Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been illegally holding nearly all the immigrants it arrests in New York State in detention before they get a court hearing, according to a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and Bronx Defenders. The legal organizations brought a class-action suit against the agency in federal court in Manhattan this week. They say the New York field office of ICE has adopted a policy of putting people in jail while they wait for hearings rather than releasing them on bond.
“ICE has secretly decided to detain thousands of New Yorkers unlawfully, inflicting enormous and entirely unnecessary harms,” said Amy Belsher, a staff attorney at the NYCLU. When immigrants are arrested by ICE, the agency by law has to make a determination on whether or not to hold them in detention or allow them to return to their homes while they await their immigration court hearings. From 2013 until June 2017, 47 percent of immigrants deemed low-risk were released ahead of their court hearings, according to data uncovered by the NYCLU. But from June 2017 to September, that number fell to 3 percent.
The plaintiffs blame changes to a risk-assessment algorithm used by ICE since 2013. The program takes into account family ties, how long the person has been in the country and their criminal history before making a recommendation. In 2017, the assessment was changed so it would never produce a recommendation for a person’s release, the suit alleges. “The federal government’s sweeping detention dragnet means that people who pose no flight or safety risk are being jailed as a matter of course — in an unlawful trend that is getting worse,” the lawsuit says. Politico
Protestors Storm MoMA Exhibit Over Private Prison Ties
Dozens of activists from the MoMA Divest movement gathered inside the MoMA’s PS1 museum to tear down the Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 exhibit in protest of the museum’s investors’ ties to private prison companies. One exhibitor, Berlin-based Iraqi artist Ali Yass, worked with the protestors to tear down his pieces, but the museum caught wind of the plan and all the artists’ works were replaced with replicas in advance. Two other artists had asked the museum to remove or update their work. Open letters from 37 of its artists and 45 military veterans also called on MoMA to part ways with Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, an investment firm with financial stake in two private prison companies. Those prisons have detained immigrants. Hyperallergic
Fear of Immigration Authorities Still Hindering Search for 5-Year-Old Girl
Police have not given up the hunt for 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez, who went missing from a New Jersey town nearly six months ago. Law enforcement officers as far away as Austintown, Ohio, conducted a search of the area based on a tip they received and found nothing. The Office of the Attorney General in New Jersey said it believes people have been afraid to come forward out of fear it would affect their immigration status. “I know it is,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said of the speculation over why potential informants are holding back. Patch
New Yorkers Still Waiting for Federal Refund for Trusted Traveler Programs
The federal government announced it would be rejecting New Yorkers who were applying for certain trusted traveler programs, but also said it would issue refunds for anyone who was denied after paying the $100 application fee. Still, New Yorkers who applied for the program and were denied are awaiting their refunds. “I knew it was going to be something shady like that,” said Radames Mateo, a social worker from the Bronx, who had been waiting for his Global Entry interview since August. Once he heard the announcement, Mateo called Customs and Border Protection every day for a week but was never able to get ahold of anyone. His credit card company said the charge was too old to issue a full refund. Gothamist
USCIS Office Closed Over Coronavirus Fears
A branch of the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services in Washington state has closed after an employee visited the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, where a coronavirus outbreak occurred. The USCIS facility, located at Tukwila, Washington, will remain closed for 14 days, according to the agency. Acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said the employee began exhibiting flu-like symptoms for days after visiting the nursing home. “The office closure is effective immediately and employees are being directed to telework if they are able,” Cuccinelli posted in a tweet. “There are also ICE, CBP and FPS employees at the same facility and all of them have received the same instructions.” Patch
ICE Officials in Texas Deny Immigrants Parole Over New Trump Policy
ICE officials in Texas are keeping migrants in jail through potentially widespread denials of parole for detained asylum seekers, The Intercept reports. Documents show ICE’s San Antonio field office has been refusing parole for any detainee subject to a new Trump administration policy called the transit bar, which makes migrants ineligible for asylum if they did not seek protection in countries they passed through on their way to the U.S. That applies to most non-Mexicans arriving at the southern border. Two forms reviewed by The Intercept showed the transit bar was the sole reason clients of Texas legal service providers were denied release after a parole interview. The Intercept
