New Jersey senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker is calling on fellow Democrats in the state to end their lucrative county-level contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Booker specifically wants to see the Democratic officials who run Bergen, Hudson and Essex counties end the contracts they have with ICE to house immigrant detainees in their county jails. These contracts make county governments complicit in immigration enforcement, but supply tens of millions of dollars to their local budgets.
In his call, Booker singled out the Essex County jail, which was cited for its “unsanitary and unsafe conditions” by the Department of Homeland Security’s office of inspector general. Officials from the counties didn’t comment on Booker’s statement. This is Booker’s first foray into calling for the end of ICE contracts nationwide, though it’s not his first criminal justice-related proposal. Last week, Booker introduced a bill that would eliminate the use of solitary confinement.
Most New Yorkers detained by ICE are held in New Jersey jails, and that proximity allows them to receive legal representation through a city program. Some advocates fear ending the contracts would lead ICE to scatter the detainees throughout the country, leaving them far from their families and without representation. WNYC
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Trump Immigration Crackdown Slows Down Business Upstate
Residents used to travel back and forth freely across the U.S.–Canada border in northern New York — one restaurant in Massena even kept a box for American dollars and a box for Canadian. But these days, border businesses are struggling. Since 2014, the number of passenger vehicles crossing the border has almost dropped 25 percent. Local officials point to the falling Canadian dollar, but also Trump’s immigration policies. “We need Canadians to be able to cross freely and without harassment,” said Mary Scarf, president of a local chamber of commerce. “They are being treated like criminals, not like the interdependent friends and trading partners that we have always been.” The New York Times
Jamaican Citizens Say They’re Being Harrassed Passing Through JFK
Shanna Thompson, a Jamaican citizen, was traveling through JFK International Airport when she says she was pulled from the immigration line, taken to a room, and forced to hand over her phone. “I was so shocked when I realized that the man was going through my gallery, my messages … everything. And each time I would try to find out why, he told me to have a seat,” Thompson said of the immigration agent who questioned her. She was held for two hours and released, but says she was scarred by the experience. Last year, the U.S. government conducted more than 33,000 immigration searches at airports, almost four times the number conducted three years earlier. Jamaica Gleaner
Make the Road Announces Border Agenda
Immigration advocacy group Make The Road has released its 2020 policy agenda, which will likely set up immigration conversations in the coming year. The plan, called its Respect and Dignity Platform for 2020, proposes removing ICE from courthouses across the state, enacting a good cause eviction law, ending discrimination in school disciplinary practices, decriminalizing sex work and strengthening worker protections. Make the Road and other groups had a successful 2019, passing both the New York Dream Act and the Green Light law, which gives undocumented people driver’s licenses. Gotham Gazette
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Homeland Security Investigations Agent Comes Forward as Whistleblower
Special Agent Wesley Petonak was sitting at his desk when he came across a PowerPoint presentation that would soon shock the country. Nine of the slides in the powerpoint revealed the agency he worked for – Homeland Security Investigations – was tracking journalists, attorneys and aid workers related to the migrant caravan. Petonak found that the government would hold these people for hours in unnecessary screenings, put alerts on their passports and refuse to let them cross into Mexico. He shared his concerns with his supervisors, but they brushed them off. He took photos of the slides and shared them with the local NBC station. NBC 7
New Families From Outside Central America Arrive at the Border
An increasing number of asylum seekers from outside Latin America have been showing up on the southern border, largely as families, causing confusion with local aid workers. Some have started closing their doors to these families, as they are usually more affluent and show up with credit cards and cash to pay for plane tickets around the country. The Border Patrol does not publish data on the citizenship of migrant families it detains, so it is unknown how many of these families have entered the country recently. But previously, Border Patrol data does show asylum seekers from outside Central America were mostly individuals and not families. Arizona Republic
EB-5 Fees Nearly Double
A new federal rule will double the minimum amount a foreign investor has to sink into a local project to be awarded a green card. The rule will make the minimum investment $900,000, nearly double the current minimum of $500,000. The EB-5 program is plagued with long waits for visas, fraud and abuse. “Certainly one of the prime goals of this administration was to raise the investment amount in order to limit the number of investors,” William A. Stock, an immigration attorney and a founding member of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP, said. The administration will raise the outer limit for investment from $1 million to $1.8 million. NBC News
GEO Group Executive Reveals He Stays at Trump Hotels
A senior executive of GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the country, has stayed in the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. at least 10 times, billing a likely substantial sum to his corporate expense account. The admission by David J. Venturella, GEO Group’s senior vice president of business development, was uncovered in a June 2019 deposition. GEO Group has profited massively from the Trump administration’s increased immigration enforcement and detention policies. Project on Government Oversight
Washington — DHS’s Incomplete Asylum Deportation Plans, “Immigrant Food” Restaurant a Block from the White House
Shortly before launching a plan to send asylum seekers arriving at the southern border to Guatemala, DHS officials were still scrambling to figure out details about the program, according to briefing materials obtained by BuzzFeed News. Officials hadn’t determined how asylum seekers would obtain necessities once they got to Guatemala, and yet planned to send 12 asylum seekers there anyway without resolving these issues. It is unclear if a planned flight to deport those 12 migrants will still take off.
The briefing materials were dredged back up last week for the recently appointed acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. “There is uncertainty as to who will provide orientation services for migrants as well as who will provide shelter, food, transportation, and other care,” read the DHS brief, drafted for Wolf, to prepare him for a meeting with Guatemala’s Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart. It provides insight into the Trump administration’s aggressive efforts to keep Central Americans out of the country, sometimes seemingly without thought for consequence.
This revelation comes as the administration continues to partner with other governments to block migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. without first applying and being rejected by any country they passed through on foot. “It is our understanding that for some time now there has been friction between the [Government of Guatemala] and UNHCR (United Nations Human Rights Council) regarding UNHCR’s role in the implementation” of the plan, according to the briefs. BuzzFeed News
A new restaurant called “Immigrant Food” opened a block from the White House. The restaurant creates dishes that blend cuisines from around the world. It also gives diners the chance to donate to local immigrant advocacy groups under the slogan “United at the Table.” The restaurant encourages patrons to teach English, visit detention centers, staff hotlines and help with mock ICE interviews. CNN