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Early Arrival: NJ Driver’s License Bill Advances

Wednesday's edition of Early Arrival: Trump Nearly Doubled the Immigration Court Backlog – Kushner Tasked with Building the Wall – Immigrant Family's Life Upended by an ICE Business Card

A bill that would allow undocumented New Jersey residents to apply for state driver’s licenses is scheduled for a vote by state lawmakers next month. The Assembly Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Dec. 9, the Senate Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Dec. 12 and a Senate vote is scheduled on Dec. 16. Advocates of the bill are hoping to get it to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk in January. It will likely face fierce opposition, but if it passes, it will greatly change the lives of many New Jersey residents. 

In New York, a decades long battle seemingly ended this year, when the Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Green Light NY bill into law, making it possible for undocumented residents of the state to apply for driver’s licenses. In rural areas of the state, advocates describe communities being paralyzed with anxiety over driving in their areas, for fear of being pulled over and eventually detained. Shortly after the bill became law, county clerks across the state filed legal challenges against the it. 

“We have worked exhaustively to draft a fair, comprehensive and responsible bill,” Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, the primary sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. State lawmakers introduced the bill last November. It would allow undocumented immigrants, senior citizens and others to get licenses that can only be used for driving. Murphy has said he would sign the bill into law if it reached his desk. Republican lawmakers have voiced opposition to the bill. northjersey.com

Local

Fewer Mexicans Moving to New York, Studies Show

Fewer Mexican citizens are taking up residence in New York, according to multiple studies. The American Community Survey shows that the state has seen an average loss of 24,625 incoming Mexican migrants per year, in the past five years. New York State ranked third among the states with the largest decline in their Mexican population, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. The slowdown also means that the community as a whole is growing older. Residents of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park have noticed. “More Mexicans and other Hispanics used to live here when I arrived 25 years ago. Now, many people have been scared away by the high rental prices. They don’t want to have to toil here in New York only to be unable to save anything to send back to our country,” said Teresa Suniaga, 62, who came from Zacatecas. City Limits

After Public Charge, More Families are Moving Towards Food Pantries and Away from Benefits 

An increasing number of immigrant families are seeking out help from food pantries, rather than public food assistance, according to the Food Bank for New York City. A report from that organization says the Trump Administration’s public charge rule has led to this change, which means more people are visiting soup kitchens and food banks. They also found that more people are asking for their names to be removed from the pantry databases. “There are so many families where the parents are immigrants and the children are not,” said Margarette Purvis, President of the Food Bank. “They are eligible for resources and shouldn’t be leaning on charities. But because of fear, they are.” WNYC
 

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National

Florida Plans to Deputize State Correctional Officers as Immigration Agents

Florida is slated to deputize state correctional officers as immigration agents at the Northwest Florida Reception Center in Washington County as part of a precursor pilot program, which may see the entire agency being deputized. The program will allow the correctional officers to “identify and process criminal aliens who may pose a risk to public safety in Florida.” About five correctional officers will be trained by immigration authorities to identify undocumented immigrants booked into the prison. The state is responsible for all costs related to the program, which is called 287(g). News Service of Florida

Trump Has Nearly Doubled the Court Backlog

In just a few years, President Donald Trump’s policies have nearly doubled the nation’s immigration court case backlog, according to a new analysis from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. When Trump first took office in January 2017, the backlog was at 542,411. In September 30, it was at just over 1 million. Trump has wrecked the courts through a series of policies and executive actions that simultaneously slow down the pace of court hearings while thrusting more people into the system. Oklahoman

New Application Fees Start to Take a Toll

The Trump administration has been quietly been increasing the price of visa applications and court appeals, and it’s starting to have an affect. A new policy from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will cause applications for citizenship to rise from $640 to $1,170, an 83 percent increase. This increase is part of a 21 percent overall increase proposed by USCIS for certain immigration applications. The proposal also eliminates the availability of some fee waivers. For one recently married couple, the process cost about $4,000, without paying lawyer fees. Now,  Marco Malagon worries about the financial toll the new visa fee will take. Dallas Morning News

Arizona Family Shaken After ICE Agents Leaves His Business Card at Their Door

In early June, Melissa, an undocumented Arizona resident opened her door to find a business card left by someone named Matthew Morrison, an agent with Homeland Security Investigations. The back of the card showed a logo with a skull wielding two guns with the words “Welcome to the Border.” The card caused Melissa – who’s a mother – to panic. “They will find me and then take me away and what are my kids going to do? They are my kids,” she said, “My older one is having a lot of anxiety attacks.” Her lawyer called the number on the card and Agent Morrison “chuckled” when he answered the phone. ICE refused to verify if Morrison was employed by the agency but said in a statement that the card was not meant to intimidate the public and that it follows agency branding guidelines. KING 5 

Man Sues Maryland After a Tree Cutting Fine Lead to his Detention 

Jose Ricardo Villalta Canales was helping a relative cut down a dead tree at his home in Rockville, Md. in August, when he was approached by an officer from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources. Villalta, who had no prior criminal record but didn’t have the appropriate license to cut down the tree, was fined $320 and detained by the officer for over two hours while they searched if he had any open warrants. The officer found he had an open ICE detainer and held Villalta until ICE agents arrived. Villalta is now suing the state agency for turning him over to ICE. The Washington Post

Washington

Jared Kushner’s New Job: Building the Wall – Sen. Merkley Calls on Oregon to Drop Private Prison Investments – New Emails Show Stephen Miller Pushing Immigration Leads to Crime Narrative

Jared Kushner’s new job may be a little more suited to his skillset. At the beginning of his presidency, Trump tasked Kushner establishing peace talks between Israel and Palestine and putting out political fires across the Middle East. Now, he’s been assigned to oversee the construction of the southern border wall, as the president is frustrated with the lack of progress over one of his most lauded projects. 

Kushner convenes biweekly meetings in the White House where he questions government officials on how the wall is progressing, including how the funding is being spent and data on the various contractors they’re using. He also passes messages down from the president, officials unauthorized to speak to the press told The Washington Post.  

Kushner is pressing U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up the process of taking over private land to finish building the wall. The federal government will have to take over 800 properties to build the structure, which will span 400 miles. Meanwhile, smugglers have already figured out how to saw through the wall that already exists using store bought hand held power tools, also according to the Post. The Washington Post

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is urging the Oregon state employee pension fund to drop investments into GEO Group and Core Civic, two private prison companies who detain the majority of immigrants in the U.S. “I think it’s way past time for fundamental values to be reflected in our investment decisions,” Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said in an email. The investments were first widely revealed in story co-published by The Guardian US and Documented. The Associated Press 

More than 100 members of Congress are calling on White House advisor Stephen Miller to resign from his position over leaked emails that show his close ties to white nationalists. In a new batch of emails exposed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Miller discussed trying to create a link between immigrants and rising crime, and idea that has been widely proven false. Republicans have mostly been quiet about Miller’s emails.  NPR

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