Federal Inspectors Find Big Issues at Transgender Detainee Unit
Federal inspections of the federal government’s only unit dedicated to housing transgender immigrants found hundreds of unanswered requests for medical attention, poor quarantine procedures and deficient treatment for mental illness and other chronic diseases. The problems led to the transfer of all detainees to other facilities in January, Reuters reports via congressional aides not authorized to speak about the matter. “Every time we felt sick the first step was to raise a request, but they never answered,” said Kelly Aguilar, a 23-year-old transgender woman from Honduras who was detained at Cibola for two years before being transferred. ICE refused to comment on the reports. Reuters
ICE Seeks to Deport Ailing Elderly Hungarian Man
It’s been decades since John Lokos was arrested and convicted of killing an elderly man alongside three other men, but ICE is still trying to deport him to his home country of Hungary. He arrived in the U.S. in 1951 when he was 14 and while his parents became citizens, he never did. Lokos has schizophrenia, dementia and Parkinson’s disease and has lived with mental health problems for much of his life. Lokos was sentenced to death in 1964, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison and he was granted parole in 2009. Hungary initially refused to issue travel documents to have him return to the country, but last month, Lokos’ lawyers heard Hungary had issued the documents and that ICE plans to deport Lokos this month. Lokos’ friends and lawyers say his condition has deteriorated significantly, and that he has few connections in Hungary. The Associated Press
Business Leaders in Michigan Create Compact to Advocate for Immigrants
Business leaders across Michigan issued a statement last week calling for immigration reform that emphasizes the positive impact immigrants have in the state. “In Michigan and across the country, immigrants have a huge economic impact,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber. “We want to highlight the importance of immigration reform, and take a different look at immigration that is not just a security issue, but an economic issue and put that front and center.” The business leaders’ so-called Michigan Compact on Immigration calls for federal solutions to immigration and strengthening the state’s economy. Detroit Free Press
Supreme Court Hears Immigration Cases, Bloomberg Gets F on Immigration from RAICES
The Supreme Court heard two more immigration-related cases this week, both of which could have far ranging consequences. One case was about the government’s ability to deport people who fail initial asylum screenings without making their case to a federal judge. The other was about the ability of states to prosecute undocumented immigrants and others who don’t have work authorization with identity theft.
On Monday, the court heard arguments in a case about a man who said he fled persecution as a member of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, but failed to persuade immigration officials that he faced imminent harm if he returned to Sri Lanka. The man was placed in quick deportation proceedings, but his ACLU lawyers challenged that. The government claimed that if cases like this man’s could proceed, it could lead to a flood of filings in federal court. Lee Gelernt, the man’s lawyer, said out of 10,000 people who have failed the initial asylum screenings, only 30 have filed cases in court. A decision is expected before the summer.
The other case involved a 2017 Kansas Supreme Court decision that voided the convictions of three restaurant workers for fraudulently using other people’s Social Security numbers. The court ruled 5-4 to overturn that decision. They found Kansas did not unlawfully encroach on federal authority over immigration policy. The four liberal justices disagreed, saying the 1986 federal law called the Immigration Reform and Control Act leaves the policing of work authorization in the hands of the “federal government alone.” Justice Stephen Breyer said allowing similar prosecutions “opens a colossal loophole” to allow states to police federal work authorization. The New York Times, ReutersThe political arm of the immigrant advocacy organization RAICES released a scorecard Tuesday grading Democratic primary candidates and President Trump on their immigration policies. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had the highest rating from RAICES Action of any candidates, earning a B-. Former Vice President Joe Biden was just behind with a C+.
Warren received points for calling to make immigration courts independent of the federal system. Sanders gained points for advocating for returning people to the U.S. who were “unjustly deported during the Obama and Trump administrations.” Both were docked points for not seeking to expand worth authorization for undocumented people for not backing the New Way Forward Act, legislation that seeks to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the lowest ranking Democratic candidate, received an F, the same as Trump. The Hill