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Early Arrival: State Immigrant Defense Funding in Question

It appears that, yet again, there will be a dispute over funding for the state’s Liberty Defense Project, which in turn funds nonprofits across the state to provide immigrants with legal services. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently released his draft budget for 2021, and the $10 million that’s been allocated to the program every year since 2017 was not included. Legal service providers were actually asking for $15.3 million this year as they say previous funding was not enough to accommodate a growing caseload.

Not funding the program could mean a loss of resources for immigrants across the state, especially in upstate New York. That’s because large portion of the funding goes toward providing free legal representation for detained immigrants in immigration courts upstate. The Liberty Defense Project represented 1,000 people this fiscal year, and another 1,400 are anticipated for next year. 

A similar dispute over funding the project came up last year when nonprofits were only notified that the project would be funded the night before the budget vote. The uncertain nature makes it difficult for nonprofits to plan ahead. Albany Times Union

Local

Farmworker Bill Not Leading to Overtime Pay

Recently enacted state legislation containing regulations for farmworkers has led some farm owners to reduce undocumented workers’ hours to avoid incurring overtime costs. Under the Farm Workers bill, which went into effect in January, employers must pay overtime — twice regular pay — to anyone who works more than 60 hours per week. Undocumented farmworkers say in the wake of this new regulation, farmers have simply hired more people to avoid paying overtime. Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), the bill’s sponsor, acknowledged there may be some kinks to work out regarding the law. City Limits

Taxi Medallion Foreclosures Increase 

There were 510 foreclosures of taxi medallion-backed loans in 2019, according to an analysis by the Daily News. That’s an increase from just five foreclosures in 2012, the year Uber arrived in New York. Predatory medallion lending schemes drove the increase in foreclosures, as exposed in a series by The New York Times last year. It especially affected new immigrants, who had no assets but accrued seven-figure medallion debts, leading to a bubble that ride-hailing apps only worsened. Daily ridership of yellow cabs fell from 500,000 trips per day in 2012 to 230,000 in 2019. New York Daily News

ICE Deports Man to War-Torn Yemen

Hazaea Alomaisi, a 42-year-old Yemeni New Yorker, was deported to war-torn Yemen on Tuesday, much to the surprise of his family. He had been checking in with ICE for 22 years, but last Friday, he was arrested at his check-in and detained at Hudson County Correctional facility. He was then put on a plane to Yemen. His family wasn’t notified quickly enough for them to launch an appeal. Yemen has been embroiled in a war since 2015 when Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes in the country with U.S. support. It has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Alomaisi overstayed a tourist visa he received in 1998, ICE says. HuffPost

National

MPP Expanded to Include Brazilians

The U.S. has officially expanded the Migrant Protection Protocols program to Brazilian citizens seeking asylum on the U.S.–Mexico border. The program, also known as Remain in Mexico, forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are adjudicated in immigration court. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed Wednesday that Brazilians will now be sent to Mexico, a situation that was previously limited to non-Mexican, Spanish-speaking migrants. The agency cited the increasing number of Brazilians apprehended at the border as the reason for its decision. About 57,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico under the program. Reuters

Report: 80% of Migrants in MPP are Victims of Violence

In other news related to the Migrant Protection Protocols program, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) released a report on Wednesday that found 80% of asylum seekers in the program reported being victims of violence while in the program. In October alone, three-quarters of asylum seekers seen by MSF doctors said they had been kidnapped for ransom. A total of 44% of patients said they were victims of violence during the week leading up to their appointments. Kidnappings of migrants on the northern border of Mexico have become routine, where migrants are held until their families wire money. The Guardian

San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Kate Morrissey reflects on the first year of MPP

Document Shows CBP Ordered Screening of Iranians

The Northern Light, a community newspaper in Blaine, Washington, obtained a directive from the Customs and Border Protection’s Seattle Field Office that instructed its officers to perform increased vetting on all Iranian nationals or people who have traveled to Iran. Dozens of people of Iranian heritage were stopped and questioned at the U.S.–Canada border earlier this month. CBP vehemently denied these stops were due to a directive from the agency, but this document seems to contradict that. The directive came in response to the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and ordered officers to conduct vetting on all adults from Iran, Lebanon and Palestine. The Northern Light

Ukrainian Refugee Numbers Increase

Ukraine has become one of the leading sources of refugees in the U.S. as the Trump administration has significantly reduced the number of refugees admitted from other countries, 2019’s resettlement numbers reveal. People from Ukraine are now the third largest group of refugees, behind Congo and Myanmar. Experts say the shift stems from the Trump administration’s resistance to accept refugees from predominantly Muslim countries. Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia drive two-thirds of the international refugee crisis, and yet Ukrainian arrivals to the U.S. outnumbered many of those nationals. The Washington Post

Trump’s Border Wall will Require Gates

The border wall, which is central to Trump’s reelection campaign, will probably require the installation of hundreds of storm gates to prevent flash floods. These gates will have to be left open during monsoon season in the Arizona desert to prevent the wall from being knocked over, meaning there will be open unmanned gates in remote areas. Some gates are already in operation and have been breached. The gates cannot be operated electrically and are opened using forklifts at the beginning of the summer. The extreme topography of the Southwest makes construction difficult. The Washington Post

Washington — Travel Ban Expansion to be Announced, Anti-Immigration Hardliner Gets Oversight Position, Trump Brags About ICE Agents ‘Swinging’

President Trump is expected to unveil the expansion to his controversial travel ban on Friday, according to Politico. The government’s response to the coronavirus delayed the planned Monday announcement, which would have coincided with the three-year anniversary of the original ban. The countries being considered for addition to the list are Sudan, Belarus, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Tanzania. It remains unclear which countries will be added on Friday, but Politico reports that Sudanese nationals will be barred from the U.S. diversity visa program with possible waivers. The travel ban is currently in place after being upheld by the Supreme Court and restricts citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea. Politico

An anti-immigration hardliner has been appointed as Immigration Detention Ombudsman, a new role created by Congress to oversee civil rights complaints in immigration detention centers, according to a memo obtained by BuzzFeed. The controversial Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli appointed Julie Kirchner, former leader of FAIR, an anti-immigration group that has advocated for restricting the number of immigrants permitted into the U.S. He also appointed Tracy Short, a former ICE official, to work in the office. The office received $10 million from Congress to get off the ground to provide oversight and recommend changes to federal detention centers. BuzzFeed News

During a rally in New Jersey, Trump bragged about ICE agents being known to “start swinging” while arresting MS-13 gang members. The gang was mentioned in relation to Democrats’ support for ‘sanctuary cities,’ which Trump called a betrayal to the American people. Newsweek

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