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Early Arrival: Green Light Law Goes Into Effect as Judge Dismisses Lawsuit

Monday's Edition of Early Arrival: New Jersey Legislature to Vote on Driver’s License Bill — Whistleblower Report Alleges Shocking Medical Treatment by ICE — President Says El Salvador Not Ready for Asylum Seekers

Opponents of New York’s Green Light Law suffered a setback on Friday as a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit hoping to block the law which will allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. 

The lawsuit, filed by Rensselaer County Clerk Frank J. Merola, was the second to be dismissed by a federal judge after an attempt by Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns had a similar lawsuit thrown out. As with Kearns, U.S. District Senior Judge Gary L. Sharpe found that Merola lacked the capacity to litigate in federal court. 

The law prohibits county clerks and the Department of Motor Vehicles employees from sharing information with federal immigration enforcement agencies, which Merola and Kearns argued would force them to break federal law. The Department of Justice weighed in to support Merola’s case, arguing in a court filing that the ban on data sharing violated the constitution. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James claimed victory and said the law would take effect as planned on Monday. The law allows people to apply for a New York State driver’s licenses without providing a copy of their Social Security Number. County clerks have received new devices to authenticate foreign passports to be used to verify applicants’ identities. 

There are more than 50 county clerks around New York state who are responsible for issuing driver’s licenses. Some have complained about the rollout of the law has left them unprepared to carry it out. Merola and Kearns have also threatened to not enforce the law. Times Union, Associated Press

In an op-ed for The New York Daily News, two undocumented immigrants described what the law will mean for them.

Hello, I’m Mazin Sidahmed with today’s edition of Early Arrival. You can email me at mazin.sidahmed@documentedny.com.

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New Jersey Legislature to Vote on Driver’s License Bill

New Jersey lawmakers are preparing to vote on legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to receive drivers licenses after a bill cleared state Senate Transportation Committee last week. Similar to legislation in New York, the bill would make standard licenses available to people without Social Security Numbers. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is a supporter of the legislation, which was introduced a year ago and has been pushed through the legislature in the final weeks of the Assembly. Advocates held an all-night vigil at the Statehouse in Trenton on Sunday night to put pressure on legislators. Republican legislators oppose the bill. The Press of Atlantic City

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Whistleblower Report Alleges Shocking Medical Treatment by ICE

An 8-year old boy in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention had part of his forehead removed in a preventable surgery, according to a whistleblower memo filed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties office. The report, obtained by BuzzFeed News, contains shocking accounts of medical neglect. One detainee was allowed to become so mentally unstable he lacerated his own penis. Three detainees died due to inadequate medical treatment or oversight and the report on the death of a fourth person was “very misleading,” according to the memo. The reports were filed by unnamed ICE employees. BuzzFeed News

ICE Agents Face Allegations of a Gang Beating 

Mario Portales-Castro is suing ICE and numerous agents in Louisville for allegedly beating him unconscious and fracturing his skull. According to the lawsuit, he was approached in August by ICE agents with their guns drawn outside his home. They told him to get out of his truck, and as he did, the ICE agents, before identifying themselves, began punching him repeatedly in the head, he alleges in the lawsuit. Ge then said he was taken to a hospital but was not treated for a fractured skull. Portales-Castro’s attorney said he has no criminal record beyond illegally entering the U.S. twice, but ICE agents allegedly said they beat him because he was a criminal. Louisville Courier Journal

Increase in Brazilians at the Southern Border

About 18,000 Brazilians were apprehended crossing the U.S.–Mexico border in the last fiscal year, a 600% increase from the previous high in 2016. Almost all of them were apprehended crossing the El Paso Sector of the border which covers New Mexico and West Texas; they accounted for a quarter of immigrants apprehended in El Paso. Many Brazilians are fleeing the country’s dire economic situation as the country suffered its worst-ever recession in 2015 and 2016. Almost one-quarter of the workforce is unemployed or underemployed. Massachusetts, which has the country’s second-largest population of Brazilians, has also seen an increase in new arrivals. Associated Press

Tent Courts Raise Due Process Concerns

Tent courts set up on the border with Mexico to hear cases for migrants in the Migrant Protection Protocols program have a number of due-process issues. Under the program, asylum seekers are forced to wait in Mexico while their case is adjudicated in immigration court and they must appear for hearings at newly erected tent courts along the border. At one hearing, 28 migrants were on the calendar but only 17 appeared at the required 4:30 a.m. appointment and only two had a lawyer. The Justice Department argues these courts offer the same rights as any other immigration court. The Wall Street Journal

Mexican Officials Destroyed Camp SettlementMexican immigration officials allegedly destroyed a camp settlement in Matamoros of migrants who had been turned away by the U.S. Camp residents claimed officials with Mexico’s National Institute of Migration swept through the camp with machetes, destroying unoccupied tents. A volunteer said the agents destroyed the tents so nobody could use them. The settlement was created due to the Migrant Protection Protocols policy whereby border officials turn back asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their cases to be adjudicated. Mexican asylum seekers have also been made to wait. Residents reported certain Mexicans were allowed to cross following an informal agreement between U.S. and Mexican officials. The Brownsville Herald

President Says El Salvador Not Ready for Asylum Seekers, What’s Cucinelli’s Job?, Warren Calls Out Geo Group Spending at Trump Hotels

El Salvador is not prepared to receive immigrants as part of an agreement struck with the U.S., Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele told 60 Minutes in a remarkably candid interview. Bukele said the country did not have the capacity to take in asylum seekers and that the safe third country agreement has “a lot of ifs.”

El Salvador joined the other Northern Triangle countries in signing an agreement with the U.S. allowing migrants who arrive at the U.S.–Mexico border to be sent back to countries they passed through to claim asylum there first. The agreements have come under widespread criticism due to El Salvador’s lack of infrastructure for processing asylum claims and the fact that Salvadorans are fleeing the country in large numbers themselves. 

Bukele also said the country’s whole economy is in tatters. “Nothing works,” he said. El Salvador’s murder rate is higher than any nation that’s not at war, according to a United Nations report. He mentioned that in exchange for signing the deal, El Salvador received $50 million in aid that was being held up, and the country’s State Department safety rating was improved. CBS News

Despite being appointed as acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Ken Cuccinelli has maintained his title as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The controversial figure, who has been an outspoken supporter of the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies, said he was leaving USCIS last month to take up the acting deputy post. But according to the Washington Post, he has kept his old job. The process has confused staffers at the agency. The Washington Post

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jaypal (D-Wash.) sent a letter on Monday expressing concern about GEO Group spending at President Trump’s D.C.’s hotels. The company lobbied the Trump administration to cover millions of dollars in legal costs and intervene in lawsuits against it. The Daily Beast

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