Category Archives: Uncategorized

Prosecutorial Discretion in the News

Today, immigration lawyers, community leaders and advocates, representing a broad spectrum of Latino and immigrant communities, will review the Department of Homeland Security’s implementation of the new enforcement priorities regarding prosecutorial discretion over the past year.

Click here to FIRM’s report on this issue

Activists Press US Gov’t on Processing of Immigrant Families

Several pro-immigrant organizations demanded on Thursday that the Obama administration implement the proposal for a new procedure that would allow the spouses and children of U.S. citizens to remain in the country while their immigration situation is regularized.

On Jan. 6, the president and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, announced their intention to change the policy obligating undocumented immigrants without papers requested by relatives to leave the country to adjust their status, a process that could take between 3 and 10 years.

The new procedure is designed to alleviate the extreme hardship that U.S. citizens experience due to the prolonged separation from their family members, USCIS chief Alejandro Mayorkas said during the announcement.

Although in some cases the federal government can authorize a pardon, which takes many years to process and allows immigrants to return to the United States to reunite with their family, they have to prove that the separation caused hardship.

Under the new proposal, which still has not entered into force, it would be easier for families to avoid these punishments by requesting “family unity protection” with the aim of not having to leave the country while their papers are being processed.

“What we’re seeking is the rapid implementation of the exemption and above all that it be broadened, because many families will remain outside (its scope). There’s still time until tomorrow (Friday) to comment on the changes we consider necessary,” Javier Valdez, a representative from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), said Thursday in a telephone press conference.

FIRM and the Alliance for a Just Society also released on Thursday the report entitled “Promesas que Mantener” (Promises to Keep), which gathers 19 stories of immigrants and their families who are facing separation and which shows the importance of changing the process.

About 400,000 people are deported from the United States every year and since 2008 1.2 million immigrants have been forced to leave the country.

According to a report by the Applied Research Center, at least 5,100 U.S. children in the country have been placed with the social services because their parents have been detained or deported.

Also, about 5.5 million minors, of whom 80 were born in the country, have at least one parent who is undocumented.

Read more:

Family Unity Waiver Must be Implemented Fairly to Keep Families Together

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement today urged for the rapid implementation of a proposed rule change that would allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay together in the United States while they wait for decisions on their waivers toward a path to citizenship.

Under current law, undocumented immigrants have to leave the United States and apply for a waiver to lessen the 3-year and 10-year bar they face before they can re-enter the country. Often, the process to obtain a waiver can take months or even years, meaning families have to endure prolonged separations and are exposed to significant hardship.

The Obama Administration has proposed the so-called “family unity waiver,” an important step that would allow some families to stay together while their paperwork is being processed.

“Rapid implementation of the family unity waiver is critical because too many immigrant families are being torn apart by our broken immigration system,” said Javier Valdes, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road NY. “Just yesterday, a newspaper published a story about an Indiana high school student who went back to Mexico to get her visa, and due to the length of the process, she could miss her graduation.  She was needlessly separated from her family, community and school, and could be barred from re-entering the country for 3 years due to a technicality in immigration law.”

Rosalia Quiroz is a U.S. citizen married to Gustavo, an undocumented immigrant. The couple has three U.S. born children together.

“We want to make things right and help him achieve legal status,” Quiroz said. “But in this immigration system there is no way to do it. If I follow the normal process and petition for him as a spouse, Gustavo will have to be separated from his family for 10 years.”

Quiroz’s family is just among the thousands who could benefit from the family unity waiver. The “Promises to Keep” storybook highlights some of the other families facing obstacles toward gaining citizenship. Fernando Mejia, regional organizer for the Alliance for a Just Society, said the storybook puts human faces on this issue. The story book can be found by going to this link:

The people in the storybook are among the thousands who could benefit from the family unity waiver, Mejia said. In April, it was reported that more than one in five people deported in the first six months of 2011 had U.S. citizen children.

“One estimate shows that 5.5 million children in the U.S., about 80 percent who are citizens, have at least one parent without proper documentation,” Mejia said. “Since 2009, the Department of Homeland Security has deported more than 1 million immigrants causing emotional and economic devastation to countless families.”

Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, urged the Administration to implement the family unity waiver, with a few improvements like clarifying the hardship standards to include the financial and emotional impact of family separation.

“The broken immigration system, and its impact on families and children, cannot be fully resolved until Congress enacts comprehensive immigration reform,” Salas said.

FIRM Says Proposal to Keep Families United While Processing Immigration Paperwork Must be Implemented

On Thursday, May 31, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) will call on the Obama Administration to strengthen and implement a proposed change in federal regulations that matters dearly to the families of immigrants. The rule change would allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay together in the United States while they wait for decisions on their waivers toward a path to citizenship. The comment period on the proposal ends on Friday, June 1st.

