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Early Arrival: Essex County Investigates Detainee’s Assault Allegations

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: NY Still Has Biggest Court Backlog — Why Immigrants Get Court ‘Dummy Dates’ — Trump Visits Border Wall, Cuccinelli Wants New Powers

A detainee at the Essex County Correctional Facility says a guard beat and sexually assaulted him, and now the county is investigating. Jose Hernandez Velasquez, a 20-year-old Salvadoran man, has lived in New Jersey since he was a year old. After a series of low-level criminal offenses, he ended up in ICE custody. In May, he had a violent altercation with another detainee and spit on a county corrections officer, according to an incident report obtained by WNYC.

Hernandez Velasquez then refused to be handcuffed and officers gathered in the immigration unit, according to a report. During the scuffle, an officer’s bulletproof vest was reportedly stripped off and handcuffs were lost. The guards sprayed pepper spray into the fracas, which hit multiple immigrants who were having lunch. Hernandez Velasquez was subdued, but several detainees cursed, called an officer racist and acted “extremely rowdy,” per the report.

Hernandez Velasquez says after he was pepper sprayed, guards took him to the showers, and masked officers forced him to strip naked, put his hands over his head and stand underneath hot water. He said he was punched 30 times, hit with a broomstick, kneed and threatened with a pellet gun. He says an officer also stepped on his genitals, which constitutes sexual assault. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is now interviewing personnel involved in the incident and conducting a general investigation. Gothamist

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

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Local

Data Shows New York Still Has the Largest Backlog

New data shows that the New York City immigration courts continue to have the largest backlog of any court in the country. Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse published data this week that shows New York has 113,066 cases pending in the courts. Los Angeles, the second highest backlog, has almost 83,000 cases. A court in Guam has the smallest backlog with just 23 cases. The backlog has grown steadily since Trump became president, and hit a total of a million cases this week. TRAC 

New Yorker Opens Her Doors to Family Separation Victims

During the family separation crisis last summer, one Manhattan woman decided to open her doors to a Guatemalan family of three who had been separated at a detention center in Colorado and reunited in New York. “I wanted to help and I knew I could do this,” Vivien Tartter said. She is one of a growing number of US. citizens who are taking in immigrants from detention centers and generally helping them get on their feet. Some find people to help via the Asylum Seekers Sponsorship Project, a national group that helps asylum seekers regain stability in the communities where they land. The Associated Press

Kal Penn’s New Show About Immigrants in Queens Airs Next Week

Kal Penn, the former Obama staffer and “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” actor, will release a new show called “Sunnyside” next week. The show follows a disgraced New York City councilman who tries to redeem his image by helping a group of immigrants become citizens. Penn says the premise was not born out of the current era, and “it was never meant to be a reaction to anything. The topic of immigration goes back to the founding of our country. It is all of our stories.” The show will premiere Thursday, September 29. The New York Times

National

Judge Fined For Making Favorable Statements About Hillary Clinton

An immigration was fined $1,000 and disbarred from federal service for almost three years for making favorable statements about Hillary Clinton’s immigration plan. During a deportation hearing in 2016, a defendant was facing deportation and a 10-year ban on re-entering the country. Judge Carmene “Zsa Zsa” DePaolo called that a “pretty harsh thing,” which Clinton planned to change if the Senate “becomes a Democratic body.” An administrative law judge said DePaolo’s actions “merit a considerable sanction given the public nature of her position.” CNBC

Empty Facility For Migrant Children Costs $720,000 A Day

One of the largest facilities for detained migrant children is now completely empty, but the government is still paying $720,000 a day to staff it. The last child to be held there left on August 3, and the U.S. government has spent $33 million on it since. The spending was revealed on Wednesday during a congressional testimony with Jonathan Hayes, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.”So $600 a day for 1,200 invisible, imaginary, nonexistent human beings at Homestead right now?” asked Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.). “It’s the beds, but yes sir,” Hayes replied. CBS News

Why Immigrants Receive ‘Dummy Dates’ for Court

There’s a reason thousands of immigrants across the U.S. receive dates to appear in immigration courts that are incorrect. Some immigrants have gotten court dates  scheduled on national holidays, on weekends or on dates that do not exist, like Nov. 31st. ICE and USCIS issue these “dummy dates” to comply with a court order following a lawsuit last year. USCIS was previously sending immigrants their notice to appear in court with no date listed because once an immigrant receives a notice they are considered deportable. Courts outlawed this practice, but USCIS still sends notices with a time and place even if they are fake. Miami Herald 

Employees Split on CBP/ICE Contracts

Employees at five major companies were divided on their companies’ contractual relationships with immigration enforcement agencies. BuzzFeed News partnered with the online messaging board Fishbowl to conduct surveys of employees at Guidehouse, Deloitte, McKinsey & Co., Grant Thornton and Accenture on the company’s contracts with ICE and/or CBP. Of the 2,363 employees who took the survey, 29.4% approved or strongly approved of their company’s work with the agencies, while 31.7% disapproved or strongly or disapproved. The 142 McKinsey respondents had the most favorability, with 43% approving or strongly approving of their companies’ work with the agencies. BuzzFeed News

Border Patrol Agents Screen Immigrants for Asylum

New documents detail Border Patrol’s increased role in credible fear interviews, which begin the asylum process and are typically conducted by highly trained USCIS asylum officers. Plans to switch this responsibility to Border Patrol agents have leaked over the past several months. Officials and lawyers say the goal is to limit asylum because the agents will be less likely to approve asylum seekers, and it seems to be working. Border Patrol agents have reportedly already completed 178 credible fear screenings, finding 54% of them met credible fear standards and 35% did not — a lower rate than is typical for the interviews. The Los Angeles Times

Washington — Trump Visits Border Wall, Cuccinelli Wants New Powers, DHS Counsel Fired

President Trump toured a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego on Wednesday at the end of a three-day trip that included a reelection rally in New Mexico and fundraisers in California. The president touted the “Rolls-Royce” of border walls and claimed it was already acting as a deterrent. “People see this — it’s one of the reasons I’m doing this — and they think, ‘There’s no reason to make that long journey up because we’re not getting into the United States,’” Trump added.

Administration officials said they aim to complete 450 miles of replacement and new border barriers by the end of 2020. That’s because Trump views his record on immigration as a key to his reelection campaign — goals buoyed by recent wins in the Supreme Court over his asylum ban and using Pentagon funds for a border wall. Arrests at the southern border have decreased by 60 percent since their peaks earlier this year, but it is unclear whether those numbers will remain stable. The Washington Post

USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli is reportedly seeking the power to unilaterally disclose the personal information of asylees, refugees and their family members in the U.S. who are being prosecuted for crimes. This is a power usually reserved for the Homeland Security Secretary, but Cuccinelli sent a memo to the acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan asking for it, BuzzFeed News reports. USCIS’s press secretary said that the acting director requested the authority to “educate the American public, lawmakers, and media about the dangerous criminals who came to the United States by abusing our legal immigration system.” BuzzFeed News

The White House has fired John Mitnick, the general counsel for DHS, after an agency-wide shake-up that started in April. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was gutted earlier this year as President Trump looked to install officials who would carry out a more hardline agenda, and Mitnick was apparently expected to be fired since that time. Mitnick’s job was to asses the legality of the department’s policies, and he pushed back on some of the White House’s controversial proposals, including a plan to release migrants into sanctuary cities. The New York Times

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