New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy officially authorized the state to begin issuing licenses to undocumented residents when he signed a recently passed bill into law on Thursday. New Jersey is part of a 13-state coalition that allows people to receive licenses regardless of immigration status. “Expanding access to driver’s licenses is critical for the safety of New Jerseyans and a step toward building a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all,” Murphy said.
The state now issues two types of licenses: REAL ID compliant cards (which allow holders to board planes and enter federal buildings and are only available to documented residents), and a standard license, which is available to all residents. The Chief Administrator of Motor Vehicle Commission was also ordered to start a two-year public awareness campaign to inform the public about the new licenses and the requirements to apply for one.
“In my view our roads are safer when our drivers are trained, tested, licensed and insured,” Motor Vehicles Commissioner Sue Fulton said this month. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2021. A report from an advisory board set up to review the state’s implementation of the bill is due no later than 12 months after that. The state also worked in protections for immigrants’ data so it’s not turned over to federal authorities. ABC 7 NY
Clerks Keep Up Fight Against Green Light NY Despite Consistent Losses
County clerks opposed to the Green Light NY law have suffered multiple losses in the courts, but that hasn’t stopped them in their crusade against the law. Essex County’s Joseph Provoncha and Franklin County’s Kip Cassavaw have joined 25 other county clerks in calling for the law to be delayed further. On Monday, immigrants lined up outside DMVs across the state to apply for licenses. The clerks allege the law creates security risks, but multiple judges have found that reasoning inaccurate. Lake Placid News
NY Elected Officials Warn of Driver’s License Scams
As the Green Light law ends its first week of existence, lawmakers are warning potential applicants that scammers might take the energy and excitement around the law as an opportunity to commit fraud. “This is a historic moment for our communities. Even though we are trying to protect people so that their information does not end up in the hands of the federal government, we also must protect them from being tricked by people who may show up promising things,” Assemblyman Marcos Crespo said. Free help with applications is available through the state’s Office for New Americans. El Diario via City Limits
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Migrant Smugglers Continue to Thrive
Despite President Trump’s attempts to prevent immigrants from making the journey to the U.S., migrant smugglers say the money for their enterprise has kept on flowing. They’ve adjusted to increased enforcement within Mexico by adopting higher prices and offering different “package deals” to migrants. The Associated Press conducted six months of interviews with smugglers along the migrant trail in Mexico and Central America. A man who worked with the Sinaloa cartel said they net an average of $1 million per month from smuggling, a fraction of the estimated $4-6 billion that smuggling generates each year. Associated Press
Former Border Patrol Agent Angered Over Border Wall
A family is set to see its 1,300-acre property in rural Dolares, Texas split by the administration’s plans. Mauricio Vidaurri’s family has owned a ranch in south Texas since 1750. He is a retired Customs and Border Protection official and his brother still works for the agency. They’re now in the crosshairs of the Trump administration’s plan to build 500 miles of new border wall. CBP and the Army Corps of Engineers are contacting property owners, including Vidaurri, to survey their land. By law, the government must provide fair compensation for the land. Vidaurri is concerned the wall will block access to a cemetery where his father is buried. The Los Angeles Times
Lawsuit: Immigration Courts Have Become a Deportation Machine
The immigration courts have become a deportation machine, according to a new lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Innovation Law Lab. When judges are accused of being unfair, they only answer to Attorney General William Barr, who continues to encourage them to reject asylum applications, the lawsuit alleges. The plaintiffs argue that some areas in the U.S. have become “asylum-free zones” with deportation rates above 85%. El Paso, Texas has the highest rate at 96.6%. An immigration judge who was sworn in in 2017 said they quit in March because it was impossible to uphold the Constitution within this administration. Associated Press
Petition Grows to Release 6-Year-Old from Detention
Maddie, a 6-year-old girl, has been detained at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania for almost six months. Her lawyers say it is the longest the federal government has held any child in immigration detention, and far beyond the 20-day detention limit federal guidelines demand. Her attorneys are calling on Gov, Tom Wolf (D) to intervene in her case. They say the once cheerful and shy girl has now become deeply depressed. Star Wars actor Mark Hammill tweeted that the case was “Outrageous & tragic.” She’s detained with her father and they’re both seeking asylum. Philadelphia Inquirer=
California Cuts ICE Off from Sensitive Data
The California Department of Justice has cut off ICE from accessing the state law enforcement network. Earlier this year, California told ICE’s immigration enforcement arm, Enforcement and Removal Operations, that it had to sign an agreement that it wouldn’t use some California databases to arrest immigrants. The state DOJ said ERO refused to sign, so it lost access to the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. The system contains information about California driver’s licenses, criminal records and other sensitive data points. Electronic Frontier Foundation
Trump Admin. Expands List of Crimes that Prevent Asylum, Liberians Offered Pathway to Citizenship
The Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security announced a new rule on Wednesday to prevent immigrants who have been convicted of minor crimes in the U.S. from obtaining asylum. They said they would expand the list of crimes that make immigrants ineligible for asylum to include driving under the influence, possession of fake identification and drug possession. Accusations of domestic violence, regardless of conviction, will also be added to the list.
Attorney General William Barr said these offenses inherently undermine public safety or government integrity. Historically, the only crimes that prevented someone from being granted asylum were ‘particularly serious’ crimes such as murder, rape, assault and other violent acts. The rule would also remove a requirement for immigration judges to review decisions that were decided based on their previous rulings or discretion.
The rule was added to the Federal Register on Thursday, which began a 30-day comment period before it would take effect. A court challenge is likely and could hold up the new rules even further, the ACLU’s lead lawyer said. The New York Times
Thousands of Liberian immigrants will have a pathway to citizenship under the terms of a provision buried in a new spending bill, which passed the House on Wednesday. The provision allows Liberians to apply for a green card if they have maintained a continuous presence in the U.S. since Nov. 20, 2014, when the Obama administration granted Temporary Protected Status to the country following the Ebola outbreak. It also includes Liberians who are here under the Deferred Enforced Departure program, which the Trump administration extended until March 2020 after threatening to shut it down earlier this year. The bill could cover 4,000 Liberians. It was pushed by U.S. Sens. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Jack Reed of Rhode Island. Reuters