A coalition of civil rights groups and voter advocacy organizations filed a lawsuit on Friday to block Rensselaer County from sharing voter registration data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Republicans in Rensselaer County said last week that the county Board of Elections planned on sharing voter information with ICE to see if any registered voters were undocumented. Democratic lawmakers in the county opposed the move.
The measure is considered backlash by local Republicans against the passage of the Green Light bill, which grants undocumented immigrants in New York the ability to get driver’s licenses. There is also a push to make Troy a sanctuary jurisdiction.
The Green Light bill goes into effect in December and prevents ICE from accessing driver’s license application records. However, county Boards of Elections are not specifically barred from sharing information.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that referring voter registration data will have a chilling effect on voter registration at the DMV, particularly for U.S. citizens from families with mixed immigration statuses. Republicans argue that the license law could lead to voter fraud and said the ICE check would act as a deterrent.
The groups in the suit include the New York Immigration Coalition, the New York chapter of Common Cause, Community Voices Heard, and Citizen Action of New York and are representing Jenifer Benn, an eligible voter from the county who says she is now fearful of voting.
Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola has separately filed a lawsuit against the state claiming he would not abide by the new law as it conflicts with his duty to uphold the law. Albany Times-Union, HuffPost
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New Immigration Courtrooms Under Construction
Six new immigration courtrooms are under construction at 290 Broadway in New York, The General Services Administration, which manages federal buildings, confirmed to The New York Daily News. The building is home to the offices for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Services. The new rooms are in addition to five courtrooms that were opened at the Varick Street Immigration Court which caused significant upheaval as judges moved and dockets were shifted with little notice to attorneys and immigrants whose cases were yet to be heard. Increased enforcement and new quotas placed on judges have put the already overburdened immigration courts under more stress. The New York Daily News
New EB-5 Investment Rule Hurts Real Estate Developers
New rules from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will make it harder for real estate developers in New York to fund their projects using EB-5 investor schemes. The program grants green cards to foreign investors who invest in businesses that create jobs in the U.S. The minimum amount of investment from foreigners needed to get a green card will now rise to $900,000 from $500,000. Interest in the program from China had already been waning and developers worry the new restrictions will spell its demise. The Department of Homeland Security will also now determine which areas are eligible for more favorable EB-5 investment rates. The Wall Street Journal
Albany County Jail No Longer Detaining Migrants
Albany’s county jail is no longer housing immigrant detainees after the county sheriff said he would refuse to take people arrested with an administrative warrant. Sheriff Craig Apple sent a letter to USCIS in April stating that he would limit who the jail would detain based on how they were arrested because sheriffs lack the authority to detain people arrested with administrative warrants. ICE typically make arrests using administrative warrants which are signed by senior employees at the agency, unlike judicial warrants which are signed by a judge. ICE confirmed that it is no longer sending detainees to the jail. Albany Times-Union
“Rocket Docket” Resulting in Increased In-Absentia Deportations
Immigrants on a fast-track deportation docket are experiencing a myriad of issues that often lead to them receiving a notice of deportation without ever making it to court. Last year, the administration created the “rocket docket” to speed the deportation of recently arrived migrants, which means their cases must be completed in one year. Of 64,000 cases that have been placed on the docket, 17,000 have been completed and 13,000 have resulted in an “in absentia” removal order, meaning the immigrant did not appear for their hearing. However, lawyers and advocates say that many immigrants never received their hearing notice due to clerical errors. Reuters
16 Marines Arrested for Smuggling Migrants
Sixteen Marines were arrested on Thursday for allegedly being part of a human smuggling operation to bring migrants from Mexico into the U.S. Two Marines were arrested on July 3 by Border Patrol agents after picking up three migrants on a desert highway in Southern California. The Marines were recruited by a man who would meet with them in a parking lot next to a Whole Foods supermarket. The increased border enforcement has driven up the cost of smuggling and attracted new individuals to the trade. The three Mexicans who were smuggled by the Marines told authorities that they paid $8,000 to be smuggled north. The New York Times
Detention Centers Receive Positive Reviews
“Detainees were satisfied with all conditions of their confinement.” That was the March 2019 assessment of the Rio Grande Detention Center in Laredo, Texas by the Nakamoto Group, a Maryland company employed by the federal government to inspect immigration detention centers. A review of the group’s past reports show that it has rarely reported bad news about conditions at the facilities, some of which are privately run. Their conclusions often run counter to independent reports done at a similar time. Kaiser Health News via The Los Angeles Times
Viral Image Sparks Headlines in Mexico
An image of a woman pleading with a Mexican National Guard solider to allow her and her son to cross the US–Mexico border went viral last week. The image shows Guatemalan mother Ledy Pérez sobbing while she holds her six-year-old son Anthony Diaz and begs a soldier to allow her to cross into the U.S. Perez is seen sobbing and embracing her son who is staring down the heavily armed guards. It has sparked headlines in Mexico where the Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that Perez said, “Don’t let them send me back … I just want a better life for my son.” The Guardian
Judge Allows Lawsuit on Travel Ban Waivers to Move Forward
A San Francisco judge on Thursday allowed a pair of cases challenging the U.S. government’s approach to issuing visa waivers to the Trump administration’s travel ban to move forward. The ban blocks citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from getting visas to come to the U.S., however, the program is intended to include a waiver for certain individuals from the banned countries. The plaintiffs argue that the process of obtaining a waiver is opaque as only 6% of applicants from the 50,000 who applied from banned Muslim-majority countries have been cleared for visas. On Thursday, the judge rejected an attempt by the government to throw out the suit. KQED
Guatemala Signs Asylum Agreement, SCOTUS Grants Trump Border Wall Win, Senator Helps Asylum Seeker
The U.S. and Guatemala signed a “safe third country” agreement on Friday, in a stunning turn of events after the deal looked all but dead.