Under current law, undocumented immigrants have to leave the United States and apply for a waiver to lessen the 3-year and 10-year bar they face before they can re-enter the country. Often, the process to obtain a waiver can take months or even years, meaning families have to endure prolonged separations and are exposed to significant hardship.

We are issuing a “storybook” that shows why the family unity waiver must be implemented. The book contains stories of the hardships undocumented immigrants and their families are facing as they work toward a path to citizenship.  You can find the storybook at:

Here are the details of the telephone news conference:

DATE: Thursday, May 31, 2012

TIME: 12:00 p.m. ET


**Javier Valdes, Co-Executive Director, Make the Road NY

**Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles

**Wendy Cervantes, Vice President, Immigration and Child Rights Policy, First Focus

**Alysa Medina, telling her personal story

**Rosalia Borjas, telling her personal story

Special Guest: Honorable U.S. Representative Judy Chu

CALL-IN information:

Dial-in number: (866) 861-4870

States Introduce Fewer Immigration Bills

The number of immigration bills and resolutions appearing in state legislatures across the country declined steeply in the first quarter of this year, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

More than 1,500 bills were introduced the first quarter of 2011. This year only 865 have been introduced in 45 state legislatures and the District of Columbia during the same period, said the report released Tuesday.

The number of laws enacted is also down. As of March 31, 27 states enacted 24 laws and adopted 74 resolutions. That represents a 30 percent drop in the number of measures enacted in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period a year ago.  An additional five bills were awaiting governors’ signatures.

State Sen. John Watkins, R-Va., said that the drop off is due to the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, regarding the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, known as SB1070.

“This issue has not dropped off of the radar screen in state legislatures,” he said in a NCSL news release. “Some states are waiting to see how the Supreme Court rules on immigration issues before moving ahead with their own policy debates.”

While the Supreme Court case may explain the drop in part, some states are questioning whether laws like SB1070 are good for their economy, said David Leopold, incoming general council for the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association.

“These types of laws don’t help the states economically,”  Leopold said. “In fact, there’s evidence out there that they actually hurt the state’s gross domestic product.”

This year, five states — Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, and West Virginia — introduced omnibus enforcement bills, each includin elements similar to those in SB1070, according to the report. Mississippi’s and West Virginia bills have failed; The others were pending as of March 31.

This was originally published by the National Journal.

Garfield County Sheriff Persists in Referring Domestic Violence Victims to ICE

An investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado revealed that the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department (GCSD) has referred several victims of domestic violence to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, resulting in those individuals being placed in deportation proceedings because they chose to report acts of domestic violence to law enforcement.

In a letter dated May 2, 2012, the ACLU and the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) explained to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario that such referrals were “out of step with Colorado law” and “created a strong and perverse disincentive for undocumented victims and witnesses of domestic violence to report the abuse to law enforcement.” The ACLU and CCADV urged Sheriff Vallario to put an immediate end to this “harmful practice” and extended an offer to collaborate with the Sheriff to create a new policy that would encourage victims of domestic violence to contact the police when abuse occurs. In a brief response to the ACLU, GCSD has signaled its unwillingness to consider a policy change.

ACLU Staff Attorney Rebecca T. Wallace said: “When undocumented victims of domestic violence are referred to ICE as a result of reporting the abuse to law enforcement, the signal to the undocumented population is clear. If you call the police to report domestic violence, you may end up being deported.”

According to the ACLU letter, this message “has the predictable effect of deterring undocumented people from contacting the police to report crimes of domestic violence and diminishing the goodwill towards peace officers that undoubtedly GCSD wishes to foster with the substantial immigrant community in the Roaring Fork Valley.”

Ms. Wallace explained that “effective law enforcement requires that victims of crime, whether documented or undocumented, feel safe reporting crime to law enforcement. This is particularly true in conflicts involving domestic violence, which often occurs behind closed doors in the context of an intimate relationship.” It is with this concern in mind that the Colorado legislature, even while passing a law requiring sheriffs to report certain arrestees to ICE, carved out an explicit exception to the reporting requirement for domestic violence arrestees. The law is called Senate Bill 90 (SB-90), and the domestic violence exception to SB-90 provides for sheriffs to refrain from reporting a domestic violence arrestee to ICE unless and until that individual is

“The ACLU generally opposes programs such as SB-90 and Secure Communities, in part because they target people for referral to ICE at the time of arrest, sometimes capturing people who may never even be charged with a state crime, including crime victims, witnesses and individuals subjected to unconstitutional arrests,” said ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “These programs not only deter people from accessing the criminal justice system, but also invite racial profiling by state and local law enforcement. That being said, SB-90’s domestic violence exception at least mitigates some of the possible negative effects of arrestee referrals.”

