The New York Times reported that The Superme Court’s mixed decision on Arizona’s tough immigration enforcement law has laid the ground for years of legal and political wrangling in many states over racial profiling and civil rights, making it likely that the court will be asked to revisit immigration.
In its opinion on Monday, the court struck down three parts of the controversial law but let stand a core “show me your papers” provision, which requires the police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop if they suspect the person is an illegal immigrant.
But the court also suggested it was open to new challenges based on any adverse impact the law might have on the civil rights of Arizona residents.
Legal groups opposed to Arizona’s law contend that the police will not be able to decide whom to question without singling out Hispanics and foreign-looking people for special scrutiny. They said the court’s opinion, in a lawsuit brought by the Obama administration, clears the way for them to come forward with challenges based directly on claims that the statute will lead to racial profiling of Latinos and immigrants.
Fearing that impact, Latinos turned out in street protests across the country after the law, known as S.B. 1070, was enacted in 2010, and they led a boycott of Arizona, together with civil rights and immigrant groups. But claims of discrimination were not squarely addressed in the administration’s case.
“The court has opened the door for us to proceed now with the rest of our constitutional claims,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, which brought challenges against Arizona’s law and similar statutes in five other states. “This type of law is almost impossible to enforce in a racially neutral way, without leading to civil rights violations against people of color,” she said.
On the other side, supporters of Arizona’s statute said the Supreme Court’s decision would compel them to pursue a new line of legal attack, focusing on what they contend is overreaching by the Obama administration, which they believe the justices encouraged. In its opinion the court broadly endorsed the administration’s argument that immigration policy and enforcement are primarily the province of the federal government, not the states.
“The administration is relying on a claim that they have discretion to enforce immigration law,” said Michael M. Hethmon, general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington, a group that helped Arizona and many other states to write their own immigration enforcement laws. “And they are using that claim to really massively expand their direct power.”
Mr. Hethmon’s institute is the legal branch of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, one of the nation’s most influential groups seeking reduced immigration.
Five other states have enacted laws that are some variation of Arizona’s: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah. Civil rights groups have challenged those laws, and federal courts have suspended some or all of their provisions.
The Obama administration, in its case against Arizona — the first challenge to rise to the Supreme Court — relied almost exclusively on the argument that the state law was invalid because it was in conflict with federal policy.
Before the administration filed its suit in 2010, civil rights organizations — including Ms. Hincapié’s center; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund known as Maldef; and the American Civil Liberties Union — brought a separate lawsuit against S.B. 1070. That case, on behalf of labor unions, business groups, churches and immigrant organizations, claims the Arizona law “will subject many persons of color,” including Americans and legal immigrants, “to racial profiling and to unlawful interrogations, searches, seizures and arrests.”
The federal court put that lawsuit in abeyance while the Obama administration’s case moved forward. But after the Supreme Court’s decision, Ms. Hincapié said, the civil rights case can advance again.
The Supreme Court decision heightened attention on Alabama, where lawmakers last year passed an immigration law tougher than Arizona’s. While authorizing the police to check immigration status, the law also restricted business contracts and transactions with illegal immigrants, and required public schools to check the status of students.
This year, the Alabama Legislature added provisions to make the law even more strict. Based on challenges from rights groups, federal courts suspended many provisions but allowed the “show me your papers” section to stand, making Alabama the only state where such a law has gone into effect.
Alabama officials and lawmakers said they were both heartened and worried by the court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court came down solidly committed to both sides, not solidly for either side,” said State Senator Scott Beason, a Republican who was a leading sponsor of the immigration bill. “I was hoping for a more definitive set of guidelines,” he said.
Rights organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, brought two lawsuits against Alabama, both including extensive civil rights claims. They won one round, in which a federal court found the law unfairly prevented illegal immigrants from obtaining license plates for mobile homes.
Alabama officials said they were studying the Supreme Court decision to decipher its impact on the state law.
“The people of Alabama want a strong anti-illegal-immigration law,” said Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican. “I will keep my commitment to uphold and enforce Alabama’s law.”
Mr. Hethmon, of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said the group was preparing “creative legal strategies” to directly contest the Obama administration’s view that it can use its federal authority to exercise wide prosecutorial discretion in setting deportation policy. The administration has said it will focus on removing illegal immigrants who are criminals, while sparing others with no criminal records.
