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07/18/11 | The Case for Discretion and Proportionality in Our Immigration System

Washington D.C. - It has long been the case that those responsible for carrying out and enforcing our nation's laws do so with a measure of discretion and proportionality.  Every day, law enforcement officials and judges exercise discretion in charging and sentencing decisions, weighing differing priorities and social values, and matching punishments with crimes.  Consequently, minors are treated differently in the criminal system, and traffic violators and murderers receive different punishments. The use of judgment and proportionality is so ingrained in our legal system—with the exception of immigration law—that we take it for granted. Today, the need for discretion and proportionality is needed more than ever in our antiquated and over-burdened immigration system to ensure that the government spends its limited resources on high priority cases, and that immigrants who have a strong case for remaining in the U.S. are able to do so if current law provides for an avenue of relief.  

To that end, a wide range of organizations, including the American Immigration Council, have been asking the Obama Administration to use its executive authority to exercise discretion in the immigration context. In June, Director John Morton of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a memo outlining new guidance on the use of prosecutorial discretion in a wide range of circumstances.  The memo signals a greater commitment to using limited resources to enforce immigration law with an understanding of the need for measured action and fairness in the immigration context. 

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07/13/11 | More Fear and Loathing in the House Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up two immigration bills that supposedly address community safety, but in reality are simply the latest attempts to restrict immigration and limit due process for immigrants. Neither Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) “Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011,” or Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) “Security and Fairness Enhancement for America Act of 2011” (SAFE Act) offer solutions to the immigration crisis. Instead, Chairman Smith’s bill would authorize indefinite detention for a wide range of immigrants, while Rep. Goodlatte’s bill would eliminate the diversity visa—a lottery that offers 50,000 visas per year to immigrants from countries that send few people to the U.S. Once more, the House Judiciary Committee is using fear to restrict our immigration system.

While studies have repeatedly shown that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, “The Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011” attempts to exploit the public’s fear of crime to advance an anti-immigration agenda. The bill would expand the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to subject certain immigrants to indefinite—that is, potentially life-long—detention, even though the Supreme Court has held that such detention raises serious constitutional concerns. The bill relies on the continued detention of immigrants—many of whom have never committed a crime—as a stand-in for fixing the underlying problems of our broken immigration system. Similarly, the deceptively titled SAFE Act simply eliminates 50,000 visas that currently go to immigrants from many countries in Africa and elsewhere that have less of a tradition of immigrating to the U.S. 

Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, noted:

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06/30/11 | Mini-Grants Available to Educators and Community Leaders

The American Immigration Council's Community Education Center is awarding mini-grants to schools and organizations working with youth to better understand the issue of immigration and the contributions immigrants have made and conitinue to make to our society.  Applications are due July 22, 2011.

For more information visit http://www.communityeducationcenter.org/community-grants.

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06/29/11 | BIA Sets Favorable Precedent for Children of Fiancées (K-2 Visa Holders)

Washington, D.C.—The Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Council applauds the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) for advancing family unity in its June 23, 2011 decision, Matter of Le. The Board’s long-awaited ruling favorably resolves the issue of whether the child of a fiancée of a U.S. citizen (a K-2 visa holder), who legally entered the U.S. when under age 21, is eligible for adjustment of status even after turning age 21. The Board concluded that the age of the child is “fixed” at the time the child is admitted to the United States. In doing so, it rejected the Department of Homeland Security’s position that a K-2 visa holder is eligible only if he or she is under 21 at the time the adjustment of status application is adjudicated.

The Board’s decision is consistent with the position that the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association advocated in amicus briefs submitted to the Board in approximately a half dozen other cases where the child turned 21 after being admitted to the United States. The noncitizens in these and the many other cases before both Immigration Judges and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices throughout the country now will be able to become lawful permanent residents as Congress intended.

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06/28/11 | LAC Issues Updated Practice Advisory on Prosecutorial Discretion Discussing June 17, 2011 Morton Memoranda

Washington, D.C.— The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of an updated practice advisory: Prosecutorial Discretion: How to Advocate for Your Client.

On June 17, 2011, John Morton, Director of ICE, issued two new memoranda encouraging the expanded use of prosecutorial discretion by ICE officers, agents, and attorneys in all phases of civil immigration enforcement. The first outlines in detail how ICE employees should approach a wide range of opportunities to apply prosecutorial discretion in line with ICE enforcement priorities; the second describes specific protections for certain crime victims, witnesses, and plaintiffs.

This practice advisory discusses these memoranda in detail. It also explains what prosecutorial discretion is, who has authority to exercise it, and how it is exercised most often in immigration cases. In addition, the advisory suggests ways that attorneys can advocate for the favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion by DHS officers, whether from ICE, USCIS or CBP.

For a complete list of all LAC Practice Advisories, please visit our website.

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06/24/11 | Are States Training Law Enforcement to Implement Restrictive Immigration Laws?