According to the letter, adherence to SB-90’s domestic violence exception is necessary to protect domestic violence victims, because it is not uncommon for victims of domestic violence to be mistakenly arrested on domestic violence charges. The letter explains that this can occur because, “abusers will report their victims to the police in an effort to further victimize them.” Additionally, self-defending victims are sometimes . . . caught up in dual arrests when law enforcement are unable to ascertain who the ‘predominant aggressor’ is.”
Ms. Wallace emphasized that “to avoid deterring domestic violence victims from reporting the abuse to law enforcement, it is essential that undocumented domestic violence arrestees not be reported to ICE until after conviction.” Yet, according to the letter, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department automatically reports to ICE all domestic violence arrestees whom they suspect to be undocumented, without waiting to learn if the person is convicted. The ACLU interviewed and reviewed the records of undocumented women who were the victims of serious domestic violence, reported the crime to law enforcement, were arrested on domestic violence charges, and were booked into the Garfield County Jail. In each case, all charges against the victims were dismissed, yet – according to the letter – because GCSD employees automatically reported the victims to ICE at booking, the victims were placed in deportation proceedings.

“In talking to these victims, they clearly and reasonably felt re-victimized by being sent into ICE detention simply because they had interacted with the police about the abuse,” Ms. Wallace said. “Their experiences have a tremendous chilling effect on the large undocumented community in the Roaring Fork Valley and the state. The message being sent to this community is that if you are being abused, don’t call the police.”

According to Mr. Silverstein: “When GCSD chooses to automatically report domestic violence arrestees to ICE, it thwarts the will of the Colorado legislature, which through strong bi-partisan support, carved out an explicit protection for domestic violence victims to ensure that SB-90 would not deter them from reporting domestic abuse to law enforcement.” The letter posits that the ripple effect of this protection extends directly to abused children, because there is a strong co-occurrence of child abuse in homes plagued by domestic violence. Thus, often the call reporting domestic violence is law enforcement’s gateway into learning about and stopping child abuse.

“During the course of our investigation, we were gratified that several counties – when they learned why SB-90s domestic violence exception is essential to encouraging domestic violence reporting – were readily willing to change their policies to reflect the values of Coloradoans’,” said Ms. Wallace.

“Jefferson County, Mesa County, and Hinsdale County are just a few of those counties that were receptive to ACLU advocacy, and we commend them taking this step to ensure the undocumented community feels safe contacting the police to complain of domestic abuse. Negotiations with several other counties are ongoing. Given the receptivity of these counties, and the strong evidence that GCSD has referred domestic violence victims to ICE, we were surprised and dismayed that GCSD is unwilling to alter its policy.”

Civil Rights of Immigrants

On Sunday, May 20th, 2012 over 100 MOSES leaders actioned to hold Wayne County Sheriff Benny N. Napoleon accountable for the actions of his officers and deputies and demand that they stop impounding cars and arresting undocumented immigrants who merely have expired licenses.  In the plaza of Ste. Annes Catholic Church, the action was lead by undocumented immigrants of Wayne County, where Detroit is located.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny N. Napoleon commended the work of MOSES and its committed leadership, and committed to work with MOSES to create a racial profiling training for all of his deputies in the entire county. Sheriff Napoleon also committed publicly to allow his deputies and officers to use discretion with undocumented immigrants starting today by submitting a brief to his deputies througout the county – that hardworking business owners, mothers, students, etc, no longer must be detained merely for not having proper documentation.

Great victory for MOSES and immigrants in Wayne Country. This is incredible. This is how we alter the future of Detroit!

J. Michael Tasse, Oragnizer, MOSES

Gabe Gonzalez: Elena’s Story – Why Immigrant Women Deserve Protection From Domestic Violence

I have been a community organizer for 20 years, for more than half of that in my local neighborhood. Street organizing they call it. Working at that level you see things, some miraculous, some disturbing. I have seen neighborhood leaders take leaps of faith, engage in acts of courage that would humble the most cynical. I have also seen things that shook me. That made me angry or frightened or sad. Some unforgettable.

I remember a middle aged man, standing in his doorway, pleading with me to help him get gangs out of his neighborhood, shrunken with fear but desperate to protect his family. I remember a mother walking me through her basement apartment. Water six inches deep in places. She showed me the holes where the rats came in, and where her daughter’s crib was, and explained that her landlord charged her $800 cash every month for these luxury accommodations.

I remember the fear and the desperation these people experienced, and I remember how it felt when we won those issues, and those leaders could feel safe again.

But when I am really down, I remember Elena.

Elena was a great neighborhood leader. She came to the organization because of our work in schools. She had two little boys attending kindergarten and first grade. They were both in overcrowded classrooms, finding it hard to learn, and Elena wanted to do something about that.

When she found out about the work we were doing it was like a light turned on for her. You could see her quickly grasp the dynamics of power, the importance of community. She already knew how to work hard, and she was fearless. In no time she was helping with planning, fundraising, meeting with powerful people. I had hopes she would join the board, maybe even take the thing over one day.

