Program to stop border crossings diverts resources from more dangerous crimes

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Here’s more proof that current methods of immigration enforcement are unjust and inefficient. A Bush-era immigration enforcement effort along the U.S.-Mexico border called Operation Streamline is making us less safe in more ways than one – according to a new report released by The Berkeley Law Warren Institute.

Introduced in 2005 as a disincentive to border crossings, the “zero-tolerance” program requires the federal criminal prosecution and imprisonment of all unlawful border crossers. Instead, the program has led to unprecedented caseloads in eight of the eleven federal district courts along the border, leading to assembly-line justice and a serious lack of due process.

The report states,

Many Operation Streamline defendants complete the entire criminal proceeding – meeting with counsel, making an initial appearance, pleading guilty, and being sentenced after waiving a pre-sentence report – in a single day.

And while the numerous prosecutions are straining resources to the breaking point with overburdened judges, federal prosecutors and public defenders, it diverts scarce resources from fighting the roots of border violence: drug smuggling and human trafficking. As petty immigration prosecutions have increased in the border district courts, U.S. attorneys are forced to to cut back on prosecuting more serious crimes along the border.

In a New York Times article, Judge George Kazen of Laredo, Texas, has said,

The U.S. attorney isn’t bringing me those cases. They’re just catching foot soldiers coming across the border. . . . But they will tell you that they don’t have the resources to drive it and develop a conspiracy case.

As a result of Operation Streamline, between 2002 and 2008, Federal Magistrate judges operating along the border saw their immigration misdemeanor caseloads quadruple.

And despite their best efforts, it is extremely difficult for border jurisdictions to implement Operation Streamline without depriving migrants of due process and effective assistance of counsel. Chief Judge of the District of New Mexico, Martha Vázquez, has said,

The increase in our criminal caseload, especially in Las Cruces, has caused us to conduct hearings in a way that we’ve never had to conduct them before, and in a way that other jurisdictions don’t have to. . . . We have . . . up to 90 defendants in a courtroom.

Many defendants may have defenses that are not identified because of the speed and en masse nature of the proceedings.  These can include claims to immigration relief, such as eligibility for asylum or relief under the Convention Against Torture. Even U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have been identified amongst defendants. This ultimately has consequences nationwide.

As Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Carolyn King has said,

we “can’t have a rule of law for the southwest border that is different from the rule of law that obtains elsewhere in the country.

The report recommends replacing Operation Streamline with a comprehensive and effective approach to border enforcement. This includes reverting to the longstanding practice of leaving unlawful border crossings to the civil immigration system, thereby stopping the draining the resources of the district courts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Public Defender, and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Photos courtesy of www.law.berkeley.edu/ewi.htm.

Obama, pay attention to immigration reform as day 14 of immigration fast leads 3 fasters to ER

At a packed church in New York city on a cold wintry afternoon, hundreds of supporters shouted Si Se Puede! Yes we can! as New York’s immigrant communities, labor unions, faith leaders, business owners, elected officials and allies came together in solidarity with hundreds of groups across the country, renewing the call for 2010 to be THE YEAR to achieve just and humane immigration reform.

The rally comes together as actions across the country, from fasts to walks to civil disobedience acts, create mounting pressure for human rights and justice in the immigration system.

Fast for Our Families (Homestead, FL)

Since New Year’s Day, half a dozen immigrant rights activists, community leaders and affected family members have initiated an indefinite fast, vowing to take only liquids, until President Obama and the Administration agree to suspend the deportation of immigrants with American families until Congress acts to fix the broken immigration system. Today, on day 14, three fasters have been rushed to the emergency room after experiencing serious health concerns. Here’s an excerpt from their blog,

The doctor is here. Three fasters are going to the hospital. Francisco may have had a heart attack – the after symptoms point that way. He needs tests. He quietly asked me if he could come back to the fast after they do the tests. “I won’t let them give me food and I can come back, right?” It broke my heart.

Jonathan says he feels fine but the doctor insists that he go to the hospital as well. He has shortness of breath and an issue with his electrolytes that could point to something more serious. He’s determined to come back.

The doctor is recommending that Jenny and Ana go to the hospital as well. Jenny’s pulse and blood pressure are very low. Ana’s sugar is dangerously low. They pressure the doctor. “It’s my baby. It’s my life. You have to understand,” Jenny is declaring. I have tears in my eyes. The fast could cost her life and leaving her children could cost her life. How does one even begin to fathom that choice? How does it even come to that?

Send a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano demanding a stop to separation of families.

Campaign to free Jean Montrevil from immigration custody and stop his deportation (New York, NY)

Jean Montrevil, an activist, leader and family man is currently in immigration custody, awaiting deportation to Haiti, for a crime he committed 20 years ago for which he paid his time. Today’s rally outside Varick Detention Center showed a growing amount of support and anger at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s unjust actions.

Send an email to Department of Homeland Security urging for his immediate release.

Trail of Dreams (Miami to Washington, D.C.)

On January 1, 2010, a group of brave and passionate students from Florida’s Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) embarked on a 4-month long journey from Miami’s Freedom Tower to the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., where they will join with thousands in a mass rally demanding urgently needed changes to immigration laws and policies on May 1st, 2010.

Find out how you can help and support the Trail of Dreams.