Mr. Hethmon said he would also be advising states on how to devise policing statutes similar to Arizona’s so they will be fully consistent with the Supreme Court’s guidance.
Civil rights lawyers said they will not give up on trying to stop the policing provision of S.B. 1070, which the Supreme Court upheld, from taking effect. They contend the court’s opinion pointed to new limits it wanted to impose on the law.
“We feel strongly this law should not be implemented,” said Thomas A. Saenz, general counsel of Maldef. “The irreparable harms are just too severe.”
CNN.com reported that the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down key parts of an Arizona law that sought to deter illegal immigration, but let stand a controversial provision allowing police to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.
In a decision sure to ripple across the political landscape in a presidential election year, the court’s 5-3 ruling upheld the authority of the federal government to set immigration policy and laws.
“The National Government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”
But while concluding that the federal government has the power to block the law, the court let stand one of the most controversial parts: a provision that lets police check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the United States illegally. Critics said that law opens the door to racial profiling.
“There is a basic uncertainty about what the law means and how it will be enforced,” Kennedy wrote, making clear that Arizona authorities must comply with federal law in conducting the immigration status checks or face further constitutional challenges.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police said it wasn’t immediately clear whether authorities would begin checking motorists’ immigration status while enforcing other laws. They referred questions to the Arizona attorney general’s office, which did not immediately return a call Monday from CNN seeking comment, but Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer told reporters she expected the provision would go into effect immediately.
Brewer, a Republican who signed the legislation, called the decision “a victory for the people of Arizona and for America.” In an interview on CNN’s “John King USA,” she said Arizona police and sheriff’s deputies have been trained to avoid racial profiling, “and they don’t profile.”
President Barack Obama also expressed concern that immigration status checks allowed by Monday’s ruling could lead to racial profiling by police. In a written statement, Obama said, “No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.”
And his administration said it would not assist Arizona’s efforts. Administration officials announced Thursday that they have canceled agreements that allowed some Arizona police departments to enforce federal immigration laws, and the Justice Department set up a telephone hotline and e-mail address for the public to report civil rights concerns about the law’s enforcement.
Brewer responded angrily to the decision, calling it “outrageous.”
“I think this is another assault on the state of Arizona,” she told CNN. “It began with them downplaying our border problem and them not securing it, and then, you know, suing the state of Arizona for trying to protect the people of Arizona and of America, then doing backdoor amnesty.”
Brewer told reporters earlier that she expected further lawsuits on the immigration status checks, adding, “this certainly is not the end of our journey.”
Opponents of the Arizona law have dubbed the immigration-status provision the “show me your papers” law, arguing that it unfairly targets Latinos.
“I know they will not be using that kind of tactic on people with the last name Roberts, Romney, or Brewer, but if your name is something like Gutierrez or Chung or Obama, watch out,” said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois. “The express goal of the authors of Arizona’s SB 1070 is to make life miserable for immigrants so that they will leave, and a key tool in that effort was upheld by the court.”
And Rep. Charles Gonzalez, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told “John King USA” that he expects the Arizona law will lead to racial profiling “on a grand scale” and eventually come back before the court.
“My prediction is that the other shoe will drop, and that this fourth provision will be ruled unconstitutional,” said Gonzalez, D-Texas.
Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama’s presumptive Republican challenger in November’s election, blamed the president for what he called a “muddle” left in the wake of the court’s ruling.
“The president promised in his campaign that in his first year, he would take on immigration and solve our immigration challenges, put in place a long-term program to care for those who want to come here legally, to deal with illegal immigration, to deal with securing our borders,” Romney said during a campaign stop in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Arizona. “All these things he was going to in his first year. He had a Democrat House and a Democrat Senate, but he didn’t do it. Isn’t it time for the American people to ask him why?”
But Gonzalez said Romney “knows better.”
“It has not been the Democrats in Congress who have pushed back, it has been the Republicans,” he said.
The Arizona law generated immediate controversy after Brewer signed it in April 2010. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a travel alert for Arizona, and dozens of groups canceled meetings or conventions. The federal government challenged four provisions of the Arizona law that never were enforced, pending the legal ruling.
Provisions struck down included:
– Authorizing police to arrest illegal immigrants without warrant where “probable cause” exists that they committed any public offense making them removable from the country.
– Making it a state crime for “unauthorized immigrants” to fail to carry registration papers and other government identification.