Then she came to a meeting with a black eye.

Everyone pretended not to see it. Everyone averted their eyes. But you could feel the tension. Elena, true to form, didn’t shirk. She ran the meeting well, drove us to conclusions and even led the evaluation, critiquing herself along with others, always striving to do better.

I waited for her after the meeting. Asked her if she was OK. She didn’t even bother to pretend. “Do I look OK?” she asked. I offered to help her. “What help can you give me Gabe? I don’t have papers remember? He says if I run away he will tell la migra (slang for immigration authorities). I’ll be deported and my boys will have to stay here with him.”

I didn’t know what to do, but promised I would look into it. And she went home. Over the next few weeks, many of the people who had been at that meeting came and talked about what they had seen. Some offered to help her, some to hide her. Some of the men at the meeting offered to, ah, talk to her husband. But always the same response. And then what? She doesn’t have papers remember?

You see, this was before the Violence Against Women Act was passed by Congress in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. The law was improved over the years which added protections for some immigrant women in danger of domestic violence. But that law and those improvements didn’t exist then for Elena. And so we could not help her. She had to go home.

And now the law is up for renewal AGAIN. But people like Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), are playing political games with the lives of women like Elena.

You see, for people like these Republicans, immigrant women, if they don’t have papers, are not worthy of protection, are not worthy of help. In fact, these women would be put in further danger of abuse under their bill, HR 4970.

The House proposal endangers victims and perpetuates further abuse. It would even allow abusive partners in domestic violence cases to provide input as to whether their victim should qualify for immigration relief. Abusers who could have adjusted the immigration status of their spouse and chose not to as a tool of abuse and fear will be in a position to block the victim’s access to this critical remedy for battered immigrants. Informing and allowing alleged abusers to provide input in these cases puts victims at risk of retaliation.

I wonder what Republicans who support HR 4970 would do if they were faced with someone like Elena. Would they display the same kind of courage that she did every day I knew her? Would they be honest about their bigotry, explain how women’s lives were being used as political footballs? I doubt it. I think they would hide behind platitudes and false patriotism. I think they would avoid looking at her face, mumble something about rule of law, and retreat to their comfortable, safe, office, or their comfortable, safe, home.

The last time I saw Elena was about six weeks after that meeting. I saw her at school, picking up her boys. I asked her where she had been. It had been weeks since she was at a meeting. She shrugged. “We lived in a car for two days, but I could not do that to my boys anymore, so I went home. My husband doesn’t like me going to the meetings anymore.” Once again I tried to convince her to get help, explained she had the whole neighborhood in her corner. The answer was still the same. “Y que?” And then? She knew we couldn’t protect her from immigration officials. There was no VAWA, there was no safety.

I never saw Elena again. Except when I’m feeling down. Then I see her face clear as day.

In 1994 they wrote VAWA, and in 2012 some leaders in the Senate and the House showed enough courage to make sure VAWA reauthorization protected women like Elena. And, despite all the best efforts of people like Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) to have a vote on her bill, HR 4271, the limited Republican version of VAWA is up for reauthorization right now. I cannot stress enough the importance of passage of Gwen Moore’s bill. Please, take a second and contact House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor and demand they allow improvements to their dangerous bill when it reaches the House floor tomorrow. I know I will.

This was originally published by Fox News Latino.

Immigrant Rights Group Applaud Justice Department for Suing Arpaio

The Justice Department has rightfully decided to sue Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for violating the civil rights of the people he was sworn to protect and serve.

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a network of community-based immigrant advocacy organizations in 30 states, said other lawmakers, including the Supreme Court, must take heed that violating the civil rights of all people will not be tolerated.

“Arpaio has racially discriminated, racially profiled and openly violated the civil rights of immigrants for years and it is time he pays for these egregious misdeeds,” said Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, a FIRM member. “The fact that Arpaio’s state enacted a vehemently anti-immigrant ‘show me your papers’ law shows that the Supreme Court must strike down the law before other law enforcement officials and politicians like Arpaio continue his practices.”

“Arpaio has shown a total willingness to use his power for all the wrong reasons: to punish hardworking people who come to this country to make better lives for themselves and their families,” said Petra Falcon, Executive Director of Promise Arizona, also a FIRM member. “I hope the Supreme Court follows the Justice Department’s lead and strikes down Arizona’s anti-immigration law.”

3rd Black Immigration Network National Conference a Success

Congratulations to the Black Immigration Network (BIN) for their recent conference in Atlanta. Several organizations from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement participated.  BIN will continue to be an important resource and space for alliance building within the broader immigrant rights and progressive movements.

     – Francesca Menes, Florida Immigrant Coalition

Below is a blog post link on the Black Immigration Network 3rd National Conference.