Once a steady source of income and a stable investment, taxi medallions have plunged in value over the past several years, leading to a spate of driver suicides. While Uber and Lyft’s New York City surge seemed to be the main cause, The New York Times found that a handful of industry leaders artificially inflated the price of taxi medallions and created a bubble that is finally bursting.
From 2002 to 2014, the price of the medallion rose from around $200,000 to over $1 million. Drivers’ income has barely budged in that time. Yet per the Times report, industry leaders still continued to push thousands of drivers toward reckless loans, netting hundreds of millions of dollars before the medallion market collapsed. Banks and private lenders OK’d these risky loans and allowed drivers to refinance them as they took on crushing debt. The patterns closely reflected what happened in the 2008 financial crisis, and even some big banks slammed in the recession entered the taxi medallion industry.
The Times investigation found many examples of drivers trapped in these exploitative loans. A Pakistani immigrant ended up with a $780,000 medallion loan when he thought he was just buying a car. A Bangladeshi immigrant said he was told to lie about his income on the application. These practices are not necessarily illegal, but experts say they are on par with, if not worse than, what happened in the 2008 housing market. The New York Times
Advocates Call for More Immigrant Program Funding
Immigrant advocates rallied last week to push New York City to earmark more money for programs that service the city’s immigrant community ahead of the city’s $92 billion budget allocation for fiscal year 2020. Steve Choi, director of the New York Immigration Coalition, called for the mayor to expand language program access, improve adult literacy programs, ensure access to legal counsel and healthcare and help conduct an accurate 2020 Census. Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, said immigrant program cuts in the New York state budget meant the city needed to pick up the slack. El Diario via Voices of NY
ICE Arrests 13 People Across New Jersey
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested 13 people in four days last week across New Jersey, the agency announced last Friday. The agency said it targeted immigrants with criminal histories or pending charges and who had orders of removal issued in the past five years. Some of the people arrested will face prosecution for illegally re-entering the country. ICE stressed in a release the arrested people had prior criminal histories, as they have in previous raids. ICE has arrested 1,543 immigrants in New Jersey from mid-October through April, 506 of whom had pending criminal charges, according to an agency spokesperson. North Jersey Record
New Bill Would Crack Down on Employer Immigration Status Reporting
A proposed New York state bill would make it a misdemeanor for employers to report their employees for being in the country illegally to federal authorities. The bill would make threatening to report or reporting their employees or members of their family a Class B misdemeanor, a type of retaliation. The bill was originally sponsored by assemblyman Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx) but Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) formally submitted it on Wednesday. The bill is aimed at addressing “predatory employers” who steal their employees wages and sexually harass them, often exploiting them by threatening to expose their legal status to federal authorities. Newsday
More Americans are Moving to Mexico
While Republican politicians decry a supposed surge in immigrants moving to the U.S., the reverse may actually be true. Fewer Mexicans have been moving to the U.S. while more are returning home. Around 799,000 U.S.-born people live in Mexico, the Mexico Statistics Institute estimates, but the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City says it could be 1.5 million or more. The Americans in Mexico are a mixed group, including 600,000 U.S. born kids who have returned to be with their retired and aging parents. Associated Press
Border Patrol Agent Calls Migrants “Unworthy of Being Kindling for a Fire”
Matthew Bowen, a Border Patrol agent in Nogales, Ariz. called the people he apprehends “disgusting subhuman s— unworthy of being kindling for a fire.” He called for President Trump to “PLEASE let us take the gloves off.” These statements were made in a text message from Bowen, who is accused of hitting a Guatemalan man with his Border Patrol vehicle in 2017 and then lying about the incident in a report. If presented in a trial, Bowen’s defense lawyer wrote he would argue Bowen’s language is “commonplace throughout the Border Patrol Tucson Sector” and “that it is part of the agency’s culture, and therefore says nothing about Mr. Bowen’s mindset.”Arizona Daily Star
Government May Fly Families From Border to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo
The Border Patrol said it would fly hundreds of migrant families from south Texas to San Diego and that it was considering flying them to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo. The flights show that the agency is struggling to keep up with the large numbers of Central American families it apprehends on the southern border. Flights from South Texas to San Diego began on Friday and will continue indefinitely three times per week, carrying 120 to 135 people on each flight. Plans for planes heading to the other cities are still preliminary. Associated Press
Florida Lawmakers Push Back on Plan to Receive Asylum Seekers
Florida officials are not happy with the Department of Homeland Security’s plan to send 1,000 “unlawful immigrants and asylum-seekers” to two heavily Democratic counties. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said the plan was “not acceptable” and that “this is not something that came down from the White House. This was something that came out of the agencies.” A CBP official said 1000 asylum seekers would be brought from El Paso to Broward and Palm Beach Counties for release pending an asylum hearing. Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen suggested they house the asylum seekers in Trump hotels. NBC News, HuffPost
Mexican Government Helped US Spy on Journalists and Advocates
Mexican Federal Police helped the U.S. surveil journalists, attorneys and others at the two countries’ border, according to a new report. “CBP partnered with the Government of Mexico [to] address developing threats,” a letter from Randy Howe, Executive Director of Field Operations for CBP, stated. “A number of journalists and photographers were identified by Mexican Federal Police as possibly assisting migrants in crossing the border illegally and/or as having some level of participation in the violent incursion events,” the later continued. Top Mexican officials, including President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, previously said their government wasn’t involved in the surveillance effort. NBC San Diego
An Increasing Number of Immigrants are Becoming Citizens
Despite the intensifying crackdown on immigrants from the federal government, and larger number of immigrants became U.S. citizens in fiscal year 2018 than 2017. About 15 percent more people became citizens, according to the latest data from the Department of Homeland Security. The largest year-to-year increase happened in the first quarter of 2018. Many applied to citizenship in the past years in order to qualify for benefits and vote in local and federal elections. The application includes a $725 fee and a citizenship test. Quartz
Washington — Stephen Miller Spars with DHS Secretary, Gillibrand Says She Won’t Use Detention, Trump Requests More Money for Unaccompanied Minors
White House Adviser Stephen Miller was thwarted in another attempted to shake up the Department of Homeland Security last week. President Trump has picked Mark Morgan as his next head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but Miller him to switch Morgan to Customs and Border Patrol instead, The Washington Post reports.
Kevin McAleenan, the department’s acting secretary, said he might leave his post unless Miller steps back, sparking what one administration official called an “immigration knife fight.” Despite Miller’s protests, Morgan will take over as acting ICE director next week, federal officials say. Miller wanted current acting ICE director Matthew Albence to take the spot. The spat happened amid an ever-worsening border situation and just as Trump introduced his own immigration overhaul plan. The Washington Post
If elected president, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) says she would not use the detention system for immigrants. “They don’t need to be incarcerated,” Gillibrand said of immigrants in an interview with CBS News, adding that iIf they are given a lawyer and given a process, they will follow it. They can go into the community in the way we used to handle these cases under the Department of Justice.” This is a far cry from Gillibrand’s immigration positions in her days as a more conservative state lawmaker. Politico
The Trump administration has told Congress that the flow of unaccompanied migrant children has increased and that it needs an additional $1.4 billion to provide housing and care. This request comes on top of the $2.9 billion it previously asked for to deal with the influx. The administration has already reallocated almost $400 million to spend on the children and requested $2.9 billion to increase shelter capacity to 23,600 beds. But given the administration’s assertion that the number of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. grew more than 57 percent in the last year, it wants to up that request even further. The New York Times
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