National Day of Action Against Sheriff Arpaio – Saturday, January 16th (Phoenix, AZ)

Join NDLON, Puente, and other immigrants’ rights groups in denouncing egregious abuses perpetrated against immigrants and people of color by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and demanding an end to 287(g), Secure Communities, and other forms of local police collaboration with immigration authorities that severely undermine public safety and the community’s trust to report crimes to police. Just today, an advertisement appears in today’s edition of The Arizona Republic newspaper where sixty black leaders have come together to condemn Sheriff Arpaio.

Here’s more info on how you can support the movement against Arpaio.

In the midst of the demand for reform, we wish to remember those in Haiti and offer our support and prayers for them.

Looking forward to immigration reform and how it will benefit the U.S. economy by $1.5 trillion

From Restore Fairness blog

Do we need more evidence of the fact that Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) will benefit the country? For those that are unconvinced, the new report brought out by the Center for American Progress and Immigration Policy Center should help point our how crucial CIR is to the future of the U.S. economy.

The report "Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform" concludes that immigration reform would have a positive ripple effect which would in turn boost the economy. According to the National Immigration Forum

"The program would have economic ripple effects that would, when compared to the alternative policy of mass deportation promoted by immigrant restrictions, have a net economic benefit of as much as $4.1 trillion for the U.S. economy over 10 years."

Some of the consequences of reform include raised worker's wages which subsequently "raise the wage floor" for everyone,  a willingness to invest, more income, more spending and more taxes - all of which will result in growth of gross domestic product by approximately $1.5 trillion over a ten-year period. The figure comes from findings of surveys conducted after the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 which granted legal status to 3 million immigrants. Research shows that those undocumented immigrants who were legalized as per the IRCA (which was also implemented during an economic recession similar to the present one) went on to better jobs and higher wages. Many further invested in higher education which increased their skill level and socio-economic mobility, positively impacting the economy. Where the IRCA failed was in creating a flexible policy for future immigration, leading to the present situation in which the government spends large amounts of resources on an inefficient and costly system of enforcement.

In a recent CNN article, the author of the report Hinojosa-Ojeda who belongs to the North American Integration and Development Center at UCLA states,

"The number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has increased dramatically since the early 1990s despite equally dramatic increases in the amount of money the federal government spends on immigration enforcement...The U.S. Border Patrol says its annual budget has increased by 714 percent since 1992, from $326.2 million in fiscal year 1992 to $2.7 billion in fiscal 2009."

In addition to being expensive, it is evident that the current enforcement-only policy of the government is inefficient, and has led to a damaging of the economy. The current policy seems to be heading towards a scenario of "mass deportation", which the report analyzes as one of three avenues through which the government can approach immigration policy. The other two scenarios are "comprehensive immigration reform" and a "program for temporary workers". While mass deportation would cause a loss of $2.6 trillion in gross domestic product over a 10 year period, the worker program would lead to a gain of $792 billion. Full legalization of existing immigrants along with new, flexible legal limits on permanent and temporary immigration is the best scenario, leading to $1.5 trillion in gross domestic product growth over the next ten years.

Hinojosa-Ojeda explains his calculation for "full legalization",

"All immigrant workers in this scenario have full labor rights, which results in higher wages - and higher worker productivity - for all workers in industries where large numbers of immigrants are employed. As wage and productivity levels rise, the U.S. economy's demand for new immigrant workers actually declines over time as the market shrinks for easily exploited, low-wage workers...The higher earning power of newly legalized workers translates into an increase in the net personal income of $30 to $36 billion, which would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue. Moreover, an increase in personal income of this scale would generate consumer spending to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs..."

The report demonstrates that the economic argument can no longer be used as an excuse to avoid immigration reform, and poses a stiff challenge to the mythical notion that legalizing undocumented workers will increase unemployment. Instead it helps to drive home the pressing need for the government to enact comprehensive immigration reform. In an article by New American Media, Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council, says,

"I think there are two very important things about this report. One certainly is that it shines a spotlight on the potential for a very large impact on our economy in a time when we need it. Even in Washington D.C., $1.5 trillion is a lot of money. But the report also reminds us of where the focus of an immigration reform effort ought to be, and that is about how do we provide benefits to the American economy and to the American worker."

Momentum for immigration reform is building in 2010. On December 15th, Rep. Gutierrez unveiled CIR ASAP in the House, a historical bill that outlines progressive solutions to our immigration policy crisis, and early this year, Sen. Schumer is expected to introduce a bill in the Senate. You can do your bit to urge Congress to support immigration reform leading to a healthier economy and more due process and human rights for all.

How Immigration Enforcement Has Interfered with Workers' Rights

The federal government's immigration enforcement in recent years, including a heavy reliance on workplace raids and the involvement of state and local police in immigration enforcement, has resulted in a trampling of labor rights of workers.

There's more...

How has the immigration system fared one year under Obama's presidency?

From Restore Fairness Blog

In early 2009, President Obama appointed the governor of border-state Arizona Janet Napolitano, and a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For many, it was a sign that the administration would tackle immigration reform as a priority. In her first week in office, Napolitano ordered a sweeping internal review of DHS, aimed at identifying key areas for reform. March 2010 marks the one year anniversary from that week. So how much has changed for immigration?

There's more...

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