The New York City Council has pledged $16.6 million to the New York Family Immigrant Unity Project for fiscal year 2020. It’s the highest budget since the program’s inception in 2014, when it became the first free representation program for detained immigrants in the country. It encompasses the Legal Aid Society, the Bronx Defenders and Brooklyn Defenders Services, and will have a budget more than triple what it worked with during its first year.
The program first started out of the work of federal Judge Robert Katzmann, who was struck by the shoddy quality of the legal representation for immigrants he saw before him. He formed a working group to research the issue and quickly found unrepresented immigrants were much more likely to be deported. The group decided to create the project in 2013 as a pilot for the first public defender–style program for immigrants facing deportation. Since then, thousands of immigrants have been represented by NYIFUP lawyers.
The Trump administration’s policies have contributed to an immigration court backlog of about 115,000 unresolved cases pending in the immigration courts. Last week, the Justice Department opened a new immigration court with little notice, which NYIFUP organizations said made it harder to do their jobs. “The Trump administration is opening new immigration courts and expanding dockets in an effort to push people through a broken system as quickly as possible without due process,” said Andrea Saenz, attorney-in-charge of NYIFUP at Brooklyn Defender Services. Jackson Heights Post
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Pre-K Teachers Prepare for Deportations
For the preschool teachers of Little Star of Broome Street on the Lower East Side, unexplained absences from their students can be nerve-wracking. Many of the students are immigrants, and these days, teachers worry their caregivers may have been swept up amid the national crackdown on the undocumented. More than a million New York City children have at least one foreign-born parent. To combat this fear, the Chinese-American Planning Council, a social services provider, is training its school staffers on protocol for dealing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Chalkbeat
Local ICE Controversy Drags in the Wrong Restaurant
The owner of an Albany restaurant with a similar name to another establishment is wrapped up in an immigrant enforcement scandal, and he says the other business’ actions are hurting his bottom line. In early August, ICE agents arrested Xue Hui Zhang, an undocumented cook at a restaurant called Ichiban. His lawyers said the owner of the restaurant called ICE on him after he filed a wage theft lawsuit. The owner of Ichiban Restaurant, another establishment, says the controversy has made his takeout business drop over 40 percent. Times-Union
NJ Gov. Angers Democrats Over Support for Driver’s License Bill
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has voiced his strong support of a state bill that would allow undocumented residents to apply for driver’s licenses. “It’s a no-brainer,” Murphy told a crowd inside Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield on Monday night. “I’m frustrated that it’s not on my desk. I encourage you to call your assemblyperson, your senator, and ask him why it is stuck and not on the governor’s desk, because I will sign it.” Other members of the state Democratic party weren’t happy with his comments. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin “went ballistic” after Murphy made those remarks because he pushed a sensitive issue that could put Democrats on the defensive, according to the Bergen County Record. North Jersey Record
Mexican Man Dies in ICE Custody
Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza became the eighth person to die in ICE custody this fiscal year on Tuesday. Rodriguez-Espinoza was detained Sept. 3 and held at the McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility in Woodstock, Illinois. Four days later, ICE officials transferred him to a local hospital emergency room after he was “acting confused,” according to an ICE statement. A brain hemorrhage was later determined to be his cause of death. The number of people in ICE detention has reached record highs as advocates and detainees complain of poor health conditions within the facilities. BuzzFeed News
ICE Contracts Company for Phone Extraction
ICE has expanded its contract with Cellebrite, an Israeli data extraction company that develops technology to crack into people’s smartphones. ICE will pay the company between $30 and $35 million for “universal forensic extraction devices” and “accessories licenses, training and support services.” The Daily Beast estimates this could purchase up to 6,000 devices. The new contract is more than ten times the $2.2 million agreement the two agencies signed in 2017. Cellebrite gained notoriety when it reportedly broke into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone on a request from the FBI — a story the agency disputes. The Daily Beast
Documents Expose Future ICE “Urban Warfare” Training Facility
