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Early Arrival: Republicans Defend Clerks Fighting Green Light Law

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: Advocacy Groups Seek To Fight NY County Clerks — Inspector General Details Zero Tolerance Trauma — Asylum Head Reassigned, Border Crossings Drop

Republican lawmakers are intensifying their opposition to the Green Light NY law with proposed legislation that would protect court clerks who refuse to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Senate Minority Leader John J. Flanagan (R-Smithtown) introduced legislation earlier this week, saying it would help state employees “do the right thing and enforce federal immigration law.”  Legislation was previously introduced to allow the state to punish clerks who disobey the law.

After a battle that spanned several decades, the Green Light NY bill was finally signed into law earlier this summer. It’ll let undocumented immigrants apply for and receive New York State driver’s licenses when it goes into effect at the end of this year. Yet Republican lawmakers, county clerks and other state government officials have pushed back against the law, with some even filing challenges to it in federal court. Advocates have meanwhile criticized the state for not having a clear plan as to how the licenses will be issued — a major point of contention for Green Light opposers as well.

Flanagan’s bill has earned support from state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Babylon), state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy. They said their main fear was that the licenses could allow undocumented immigrants to register to vote. “This bill is so important because it protects the average worker in New York state, those DMV employees who are between a rock and a hard place,” Boyle said. Times Union

Hello, this is Max Siegelbaum and Mazin Sidahmed with today’s edition of Early Arrival. You can email us at max.siegelbaum@documentedny.com and mazin.sidahmed@documentedny.com.

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Advocacy Groups Seek To Fight NY County Clerks

A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups has filed a motion to become defendants in a lawsuit challenging New York’s Green Light NY law, which will go into effect in December. Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns filed the suit, saying the law conflicts with federal statute. Current defendants are Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), State Attorney General Letitia James (D) and Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark Schroeder. The coalition includes the Rural and Migrant Ministry, the New York Immigration Coalition and the Hispanic Federation, as well as several individuals. They all say they should be able to participate as they are impacted directly by the issue. Spectrum News

AG James Calls for More Information on Medical Deferrals

New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter Wednesday alongside attorneys general from 19 other states to Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Matthew Albence, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The letter concerns the two officials’ attempt to end a policy of deferring deportations for individuals with serious medical conditions, telling people benefitting from the policy to leave in 33 days. The attorneys general are seeking confirmation that USCIS terminated consideration of deferred action requests. Civil rights groups are also suing over the policy’s end. The Hill

Catholics Protest Immigration Policy in New Jersey

Hundreds of Catholics protested outside an ICE office in Newark, New Jersey on Wednesday to call for the end of the federal government’s detention of migrant children and families. Newark’s archbishop Cardinal Joseph Tobin joined the demonstrators, blessing the crowd and leading them in the recitation of the rosary. About 50 people risked arrest by blocking traffic and holding photos of children who died in federal custody. “As a nation, we must come together for immigration reform which defends the family, protects human dignity and enshrines the sacredness of life,” Tobin said. HuffPost


Inspector General Details Zero Tolerance Trauma

Some children believed their parents abandoned them. One boy thought his father had been killed and he was next. The children told doctors “every heartbeat hurts,” or “I can’t feel my heart” — physical manifestations of extreme mental trauma. A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services office of inspector general’s office describes all of these accounts from migrant children who were separated from their families. Separated children overall “exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment and post-traumatic stress than children who were not separated,” the report said. A child psychiatrist also said that even when reunited with their parents, children may never outgrow this trauma. The Guardian

Michigan Organizations Team Up to Make Up for Federal Funding Cuts

Past and current immigration policies under President Trump are shrinking the refugee program, in turn reducing federal funding for local groups, a report from the Southeast Michigan Immigrant and Refugee Funder Collaborative shows. So the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has joined with two other groups to ensure refugee support groups can continue to provide essential service. They’ve committed $450,000 over the next two years to address major funding shortcomings identified in the report, including for medical assistance.

Video Explainers Cause Court Delays

The Trump administration’s new policy of replacing in-person interpreters with informational videos has already begun to cause delays and confusion in San Francisco. Under the new policy — which has been slowly rolled since in July in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and New York — immigrants no longer have in-person interpreters for their first hearings. Observers in San Francisco said the policy has caused delays to hearings as the 20-minute video contains a number of technical legal advisories that are not applicable to all cases. Translations are also only offered in Spanish, so translators for other languages need to be reached via phone conference. San Francisco Chronicle

Migrants Build Their Own Shelter

A group of Central American migrants built their own shelter in Tijuana in response to a shortage of space in the border town. Named “Casa Hogar Del Puente,” it is specifically for women and children asylum seekers who were returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which allows CBP agents to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico during their immigration proceedings. The shelter’s founders Michael Rodriguez and Douglas Oviedo are both from Honduras and say they were sick of staying in overcrowded shelters where they were victims of verbal abuse. They chose to make it for people who were subject MPP, as those people often lose their housing when they go for hearings. San Diego Union-Tribune

Handful of Separated Parents Allowed Back to the U.S.

A judge ordered Wednesday that 11 parents deported without their children can return to the U.S. to seek asylum. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who is overseeing the family separation litigation, found these 11 families had expressed a fear of returning to their home countries but were denied purely due to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy. Sabraw found that they were unlawfully removed. Before he ordered all the families be reunited, 471 mothers and fathers were separated from their children and then deported. The judge said he would only issue removal orders unlawful on a case-by-case basis. San Diego Union-Tribune

Washington — Asylum Head Reassigned, Border Crossings Drop

John Lafferty, the long-serving head of the asylum division in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was pushed out this week by acting director Ken Cuccinelli. Lafferty was responsible for trying to implement the Trump administration’s asylum policy upheaval, including a ban on asylum for people who cross the border illegally. He was reassigned to become deputy director at a service center in Virginia after criticizing the government’s haphazard approach in published guidance to asylum officers. BuzzFeed News, Politico

According to Customs and Border Protection, 64,000 people were taken into custody at the U.S.–Mexico border in August, a 30% drop from July. That’s a change from eight of the last 10 years, during which border arrests rose from July to August. It can largely be attributed to Mexico’s increased efforts to block people from crossing the border, where deportations have risen 38% from last year’s January–July period. This year, 84,000 people were deported. The Wall Street Journal

Ken Cuccinelli Emerges as Public Face, and Irritant, of Homeland Security, The New York Times

Max Siegelbaum

Co-executive Director of Documented


Mazin Sidahmed

Mazin Sidahmed is the co-executive director of Documented. He previously worked for the Guardian US in New York. He started his career writing for The Daily Star in Beirut and he also contributed to Politico New York.




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