, some localities have decided to terminate their contracts to hold immigration detainees altogether. In areas such as Contra Costa and Orange County with public facilities, ICE will be forced to abandon their revoked detention space. But where detention facilities are owned by a private prison company, ICE can simply sign an agreement directly with the provider. That could happen in Adelanto, which has taken steps to end its contract with ICE for a 1,900-bed detention center owned by detention behemoth GEO Group. Associated Press
Washington — Trump Lambasted, Yet Doubles Down; Migrant Protection Protocols Blocked
President Trump’s recent immigration moves and announcements have received enormous backlash, including from constituencies that might otherwise have been allies in immigration restrictionism:
- Five former military commanders who each at some point served as chief of the U.S. Southern Command — a post once held by former Chief of Staff John Kelly — have come out against Trump’s effort to cut off aid to Northern Triangle countries, saying such a move will make the problem worse. Vox
- Former ICE Acting Director John Sandweg lambasted the president’s musings that the country should get rid of immigration judges — an idea that Trump seemed to launch off the cuff during a press conference last week — as “the single dumbest idea I have ever heard in terms of dealing with this current crisis.” HuffPost
- Responding to Trump’s de facto firing of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and a report in The New York Times that he was planning on getting rid of a number of other DHS officials at the behest of xenophobic adviser Stephen Miller, Congressional Republicans have told the president to cool it. Several expressed disappointment at Nielsen’s departure, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) warned Trump not to get rid of USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna. Politico, The Washington Post
Nonetheless, the president continues doubling down on his full-court immigration restrictionism push. The administration is reportedly planning to roll out initiatives to make seeking asylum more difficult, including by making border agents in charge of credible fear interviews, which are the first step in an asylum petition. NBC News
Trump did deny that he was considering reinstating a family separation policy. The Guardian
The president also reportedly told border agents to violate the law by not allowing asylum-seekers into the country and ignore judges’ rulings on the matter during a visit to the Calexico port of entry last week. “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room,” Trump told border agents to say. CNN
The administration’s policy of forcing some asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration court hearings has been struck down by a federal judge. BuzzFeed News
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