The agreement would require people who travel through Guatemala to seek asylum there first and allow the U.S. government to deport those asylum seekers – mainly people from Honduras and El Salvador – back to Guatemala.
American officials said the agreement would kick in within weeks but critics argued that it would face a court challenge, as Guatemala cannot be considered a safe country to send migrants back to. If successful, the deal would all but halt asylum seekers from coming to the US–Mexico border.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was originally set to sign the agreement earlier in July but was blocked by a court order that stated any “safe third country” agreement with the U.S. would need to be approved by the country’s legislators. Trump was furious at Morales’s U-turn and threatened the country with tariffs, a travel ban and a tax on remittances by Guatemalan migrants – a large portion of the country’s economy.
On Friday, Trump was joined by Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart to sign the agreement in the Oval Office. Guatemalan politicians were caught off-guard by the move.
The text doesnotinclude the phrase “safe third country” agreement, which appears to be a move by Morales, who will leave office in January, to sidestep the court order. The New York Times
Guatemalan activists have alreadybegun protesting the deal as hundreds gathered on Saturday in front of the presidential palace in Guatemala City. They called on Morales to resign for caving to U.S. demands. The Associated Press
Trump scored another victory on Friday as the Supreme Court granted the president permission to use Pentagon money to construct the border wall. In a 5-4 ruling, the court overturned a lower court decision that blocked the administration from using the funds while litigation was pending. This means the administration can move ahead while the lawsuit works its way through the courts back to the Supreme Court in months or longer. The court’s conservative justices issued a one-paragraph ruling that stated the plaintiffs did not have the legal right to challenge the administration. The plaintiffs will now seek to expedite the case but the ruling indicates that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority will likely side with the president in the end. The New York Times
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) took a pregnant woman with him to a port of entry at El Paso, Tex. to seek asylum on Saturday. Wyden met the woman in a shelter in Juarez, Mexico on Saturday during a visit to the border. She is 38 weeks pregnant and suffering complications. The senator and his staff decided to take the woman, her husband and 3-year old son to a port of entry to make an asylum claim and get them to a Texas hospital. They were initially told by Customs and Border Protection agents, “We’re full,” and denied entry. Wyden stepped in and told the officer that as Mexicans they were exempt from the “metering” program and they were eventually allowed through. The Washington Post
Meanwhile, Trump continues to fume over the coverage of the ongoing replacement of the border wall. According to Politico, Trump told Senate Republicans that the “The media is wrong. The wall is being built.” The Senate is set to pass a two-year budget agreement that will avoid a default but it does not address the funding of the border wall, which led to the longest shutdown in U.S. history during the last budget negotiations. Republicans are in the dark as to whether Trump will demand money for the border in the upcoming negotiations. Politico
Border Patrol’s chief of law enforcement Brian Hastings walked back a statement from his testimony to the House hearing on Thursday on HIV-positive migrants. He said in a statement to The Hill on Friday that families will not be separated if a family member is HIV-positive as it does not present “additional considerations.” The Hill
A group of Senate Democrats sent a letter on Friday to acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan raising concerns about immigration detention centers on the southern border and demanding solutions. The request includes 18 requests for information provided by Aug. 1. North Jersey Record
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