– Forbidding those not authorized for employment in the United States to apply, solicit or perform work. That would include illegal immigrants standing in a parking lot who “gesture or nod” their willingness to be employed.
“Today’s ruling appropriately bars the state of Arizona from effectively criminalizing unlawful status in the state and confirms the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate in the area of immigration,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
But Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Monday’s ruling “essentially puts an end to immigration enforcement since the states no longer can step in and fill the void created by the Obama administration.”
The high court majority in the case included Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Steven Breyer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Elena Kagan did not hear the case. Before taking the bench last year, she had been involved in the administration’s initial legal opposition to the law as solicitor general.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the minority, argued the court’s ruling encroaches on Arizona’s sovereign powers.
“If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State,” Scalia wrote in a dissent backed by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
Supporters of the Arizona measure contend the federal government has failed to enforce existing immigration laws, leaving it to states to take their own steps to deal with mounting economic and social problems caused by illegal immigrants.
On Monday, two senior administration officials said the Department of Homeland Security expects increased requests from Arizona police to check the immigration status of suspects. However, they said the department will get involved only in high-priority cases such as felony offenders, repeat immigration violators or newly arrived illegal immigrants.
The policy reflects the department’s policy of prioritizing how it spends its resources, the officials said. Such prioritizing of resources was cited as the basis for a recent decision to halt deportations of some young illegal immigrants who came to America as children, had clean records and were students or served in the military.
In his dissent, Scalia noted such selective enforcement of immigration laws, writing, “To say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind.”
Several other states followed Arizona’s lead by passing laws meant to deter illegal immigrants. Similar laws are under challenge in lower courts in Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina. Arizona’s appeal is the first to reach the Supreme Court.
“Hopefully today’s decision will spur the federal government to enforce the rule of law in the immigration arena,” said a statement by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. “My office will be reviewing today’s decision to determine the full extent of its impact on Alabama’s law and the pending litigation.”
Dan Kowalski, editor-in-chief of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin and an immigration lawyer at the Fowler Law Firm in Austin, Texas, said Monday’s ruling means states have to “really almost go back to square one and really rethink their approach and how much time and money they want to put into these types of statutes.”
“They’re going to have to spend a lot of money on lawyers to try to craft something that they think can withstand Supreme Court scrutiny,” he said, adding that states also will “have to budget money for further litigation because, no matter what they propose on a state level, it’s going to be challenged. That costs a lot of money. So they’re going to have to figure out if it’s worth it.”
Fed up with illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico — and what they say is the federal government’s inability to stop it — legislators in Arizona passed the tough immigration law in 2010. The federal government sued, saying that Arizona overreached.
At issue was whether states have any authority to step in to regulate immigration matters or whether that is the exclusive role of the federal government. In dry legal terms, this constitutional issue is known as pre-emption.
Arizona is the nation’s most heavily traveled corridor for illegal immigration and smuggling.
The case reached the Supreme Court after federal courts had blocked four elements of the state’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known as SB 1070.
The Justice Department said Arizona’s population of 2 million Latinos includes an estimated 400,000 there illegally, and 60% to 70% of deportations or “removals” involve Mexican nationals.
The Pew Hispanic Center recently issued a report that found that Mexican immigration to the United States has come to a standstill.
The economic downturn in the United States and better conditions in Mexico, along with deportations and other enforcement, have led many to return to Mexico.
However, the debate continues as more than 10 million unauthorized immigrants — from Mexico and other countries — continue to live in the United States.
The Obama administration said Monday that it has increased both Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement staffing and taken other steps that helped cut border apprehensions in half since 2008.
Even if immigration has slowed to lows not seen in decades, proponents of tough immigration laws want to beef up enforcement ahead of any future pressures.
The National Journal reported that New York City took the crown as the metropolitan area with the most naturalized citizens in 2011, according to date from the Annual Flow Report by the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics. Los Angeles and Miami rounded out the top three. Of the 694,193 immigrants naturalized in 2011, more than half were concentrated in the top 10 metropolitan areas, mostly along the East Coast between Boston and Washington, D.C. The Atlantic Cities also calculated for total population size (looking at number of naturalized citizens for every 100,000) and found that the concentrations changed slightly. While there were still hubs along California and the East Coast, larger numbers appeared in Florida, with the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area topping the list. In other words, these areas had more naturalized citizens relative to total population. The top countries of origin for naturalized citizens were Mexico, India, the Philippines, China, and Colombia. The number of naturalizations had increased from 619,913 in 2010. This is following sharp decreases from two years prior: 743,715 in 2009 and more than 1 million in 2008. The increase in 2008 is attributed to efforts that year to get more eligible immigrants to apply for naturalization in lieu of an upcoming application fee increase, according to the report.