Ineffectively redacted documents revealed the location of a “urban warfare” ICE training facility that will include “hyper-realistic training devices.” The facility will be built at the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs in Fort Benning, Georgia, which is a U.S. Army post used to prepare soldiers for combat. The facility will include “multitude of basic, intermediate and hyper-realistic training devices, a tactical training warehouse, classroom facilities and vehicle assault training area.” ICE is reportedly seeking to create “Chicago” and “Arizona” style environments, which will cost nearly $1 million. Newsweek
University and Students Fight Over Anti-Immigration Movement Papers
A fight is brewing at the University of Michigan over the papers of a pioneer in the anti-immigration movement. Dr. John Tanton was an American ophthalmologist and a founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He donated his collection of papers to the university in 1984 under the condition that 11 of them would remain sealed until April 6, 2035. A petition is circulating to convince the university to open them ahead of time, and since 2016, an attorney has been in a legal battle with the university to release the papers.The Michigan Daily
California Bans Private Prisons
California moved to enact a sweeping ban of private prisons on Wednesday, likely closing four large detention centers that each hold up to 4,500 people. Gov. Gavin Newsom still has to sign the bill, but signaled support for it last year, saying the state should “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all.” The bill has changed slightly from then, with its author in June adding ICE’s main California detention centers to the list of those that would be banned. Private prisons held 2,222 inmates in California as of June. The Guardian
Washington — SCOTUS Upholds Asylum Ban, Democrats Scrutinize Deportations, Bahamians Will Not Receive TPS
The Supreme Court granted the Trump administration a major boost Wednesday after a ban on asylum for people who’ve traveled through a third country was allowed to go into effect, even as the policy makes its way through the courts. The asylum ban will largely affect Central Americans and will have huge ramifications across the southern border. The Supreme Court’s decision left immigration advocates stunned while administration officials celebrated the ruling.
The ruling will all but halt asylum on the southern border as Hondurans and Salvadorans must now seek asylum in Guatemala and be rejected before trying in the U.S. Guatemalan migrants must similarly seek asylum in Mexico and be rejected. Mexicans will still be able to seek asylum in the U.S., but they account for a small percentage of the people apprehended on the southern border. Immigrants may still apply for cancellation of removal, but that is much harder to attain.
Asylum officers were ordered to commence implementing the rule immediately. One asylum officer told BuzzFeed they were crushed after seeing the Supreme Court’s ruling. But USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli, who oversees asylum officers, was overjoyed at the news. After an event hosted by Axios, he reportedly said the asylum ban ruling could help decrease the refugee cap number, which the Trump administration is considering slashing for a third time.
Two federal judges had previously issued conflicting rulings on the ban. On the same day in July, Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a federal judge in Washington appointed by Trump, upheld the ban while Judge Jon Tigar of San Francisco, an Obama appointee, issued a nationwide injunction against it. That nationwide block was narrowed in August before Judge Tigar reinstated it.
The Supreme Court issued a brief, unsigned order, allowing the administration to implement the rule in response to an emergency application filed by the government in response to Tigar’s ruling. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented the ruling. The case will likely appear before the Supreme Court again, but not for many months. The New York Times, BuzzFeed News, Politico
The Trump administration’s plan to end a policy of granting deferrals of deportation to immigrants who have medical conditions came under scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) skewered the ICE and USCIS officials for saying pending litigation prevented them from providing responses during the hearing. USCIS has previously issued denial letters to families who were seeking deferred action on their deportation orders due to medical conditions they needed to have treated in the U.S. Advocates argued that the policy was changed with little notice. Associated Press
The Trump administration will reportedly not grant temporary protected status to Bahamians fleeing destruction left by Hurricane Dorian. The status is typically granted to individuals escaping natural disasters or ongoing conflicts in their home countries. Trump said on Monday he was considering extending TPS — while also claiming that there were “very bad people” among the refugees — to people from the Bahamas, but several news outlets have since reported DHS is not moving forward with it. HuffPost