immigration crackdown
February 15, 2020

The Trump administration is escalating its fight against so-called sanctuary cities.

The White House is set to deploy 100 tactical Border Patrol officers in 10 U.S. cities — New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, and Newark — between February and May to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, The New York Times reported Friday. Trump has clashed with those cities because local authorities often don't cooperate with Washington when it comes to handing over immigrants targeted for deportation.

Border Patrol usually operates at the border, airports, and ports of entry, while ICE conducts arrests throughout the rest of the country, but the latter agency has argued sanctuary cities and immigration advocacy groups have made their jobs too difficult. Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence said in a statement that sanctuary jurisdictions force his agents to "make at-large arrests of criminal aliens who have been released into communities" while also increasing "the occurrence of preventable crimes, and more importantly, preventable victims."

But former Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said sending Border Patrol agents, especially the elite BORTAC, into the cities to help ICE is a "significant mistake" because they aren't trained to work in those situations. "If you were a police chief and you were going to make an apprehension for a relatively minor offense, you don't send the SWAT team," he said. "And BORTAC is the SWAT team." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

January 6, 2020

U.S. Customs and Border Protection launched a "limited, small-scale" pilot program Monday to collect DNA from a select group of people in immigration custody as part of the Trump administration's plan to curb immigration via biometrics, The New York Times reports.

Under the program, which was proposed in October and is reportedly set to last for 90 days, Border Patrol will collect DNA from migrants between 14 and 79 years old who are either apprehended in the Detroit area or those detained at the Eagle Pass Port of Entry in Texas. The collections would then head to a massive criminal database run by the FBI.

Agents said they will not collect samples from people who have or are trying to enter the United States legally, but some people are still concerned — Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) led a group of Democratic colleagues who tried to stop the program from launching because of the fear that it could be used against family members, as well. Brian Hastings, the chief of the Border patrol's law enforcement directorate last year questioned the practicality of collecting DNA, saying it could hinder the orderly processing of migrants since agents aren't trained for it. The Department of Homeland Security said a training video would be provided. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

December 3, 2019

McKinsey & Company, a renowned international consulting firm that's been helping U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement find ways to cut costs under the Trump administration, went too far for some of the agency's employees, The New York Times reports.

The firm's consultants reportedly became so focused on restricting spending that they considered making food, medical care, and maintenance at ICE detention centers part of the cuts. These ideas raised concerns for many career ICE officials, per the Times. Three people who worked on the cost-cutting project told the Times there were concerns the consultants weren't considering how their policy ideas would potentially affect thousands of human beings.

The ICE staff members and consultants reportedly held "heated meetings," in which the ICE employees questioned whether McKinsey's measures were worth the eventual human cost. ICE staffers also reportedly thought the McKinsey consultants were trying to find methods that risked "short-circuiting" due-process protections for migrants in an attempt to speed up the deportation process like the Trump administration wanted. McKinsey and ICE spokesman Bryan Cox denied McKinsey's recommendations would harm the well-being of detainees.

The proposals that really worried ICE officials reportedly weren't incorporated, but they still remain on the books at the agency. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

October 30, 2019

The White House may have found a workaround to appoint immigration hardliner and acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services chief Ken Cuccinelli to head the Homeland Security Department, but Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) isn't buying it.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump administration, through some complicated maneuvering that would involve tabbing Cucinnelli (or someone else who falls in line with President Trump's immigration policies) first as the assistant secretary of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office before vaulting him to homeland security secretary, might be able to get the job done even though Cucinnelli is ineligible for the role because of the federal Vacancies Act.