The American Immigration Council reported that politicians love small businesses. They also love high-skilled workers. One might assume, then, that entrepreneurs and start-up companies would have a relatively easy time hiring immigrant professionals through the H-1B program. Not so. In fact, a recently released memo confirms that far from receiving preferential treatment, small businesses are singled out for heightened fraud investigations by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Since 1990, the H-1B program has permitted employers to sponsor foreign workers engaged in occupations requiring “highly specialized knowledge,” among other things. (Think engineers and computer scientists.) In late 2008, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of DHS, conducted an internal assessment of the H-1B program to identify employers likely to submit fraudulent applications. Based on its own study, the agency concluded that employers were more likely to engage in fraud if they had a gross annual income of less than $10 million, employed 25 or fewer workers, or had been established in the last 10 years.
While the assessment itself was released to the public, an accompanying memo, which provided instructions to USCIS employees who reviewed H-1B petitions, was not. Under the memo, when a petitioning employer met two of the three aforementioned criteria, agency employees were encouraged to issue “Requests for Evidence” (RFEs), i.e., notices seeking additional documents to confirm the validity of the application. Although seeking additional evidence may seem like a modest request, it can result in months of delays in practice, inhibiting employers’ ability to satisfy preexisting contracts and deadlines.
Following the release of the memo, the number of cases in which USCIS requested additional evidence skyrocketed, as did the rate of cases in which H-1B petitions were denied outright. According to a recent report from the National Foundation for American Policy, the agency issued RFEs for 35 percent of H-1B petitions in fiscal 2009, up from 20 percent the previous year. That same year, the agency denied 29 percent of H-1B petitions, up from 16 percent the previous year. Despite falling in recent years, both rates remain higher today than at any point during the previous administration.
Even before the memo was issued, small companies already faced a disadvantage hiring H-1B workers. Under federal law, only 85,000 slots are available on an annual basis, many of which go to large companies that submit hundreds—or even thousands—of petitions per year. The impact of the agency’s increased scrutiny has been increasingly felt in Silicon Valley where start-up companies often rely on high-tech workers and where individual employees are often critical to companies’ survival.
As troubling as the content of the memo was the grudging manner in which USCIS released it. In 2009, months after the memo was written, the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act seeking its release. Yet despite the White House’s repeated pledges to increase transparency, USCIS refused to release any portion of the memo for more than a year, and only disclosed it after receiving an unfavorable ruling in a federal lawsuit.
To be sure, no one would deny that USCIS has a responsibility to ensure that immigration benefits are only provided to qualified applicants. But in its zeal to combat fraud, the agency is depriving small businesses of qualified, high-skilled workers that they—and the country—genuinely need.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Immigrant rights advocates barely had time to digest the Obama administration’s announcement last week that it would stop deporting some young immigrants when the questions started flowing in: Am I the right age? Does an arrest disqualify me? Do my parents qualify?
“We’ve been celebrating all weekend,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villarigoas said Tuesday. “We’ve now got to get ready. We’ve got to prepare the documents.”
The mayor joined activists and student organizers at a news conference called to highlight the need for young immigrants to begin documenting their history in the United States.
Doing so, he said, will help them prepare strong applications and avoid pitfalls as the policy is implemented.
It’s still unclear exactly how the program, which grants temporary relief from deportation to young immigrants who meet certain qualifications, will be administered. Department of Homeland Security officials have said they will announce details in 60 days.
In the meantime, immigrant advocates said, unscrupulous consultants are already trying to take advantage of those who do not have legal status.
Immigration attorney Jessica Dominguez said her office had received calls from older immigrants who were told, incorrectly, that a law had passed that would protect the parents of undocumented students.
“This is very scary for us as a community,” she said. “We need to get the word out. We have to be careful.”
Victor Nieblas of the American Immigration Lawyers Assn. said major policy shifts such as the one announced Friday leave plenty of room for fraud.
“Here in L.A., the unauthorized practice of law is big business,” he said.
The new policy is supposed to be applied immediately to anyone meeting the qualifications who encounters immigration agents. Others need to be patient until clear guidelines are issued, Nieblas said.
