Appeals court to decide if immigrant children get court-appointed attorneys

immigrant child in custodyEleven federal appeals court judges have heard testimony in a lawsuit over whether undocumented children have the right to a government-paid lawyer. Lawyers for an immigrant minor who was unrepresented in immigration hearings argue that the Fifth Amendment guarantees the minor the right to an attorney, according to KPIX. 

“We want a ruling that children facing deportation are entitled to legal representation,” said C.J.’s lawyer Ahilan Arulanantham, told reporters after the hearing. Arulanantham, who is Senior Counsel at the ACLU of Southern California, argued the case before the judges.

Cost is an issue. If each of the 102,000 migrant juveniles apprehended near the US-Mexico border were provided an attorney, it would cost more than $276 million, KPIX reports. Meanwhile, the minor plaintiff in the lawsuit is attending high school in Los Angeles while he awaits the panel’s decision, which is expected in 2019.

Asylum claims jump nearly 70% in 2018

migrant familiesDespite the Trump administration’s tougher immigration policies, the Department of Homeland Security says the number of migrants seeking asylum in the US along the border with Mexico went up nearly 70% from 2017 to 2018, according to CNN. You may recall that President Trump signed a proclamation in November preventing migrants who enter the country illegally from seeking asylum. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan says the dramatic increase in asylum-seekers is “straining border security.” He also says Congress needs to “Address these vulnerabilities in our immigration system which continue to negatively impact border security efforts.”

Acting AG Matthew G. Whitaker Lacks Authority to Decide Immigration Case, Say Immigration Groups

The American Immigration Council and other immigrant rights organizations have filed a legal brief that explains why President Donald Trump’s designation of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general is unlawful. As a result, the brief asserts, Whitaker lacks the authority to decide a critical immigration case.

In November 2018, President Trump appointed Whitaker in an acting position to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions as head of the Department of Justice. The amicus (friend of the court) brief argues that Whitaker’s designation is unconstitutional, and therefore, he lacks authority to exercise the powers of the head of the Justice Department. These powers include referring already-decided immigration cases to himself in order to revisit their holdings.

The brief was filed in Matter of Negusie, a case in which Sessions referred to himself the question of whether asylum seekers found to be persecutors may continue to qualify for asylum by showing they acted under coercion or duress. Sessions invoked a federal regulation that allows the attorney general to reconsider cases already decided by the Board of Immigration Appeals—the body that hears appeals from immigration courts nationwide—but he resigned from office before deciding the case.

The brief argues that Whitaker’s designation as acting attorney general violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution and a specific federal statute governing succession to the Office of the Attorney General. Also outlined in the brief are the critical flaws in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion that was issued to defend Whitaker’s designation.

“Implicit in the authority granted to the attorney general over immigration cases is the legality of his or her appointment,” said Trina Realmuto, directing attorney at the American Immigration Council. “The improper appointment of the acting attorney general not only is unlawful, but undermines the rule of law that the head of the Justice Department is obligated to uphold.”

“We can add the Appointments Clause to the long and growing list of constitutional protections this president has overrun. The result here is that Mr. Negusie’s fate could be decided by an illegitimate attorney general. It would be a travesty if the U.S. Justice Department, the agency responsible for law enforcement, followed such a lawless path,” said Robert N. Weiner, partner at the law firm of Arnold & Porter.

The amicus brief was authored by the Council and the law firm of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP. ASISTA Immigration Assistance, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Her Justice, Immigrant Defense Project, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and Southern Poverty Law Center are signatories to the brief.

You can view the full brief online here.

Appeals court upholds DACA

A federal appeals court has upheld an earlier ruling preventing President Trump from ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by President Obama. DACA protects young undocumented immigrants born in the United States from being deported. The ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals means the DACA program can stay in place for now. The Trump administration has already asked the Supreme Court to review the injunction, according to CNN. 

You can read the 9th Circuit’s ruling here. 

Video: The 14th Amendment

ICE agents immigrationPresident Trump’s statement that he can take away the citizenship birthrights guaranteed in the 14th Amendment with an executive order are simply stirring up fear, according to his wife’s immigration attorney. Michael Wildes talked to CNN‘s Jake Tapper about Trump’s threats to deny citizenship to people born in the US.

The 14th Amendment states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

 

Podcast: California’s sanctuary law at center of fierce immigration debate

undocumented immigrantsMunicipalities in California are being pitted against one another after a state law went into effect earlier this year limiting how much local law enforcement can cooperate with ICE agents. SB54, or the California Values Act, makes the entire state a sanctuary, but while some cities are embracing the law, others are openly defying it. NPR reports:

“This is an issue that I take very personally because I am the youngest child of a single immigrant mother with a third-grade education,” says state Sen. Kevin de León, who wrote the law. “I wanted to make sure that our local police officers, our sheriffs, were not a cog in the Trump deportation machine, separating innocent mothers from their children and children from their fathers.”

NPR has more on the contentious California battle over immigrant rights.

 

Number of migrant children held by government reaches new high

immigrant child in custodyDespite a court order instructing the Trump administration to reunite migrant families who were forcibly separated at the US-Mexico border, The New York Times reports that the number of children still in custody has reached a record high level. The Times reports that there are currently 12,800 migrant children in federally-contracted shelters this month, five times as many since last summer, when 2,400 children were being held. Most of the children did not have their parents with them when they crossed the border. The information was shared with members of Congress, who in turn shared it with the Times. 

Questions about seeking asylum

Mexico mapMany of the migrants trying to enter the United States at the Mexico border are seeking asylum, or protection from persecution. These asylum seekers may not know much about how the process works or what kinds of protection it offers. They may also not know how to apply for asylum or whether they qualify. The American Immigration Council has created a document to answer those questions that’s available for downloading. 

Federal hearing on DACA in Texas

Court battles over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have left the program in limbo. On Friday, a federal judge in DC ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to end the immigration program. Now, a federal judge in Texas is holding hearings on a case that would shut down the DACA program. Vox reports that the Texas judge is an immigration hawk likely to rule in favor of ending DACA. That ruling could leave DACA under mutually contradictory orders from two federal judges. Vox explains the legal limbo that could end with the Texas judge’s ruling.

Sessions’ decision on immigrant asylum harshly criticized

Attorney General Jeff SessionsAttorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he is taking away a vital lifeline to immigrant victims of severe domestic and gang violence. Sessions issued a decision unilaterally overruling important precedent recognizing that such individuals may qualify for asylum in the United States.

Critics say Sessions’ decision to end asylum for most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence takes US “back to the Dark Ages,” according to The Washington Post. The American Immigration Council has also criticized the decision.

The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “From its earliest days, the United States has opened its doors to individuals fleeing oppression and persecution. Today’s decision by the Attorney General is yet another attempt to close our doors. Through our work serving detained mothers and children in Dilley, Texas, we see firsthand the trauma of domestic and gang violence and the desperate need for protection. The Attorney General’s decision—if permitted to stand—will no doubt result in sending countless mothers and children back to their abusers and criminal gangs. Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration.”

Sessions’ decision on asylum follows another controversial action that allows the separation of immigrant parents from their children.