Washington, D.C. - While many states legislatures rejected Arizona-style immigration laws this year in anticipation of high costs, legal challenges and charges of racial profiling, others states—like Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina—passed laws requiring law enforcement to determine the immigration status of anyone that is stopped or detained for any offense. Civil rights groups have sued in Georgia and Alabama and plan to challenge South Carolina’s law once the bill is signed. Federal courts found similar laws in Arizona and Utah unconstitutional and issued injunctions, baring law enforcement from implementing the laws. 

With lawsuits pending, however, local officials are now in a position of having to prepare for possible implementation of immigration laws. Local law enforcement, for example, is struggling to interpret the laws and provide training to officers—a struggle which could be further complicated if courts allow only some parts of the law to go forward.  In some cases, training is simply not taking place. Officials in Georgia are waiting for a judge’s ruling before training officers on the law, slated to take effect July 1st. Which begs the question, how, if at all, are law enforcement officers being trained in other states where similar laws have passed?

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06/14/11 | Once Again, Congress Pursues Costly E-Verify Legislation to the Peril of U.S. Economy

Washington D.C. - On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement will hold a hearing on the “Legal Workforce Act,” another enforcement-only bill introduced today by Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). The bill would make the electronic employment verification system “E-Verify” mandatory for all employers within two years (three for agriculture). Much like the other hearings conducted by the Subcommittee this year, Wednesday’s hearing is likely to promote tougher enforcement and more deportations as the solution to immigration reform, rather than offer a thoughtful analysis of what must be done to create an effective immigration system that stimulates our economy and supports workers and businesses.

E-Verify is a web-based technology that allows employers to check federal databases to determine whether their employees—U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and other foreign-born workers—are authorized to work in the U.S. While USCIS has made significant improvements in E-Verify, many problems still exist. An independent evaluation found that E-Verify is unable to identify unauthorized workers in half of the cases. At a time when the U.S. needs to stimulate its economy and create jobs, mandatory E-Verify will impose additional regulations and costs on businesses, and employers will have to fire U.S. citizens who are erroneously indentified as unauthorized to work. 

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06/13/11 | LAC Issues Practice Advisory on Immigration Cases Implicating DOMA

The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC), in conjunction with Immigration Equality, is pleased to announce the release of a new practice advisory: Protecting and Preserving the Rights of LGBT Families: DOMA, Dorman, and Immigration Strategies.

The immigration agencies rely on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, in determining whether a marriage is valid for immigration purposes. As a result, lesbian and gay U.S. citizens and permanent residents are barred from successfully petitioning for their spouses. In addition, lesbian and gay noncitizens are precluded from obtaining other immigration benefits, including relief from removal, based on a marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Recent developments, however, suggest that DOMA’s days may be numbered. Already, one district court has concluded that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, and the Obama Administration has decided it no longer will defend the law in federal court challenges. 

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06/09/11 | Immigrants in America: More Skilled and Educated Than Ever Before

Washington D.C. - Today, the Brookings Institution released a new report, The Geography of Immigrant Skills: Educational Profiles of Metropolitan Areas, which finds that more working-age immigrants hold college degrees than lack high-school diplomas. This newly-released data has broad implications for an immigration debate that is driven largely by myths and stereotypes of less-skilled, unauthorized immigrants while devoting scant attention to the high-skilled end of the labor spectrum. To effectively reform the U.S. immigration system to the benefit of the U.S. economy and workers, both high-skilled and less-skilled immigrants must be part of the discussion and the debate must be guided by more facts and less political rhetoric.

As the report points out “immigrants are now one-in-seven U.S. residents and almost one-in-six workers. They are a significant presence in various sectors of the economy such as construction and hospitality on the low-skill end, and information technology and health care on the high-skill end. While border enforcement and illegal immigration are a focal point, longer-term U.S. global competitiveness rests on the ability of immigrants and their children to thrive economically and to contribute to the nation’s productivity.” 

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06/08/11 | Misguided Opposition to So-Called "Sanctuary Cities" Continues

Washington D.C. - Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that he plans to resurrect his proposal to crack down on cities that provide "sanctuary" to unauthorized immigrants, even though the Department of Homeland Security and other government officials have found that so-called "sanctuary cities" do not exist. Local police agencies regularly cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify and detain immigrants who commit crimes, so it's hard to imagine why the Governor is looking for a solution without a problem.
 
What Perry is calling "santuary cities" are cities that have implemented community policing policies that prevent police agencies from asking community residents who have not been arrested to prove their legal immigration status. Based on the tenets of community policing, these policies make it safe for immigrant crime victims and witnesses to report criminals to the police and help put them behind bars.These policies make it easier for the police to do their jobs and make communities safer.
 
Debunking the Myth of "Sanctuary Cities" Community Policing Policies Protect Americans, written by Lynn Tramonte, responds to those who claim some cities are providing "sanctuary" to unauthorized immigrants and seek to abolish their community policing policies.  In it, police officials and others explain why community policing policies are so critical to their work and to keeping American communities safe.

To view the paper in its entirety see:

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