According to the rules announced so far, relief will apply to those who are 30 years old or younger. Qualified applicants must have come to the United States before they turned 16 and stayed continuously for at least the last five years. They also must be enrolled in school, have a high school diploma or equivalent degree or be an honorably discharged veteran.
Those convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors are not eligible. In a list of frequently asked questions about the program, the Department of Homeland Security said significant misdemeanors include burglary, driving under the influence, possession of drugs and offenses involving violence.
Organizers with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles said they were planning legal workshops, conference calls and other events to help people collect the information they need and avoid being defrauded.
Dominguez said anyone who might qualify should begin gathering documents to prove he or she meets the educational requirements and has been in the United States for the necessary period. School transcripts, in particular, will be helpful, she said.
She also suggested that anyone convicted of a misdemeanor get a certified copy of the court disposition and take it to an immigration lawyer or reputable community organization for advice.
Mario Castillo, 21, said that soon after he heard about the policy change, he went online in search of information. He found Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s memo outlining the rules and checked to make sure he met each qualification.
The Occidental College student made a mental list of all the documentation his family had kept over the years. He’s always been a good student, and his mother kept report cards, diplomas and transcripts.
“OK, I’m good,” he thought. “I can prove that I’ve been here for a long time.”
For others, the process could be more difficult. On Tuesday, the message was clear: Start gathering documents. Be patient. And cautious.
The American Immigration Law Foundation reported that in the never-ending debate over the impact that immigration has on the U.S. economy, the role of immigrant small businesses usually goes unnoticed. While mention is sometimes made of the fact that two in five Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants, the little businesses—the majority that employee under 100 people—are often forgotten. In large part, this is due to the absence of basic data on the subject. However, a new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) finally quantifies the value of immigrant small businesses to the U.S. economy.
Using data from the Survey of Business Owners and the American Community Survey, the report compiles a treasure trove of entrepreneurial information that highlights the enormous role which immigrants play as small business owners:
- Immigrant small businesses employed 4.7 million people and had $776 billion in receipts in 2007, the last year for which data is available.
- 18% of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants; higher than the immigrant share of the population (13%) or labor force (16%).
- The small businesses most commonly owned by immigrants are restaurants, physician’s offices, real estate firms, grocery stores, and truck transportation services.
- Immigrants comprise 65% of taxi service owners, 54% of dry cleaning and laundry service owners, 53% of gas station owners, and 49% of grocery store owners.
- Between 1990 and 2010, immigrants accounted for 30% of the total increase in the number of small business owners in the United States.
- Immigrants from Mexico account for 12% of immigrant small business owners, followed by immigrants from India, Korea, Cuba, China, and Vietnam.
- Immigrants from the Middle East, Asia, and Southern Europe have the highest rates of small business ownership.
- Immigrants who have been in the United States for more than 10 years are more than twice as likely to be small business owners as immigrants who have been in the country for 10 years or less.
- 29% of immigrant small business owner are women. In comparison, 28% of U.S.-born small business owners are women.
- Among the 25 largest metropolitan areas, immigrants comprise the largest share of small business owners in Miami (45%), followed by Los Angeles (44%), New York (36%), and San Francisco (35%).
- Among the 50 states, immigrants comprise the largest share of small business owners in California (33%), followed by New York (29%), New Jersey (28%), Florida (26%), and Hawaii (23%).
Taken in sum, this data illustrates that immigrant entrepreneurs are an integral part of the U.S. economy.
As the FPI report puts it, “immigrant small business owners contribute to economic growth, to employment, and to producing the goods and services that support our standard of living.” This is a basic economic fact with broad political implications. The report observes that “understanding who the one million immigrant small business owners are…can only help as the country struggles to achieve a better set of immigration policies.” And a better set of policies would recognize that immigration fuels American entrepreneurship.
The American Immigration Council reported that The Obama administration announced today that it will offer indefinite reprieves from deportation for young immigrants who were brought to the country as minors and meet other specific requirements. The move, hailed by immigration advocates as a bold response to the broken immigration system, temporarily eliminates the possibility of deportation for youths who would qualify for relief under the DREAM Act, giving Congress the space needed to craft a bipartisan solution that gives permanent residence to qualifying young people. In a statement from the White House, President Obama said the policy was “the right thing to do,” calling DREAMers “Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”
According to a memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security, immigrants may apply for a two-year renewable grant of “deferred action” if they entered the United States before age 16; are 30 or younger; have lived continuously in the United States for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor; and are currently in school, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. Although not granted lawful immigration status, recipients will be able to obtain work permits under existing regulations.