Grassley, though, wasn't aware of any such plans, and doesn't think it will hold up legally, anyway. "I have not heard anything about some go-around," he told Politico. "But it's my understanding that the existing law would not permit him to" lead the department. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

October 19, 2019

Three of New Mexico's seven federal district judgeships are vacant, and that's causing a lot of issues for the state's courts and those awaiting their cases, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The court system in New Mexico was reportedly already in danger of being overwhelmed before the Trump administration ramped up its efforts to curb illegal immigration at the U.S.'s southern border. But now hundreds of migrants facing charges of entering the U.S. illegally are crowding into courtrooms in New Mexico every day. That means many of the migrants are having their cases heard in just a matter of minutes, as the courts simply don't have the capacity to handle the situation as it stands, especially considering judges also have to attend to non-border related cases.

The average amount of felony cases per judge in New Mexico was 983 between June 2018 and June 2019, whereas the national average was 125 cases per judge. A number of judges from outside of New Mexico have been called in to the state to lend a hand. "It's not an unusual day in New Mexico where I am doing 30 to 40 sentencings, when I might not do 30 sentencings in a year in Kansas," said Senior Judge J. Thomas Marten, who normally sits in Wichita, Kansas, but spends a few weeks in New Mexico every year.

The situation is also reportedly leading to longer stays in jail for some migrants as they await their hearings. One nominee to the New Mexico bench is waiting for a confirmation vote in the Senate, and another is being vetted by New Mexico's Democratic senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, who are still interviewing candidates for the third vacancy. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

October 5, 2019

In what is considered the Trump administration's latest attempt to curb immigration to the United States, the White House issued a proclamation Friday saying it would require immigrants applying for a U.S. visa to prove they either have health insurance or can afford to cover their own health care costs before entering the country starting Nov. 3.

President Trump said the White House wants to "protect the availability of health care benefits for Americans" as "taxpayers bear substantial cost" in paying for medical expenses of people who lack health insurance. "Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our health care system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs," Trump said.

The proclamation would affect many immigrants, including those with family ties in the country, but it does not include noncitizen children of U.S. citizens or those who have been granted asylum, The Wall Street Journal reports. While the proclamation says it will allow migrants with the "financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs," it reportedly does not list a threshold for those resources. Either way, it is expected to be a major hurdle for low-income families seeking U.S. visas.

"It's a classic catch-22 for low-income immigrants," said Larry Levitt, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "They're eligible for subsidized health coverage through the [Affordable Care Act], but applying for that subsidized coverage means they can't legally be in the country."

The proclamation is expected to face swift legal challenges, The Washington Post reports. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

August 26, 2019

Federal immigration officials have told immigrant medical patients who have "medical deferred action" to leave the U.S. within 33 days, Commonwealth Magazine reported on Monday, citing attorneys from the Irish International Immigrant Center representing the families. The Trump administration reportedly ended the medical deferred action program on Aug. 7.

The patients, many of whom are children, are reportedly being treated for serious illnesses such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and epilepsy.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was quick to respond, blasting the Trump administration for its "inhumanity."

Markey reportedly called the decision a "new low" for Trump, arguing that the government is "literally deporting kids with cancer." Dr. Sarah Kimball, who works with immigrant patients at Boston Medical Center, said her patients seeking medical deferred action are "desperate."

As for the rule change, the chair of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said it happened quietly, without a public statement or advanced notice. Similar denial notices have been reported in California and North Carolina.

The American Civil Liberties Union has pledged to fight the situation in court. Tim O'Donnell

August 17, 2019

As early as 2017, the Trump administration tried for months to grant states the power to deny undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools, Bloomberg reports.

President Trump's senior adviser, Stephen Miller, who is known for his hardline stance on immigration, spearheaded the effort, people familiar with the situation said. Ultimately, however, the contingent supporting the measure abandoned the idea upon realization that the plan would likely violate Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 Supreme Court case that prohibited states from denying free public education based on immigration status. The court ruled that punishing children for their parents' actions "does not comport with fundamental conceptions of justice."

Miller's efforts reportedly included consideration of a guidance memo issued by the Education Department that would tell states they had the option to refuse students with an undocumented status to attend school, but it was never issued. Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said it was never issued because it would never have even been considered.

While nothing came of the efforts, it fits in with the White House's larger efforts to discourage illegal crossings at the southern border. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

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