Monday, December 07, 2009

Immigration in the News

Today we launch a new feature of our law firm blog, a weekly news round up of selected news or opinion pieces to represent diverse subjects and sources.

This morning, in their nationally syndicated column, well-known journalists Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts call for comprehensive immigration reform. "Broken Immigration System Needs Attention Soon" (New Hampshire Register).  While New Hampshire might not be one of the states that readily comes to mind when thinking about our dysfunctional immigration system, California certainly is. Today's editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune, "A National Priority: Public, If Not Lawmakers, Wants Immigration Reform," makes this point.  As the White House and Congressional leaders jockey for position on the busy 2010 legislative calendar for a number of high priority issues, the country continues to view immigration as a high priority alongside the economy and health care.
"Now there are signals that the discussion will begin in March or April of 2010. But, of course, that’s only the Washington portion of the conversation we’re talking about. Around the country, from Dallas to Des Moines to Detroit, there is really no need to restart the immigration debate because it never stopped. Regardless of what our lawmakers at the federal level have done – or more accurately, haven’t done – the immigration issue remains a top concern at the local level. And it will until our leaders roll up their sleeves and fix what’s broken."
He's back.... One-time presidential candidate and former Congressman, Tom Tancredo, who recently flirted with but rejected a gubernatorial run in Colorado, filed a ballot initiative proposal last Friday that has restored him to his familiar role in the spotlight anti-immigration activist.

The proposal, would appear on the ballot in the 2010 election, in Colorado and would require all employers to confirm the immigration status (and therefore the employment eligibility) of all prospective employees by using the federal e-Verify system. The Denver Post calls Tancredo a delusional blowhard. A columnist for the Denver City Buzz notes that this idea is now considered "right wing" but was once promoted by the Democrats and may find support from organized labor.
In Washington State, efforts by the immigration enforcement agencies to deputize local law enforcement has gone to court to resolve a conflict between a county's ordinance and a police officers' union after police were accused of retaliating against a detained individual who complained about mistreatment by turning him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A Baptist pastor in Houston, Rev. Harvey Clemons, Jr., wrote a moving column in support of immigration reform, "Follow MLK's Guidance on Immigration Reform," in which he attacks the myths surround the issue and concedes that "to many, it seems strange that I, an African-American minister from the Fifth Ward, would focus much of my energy and resources to work along with other leaders in our city for immigration reform." With great conviction Pastor Clemons explains that his religious faith and the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. compel him to work on this issue. He notes that rhetoric surrounding immigration is not unlike that which had falsely slowed the progress of other civil rights issues,
"Now the song of the false prophets paints the immigrant as a threat to, rather than a pillar of, American society; paints undocumented fathers and mothers working from sunrise to sundown as a drain of our nation's resources rather than a reminder of our heroic beginnings; and paints immigrant children as a national burden rather than our nation's blessing."
The New York Times last Wednesday published an article about the findings of a pair of disturbing reports by Human Rights Watch and Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which mirrored those of an internal investigation by Department of Homeland Security. ("Immigration Detention System Lapses Detailed," December 2, 2009.) The various investigations found egregious lapses in the nation's detention and removal procedures and policy. Reporter Nina Bernstein noted that the detention system is "so haphazard that some detainees arrived at a new detention center without having been served a notice of why they were being held, or despite a high probability of being granted bond, or with pending criminal prosecutions or arrest warrants in the previous jurisdiction." Sadly, as immigration lawyers we are all too-aware that this situation is in fact a day to day reality making effective counsel of detained individual almost impossible. The bi-partisan group, The Constitution Project, headed by former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson, called for the most far-reaching of changes in how detained individual are represented:
"In what it called “an aspirational goal,” it recommended that where free counsel is not available, all indigent noncitizens in standard deportation proceedings have access to a government-paid lawyer. It also urged Congress to give immigration judges discretion to appoint counsel, and to require a lawyer in certain cases, including those involving unaccompanied children and the mentally ill."

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