Today’s memo, issued by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, comes almost exactly one year after the release of a memo from ICE Director John Morton setting forth an extensive list of factors for agents to consider when exercising prosecutorial discretion. The so-called “Morton memo” was initially hailed by immigrant advocates, who believed it would prevent the removal of foreign nationals who would have qualified for relief under the DREAM Act. Calls for bolder executive action grew stronger, however, after an ongoing review of pending removal cases yielded disappointing results and examples continued to surface of immigrants being denied prosecutorial discretion despite compelling circumstances.
Although not defined under federal regulations, deferred action has long been used by U.S. presidents to prevent the removal of immigrants for humanitarian reasons. Contrary to some headlines, immigrants who are granted deferred action—which can be revoked without notice at any time—will not receive “immunity” from removal. In addition, although they will be permitted to apply for work permits, immigrants who receive deferred action will not receive green cards or any other lawful immigration status, will not be permitted to sponsor family members, and may be unable to travel abroad.
According to the memo and a Q&A released by the administration, immigrants who are not currently in removal proceedings will have to submit applications demonstrating their eligibility for deferred action. Meanwhile, immigrants who are currently in removal proceedings will be eligible for deferred action, even if they previously declined an offer of “administrative closure” under the ongoing case review process. Although eligibility determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, administration officials said that immigrants who satisfy the criteria in the memo should presumptively be granted deferred action. Secretary
Napolitano’s memo comes two weeks after nearly 100 law professors sent a letter to President Obama outlining his authority to provide temporary relief from deportation. The announcement also comes on the thirtieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe, which held that states cannot exclude undocumented schoolchildren from elementary and secondary schools.
In the shadows of the failure of the DREAM Act, President Barak Obama has announced a long-anticipated change in immigration policy effective immediately. The policy is aimed at young immigrants who were brought into the United States illegally by their parents and is estimated to benefit about 800,000 undocumented immigrants. Eligible immigrants will be granted work authorization and deferred action, also known as deferral of deportation, for a period of two years that is subject to renewal. In order to qualify for the benefits of this new immigration policy, individuals must meet the following criteria:
1. Have come to the United States before the age of 16 years old
2. Be no older than 30 years old
3. Have maintained continuous residence in the United States for the past five years
4. Be currently enrolled in school, have graduated high school, have a GED, or have served in the military
5. Have not been convicted of a crime
It is important to note that this new policy neither grants undocumented immigrants amnesty nor immunity and is not a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security are describing the policy as a means to incorporate discretion into immigration law and to shift the focus of enforcement resources to the individuals posing a national security or public safety risk. Additionally, it is conceivable that a different administration may come into office and withdraw the new regulation.
This new immigration policy has arisen from a push by many Hispanic immigrants for goals similar to the DREAM Act that failed in the U.S. Senate in 2010. The DREAM Act, also known as the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors, was first proposed in 2001 with an aim of benefiting the children of undocumented immigrants. With requirements nearly the same as the new immigration policy, qualified applicants would have been eligible for a six-year conditional status and in-state college tuition. During the six years, the applicant must complete at least two years in college or in the military and then would be eligible to apply for permanent residence. Unfortunately, the DREAM Act has yet to be enacted by the federal government but a similar version of the act was passed in California in October 2011.
This immigration reform represents a shift in policy promised by President Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign. However, critics are claiming President Obama strategically introduced the policy in an effort to gain Latino voters for the upcoming presidential election in November. Others claim the policy bypasses the immigration laws already in place. Regardless of the criticism, thousands of young undocumented immigrants will be given relief from a life decision made by their parents. The deferred action is also expected to help with the backlog of cases in the immigration courts, noting that last year had the largest number of deported immigrants in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s history. Those affected by the new policy have high hopes for immigration reform, but will continue to push for a more comprehensive immigration policy that can broaden the scope of its reach.
