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Early Arrival: New Jersey Hits Uber with a $650 Million Employment-Related Tax Bill

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: Immigrants Defrauded in Yonkers — Border Patrol's Asylum Pressure — Wolf Becomes DHS Secretary

Uber owes the state of New Jersey about $650 million in unemployment and disability insurance taxes after the state’s labor department said it has been misclassifying drivers as independent contractors. The company has accumulated $523 million in past-due taxes in four years, according to the state. They also owe $119 million in interest and penalties. The state’s labor department has been trying to get Uber to pay up for years, according to Bloomberg Law. 

The state’s ruling only applies to unemployment and disability insurance, but could also mean Uber will have to start paying drivers state minimum wage and overtime. New York has no similar actions pending, but next year, lawmakers are slated to take on the gig economy. Elsewhere in the country, rideshare companies are doing battle with state governments over similar issues. Lyft and Uber will likely put up a fierce fight against a California law that could force them to reclassify drivers as employees. 

New Jersey’s Department of Labor sent surveys to rideshare drivers last year to find out more about their work arrangements. Some drivers said they would prefer to remain contractors to choose when and where they work. But overall, drivers and advocates were elated by the ruling. It’s unclear if they’ll see any of the money if it’s collected. “This would be life-changing for thousands of drivers, to know that they will be earning at least the minimum wage,” Bhairavi Desai, founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said. Bloomberg Law

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

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Washington Man Charged with Defrauding Immigrants in Yonkers

A man from Washington state is accused of scamming 17 immigrants in Yonkers, claiming he could get them U-Visas and legal status for a $5,000 fee. Juan Cedillo traveled the country scamming immigrants, particularly targeting adults with U.S.-born children, according to prosecutors. Cedillo had an 87-count indictment and his bail was set at $25,000 cash or bond. He’s scheduled to return to court in December. Lohud

Rutgers Researchers Scan for Chinese Railroad Workers Remains in NJ Church

A team of Rutgers researchers are using geophysical mapping equipment to uncover the remains of Chinese railroad workers in the basement of a church in Belleville, New Jersey. The Chinese immigrants were believed to be Trans-Continental Railroad workers, but returned to Belleville because of its growing Chinese community. The area was home to the first-ever Chinatown, according to Belleville Mayor Michael Melham. ABC 7 NY


Border Patrol Accused of Pressuring Asylum Officers to Deny Cases

Border Patrol officers have allegedly been pressuring asylum officers to deny entry to migrants at the border, according to a report completed by senior DHS officials and leaked to BuzzFeed News. The report examines the Migrant Protection Protocols program, or Remain in Mexico, in which Border Patrol agents make asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their claims work through the courts. So far 50,000 people have had to wait in Mexico for their claims to be completed. The reviewers recommended a number of reforms to the program including making sure people do not fear being returned to Mexico — something agents are not screening for now. BuzzFeed News

Oregon Bans ICE Arrests Without a Judicial Warrant

Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters enacted a new rule Thursday that mandates U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have a signed judicial warrant to make an arrest at a courthouse. “Adopting this rule protects the integrity of the state judicial process and will allow state courts to fully hold accountable people accused of a crime,” Walters said in a release. The rule also bans arrests in court parking lots, sidewalks and entryways without a signed warrant. Oregon joins New York and New Jersey as the only three states in the country to have such a rule. Oregon Public Broadcasting

Group Calls on Reuters and RELX to end ICE Contract

Lawyers, academics and students are calling on Thomson Reuters and RELX to end deals they have with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and the tech company Palantir. The contracts in question include legal search engines Westlaw and LexisNexis, which provides a backbone for all legal research. About 300 people have signed the petition, which also includes the Immigrant Defense Project and advocacy group Mijente. The signatories take issue with ICE’s usage of Reuters’ CLEAR database and other services that scrape public data for immigration arrests. The Intercept

Lawsuit Claims Positive Credible Fear Interviews Dropped

A new lawsuit claims the number of women and children housed at the Dilley family detention center in Texas who pass their credible fear interviews have dropped from 97 percent of applicants to fewer than 10 percent. This comes with no public policy changes or guidance about the interview. “What we’re seeing in the credible fear process is one part of a systematic effort by this administration to end asylum,” Elora Mukherjee, an attorney who worked on the lawsuit, told the Guardian. Several plaintiffs in the suit said they were interviewed multiple times, forcing them to recount the traumatic events that led them there. The Guardian

Mexico Becomes Largest Source of Border Apprehensions

Mexico has become the largest single source of migrants apprehended at the border, CBP said Thursday. About 45,000 people were taken into custody between ports of entry in October, an increase on the 34,871 taken into custody last year. Some analysts say the spike in Mexican asylum seekers comes because they cannot be returned to Mexico under the Remain in Mexico program. Crossings have been on a steep decline since May when the number of families crossing the border hit a record high. The Trump administration credits the decline with hardline tactics including encouraging the Mexican government to crack down on migration. The Washington Post

Washington — Wolf Sworn in as DHS Secretary, Names Trump Acolyte as Deputy, Trump Requested Trench on Border, Whistleblowers Speak up in Report

Chad Wolf was sworn in as homeland security secretary, the fifth person to have the job under the Trump administration. He named Ken Cuccinelli, acting head of USCIS, as his deputy. Cucinelli is an immigration hardliner and an avid supporter of Trump’s policies. He had also been in the running for the job himself but Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) apparently dislikes him and senior Republicans said they would not confirm him. During his time at USCIS, Cuccinelli has been outspoken at speaking engagements and on social media about his support for hardline policies. Wolf was previously the chief of staff for Kirstjen Nielsen and before that, worked under Republicans at DHS. Associated Press

Trump asked the Pentagon to explore building a trench on the U.S.–Mexico border but was rebuffed by the agency. In a July 2018 memo obtained by CNN, the Secretary of the Army wrote to Trump and explained that constructing a trench would not be more time- or cost-effective than “other available options.” The border wall remains one of the president’s top priorities and he is planning on completing 500 miles of wall by the end of 2020. Trump denied a similar report from The New York Times that suggested he asked for a water-filled trench stocked with snakes and alligators. CNN

A new report from Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley on the Trump administration’s immigration policies illustrates the toll it has taken federal workers tasked with carrying it out. Several whistleblowers spoke in the report about issues with policies such as the Remain in Mexico program, changes to the credible fear screening procedure. CNN

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