AOL news reported that The Obama administration responded to years of pressure from immigrants rights groups on Friday with an announcement that it will stop deportations and begin granting work permits for some Dream Act-eligible students. Some 800,000 people are expected to come forward to receive deferred action from deportation, as first reported by the Associated Press on Friday morning. The policy change will apply to young undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children, along the same lines as the Dream Act, a decade-old bill that passed in the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate in 2010. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters that the policy change is part of a general shift by the Obama administration to focus on deporting high-priority undocumented immigrants. “This grant of deferred action is not immunity,” she said. “It is not amnesty. It is an exercise of discretion so that these young people are not in the removal system. It will help us to continue to streamline immigration enforcement and ensure that resources are not spent pursuing the removal of low-priority cases involving productive young people.” “More important, I believe this action is the right thing to do,” she continued. The policy change will effectively enable Dream Act-eligible young people, often called DREAMers, to stay in the United States without fear of deportation, and without legislation from a Congress that is unlikely to pass a bill. Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States under the age of 16 and have lived in the country for at least five years can apply for the relief, so long as they are under the age of 30, according to a memo from DHS. They also must be either an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or armed forces, or a student who has graduated from high school or obtained a GED. Immigrants will not be eligible if they “post a threat to national security or public safety,” including having been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as Customs and Border Protection, were instructed in a memo to immediately react by reviewing individual cases and preventing eligible immigrants from being put in removal proceedings. Those already in proceedings could be granted deferred action for two years, and then may apply for renewal. They will be given work authorization on a case-by-case basis. A senior administration official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that most eligible undocumented immigrants will be required to go to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide documents and pay a fee. Still, there will be no pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants eligible for the policy change, because “Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights,” according to the DHS announcement. The administration has been under intense pressure from immigrant rights groups, some led by undocumented youth themselves, to make an executive order protecting DREAMers from deportation. Previously, though, officials had said the administration did not have the power to make an executive order blocking deportations for undocumented young people. Asked about that change, a different senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that this is “the next step of prosecutorial discretion” along the same lines as it is already being applied, and not inconsistent with past statements. The announcement comes several months before the presidential election, where President Barack Obama hopes to win a significant portion of the vote from the Latino population, which supports the Dream Act by large margins. The majority of the population at large also supports the Dream Act, as defined by the 2010 bill, although by lower margins. The announcement also comes on the heels of Obama announcing his support for same-sex marriage — similarly after years of urging from advocacy groups. Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he would veto the Dream Act under the 2010 framework, but has expressed some openness to considering upcoming legislation on young undocumented immigrants from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). That plan, which has yet to be introduced, would allow some undocumented immigrants who came as children to stay legally, but without any path to citizenship. A spokesman for Rubio did not respond to a request for comment on the administration announcement by the time of publication, nor did the Romney campaign. Republicans in Congress have largely decried legislation on the issue as amnesty. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said on Fox News Friday that the policy change could be “a backdoor opportunity to allow people to vote” — though eligible young people would not be given voting rights under the new policy — and that it should go through the legislative process instead. Spokespersons for Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), who lead the committee and subcommittee dealing with immigration issues, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did a spokeswoman for Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the biggest critics of the president on immigration enforcement. Democratic supporters of the Dream Act applauded the decision. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the most vocal critics of the administration on immigration, called the announcement a “tremendous first step,” while Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he was “profoundly grateful” and that the policy change “will change [DREAMers'] lives forever.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who introduced the Dream Act in 2001, called it a “historic humanitarian moment.” “This action will give these young immigrants their chance to come out of the shadows and be part of the only country they’ve ever called home,” Durbin said in a statement. DREAMers said on Friday they were cautiously optimistic about the news, but happy that the administration responded to their concerns. Lizbeth Mateo, an undocumented 27-year-old who works with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, said she has been disappointed before by seemingly positive announcements from the administration on immigration, such as when it took up stronger application of prosecutorial discretion, with the stated intent to close a number of deportation cases. Although many cases have been closed, immigrant rights groups argue that the policy has fallen short. Another undocumented advocate for the Dream Act, Gaby Pacheco, said she, too, is waiting to see how far the policy goes in implementation. “We feel that the work that we have been doing for the past couple of years has really come to fruition,” she said. “A community has been able to organize and to speak out, and the president has responded.” Obama is expected to address the announcement in remarks around 1:15 p.m. EST on Friday.
DOS released the Visa Bulletin for July 2012. Continued heavy demand for numbers in the EB-2 preference category has required the establishment of a worldwide cut-off date for the month of July. China and India EB-2 are already “unavailable,” and will remain so for the remainder of the fiscal year
- Uncategorized (254)