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  1. Pearce Likely Facing Recall Election

    by , 06-02-2011 at 05:34 AM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the legislator behind most of Arizona's anti-immigration laws as well as proposals for some even crazier ones, is apparently not so beloved in his home district. The week the group Citizens for a Better Arizona presented to the Arizona Secretary of State a petition signed by more than 18,000 of Pearce's constituents demanding a recall election. Only 7,756 valid signatures are required to force a recall election. Pearce would be the first state senate president in American history to be recalled if he loses the election.
  2. Afghan Asylum Seekers in Limbo

    "I'm still waiting for a decision in my asylum case."
    As conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated, I find myself representing increasing numbers of Afghan asylum seekers.  Many are young men who have worked with the United States military.  Others are journalists or other media types who have appeared on television in Afghanistan.  Still others worked for human rights groups and women's rights groups.
    One thing that my clients have in common is that they are all trying to bring about peaceful, democratic changes to their country.  As a result of their activities, my clients faced threats from the Taliban.  A number of my clients were attacked, and some had close relatives killed by the Taliban.  Because the Afghan government cannot (and in some cases will not) protect them, my clients are seeking asylum in the U.S.
    Another thing my Afghan clients have in common is that their cases are being held up for "security" checks.  I'll explain below why I put the word security in quotation marks.
    But first, a bit of background: The majority of aliens who file affirmative asylum cases receive a decision two weeks after their interview.  Apparently, cases with Afghan asylum seekers are reviewed by headquarters.  This takes a lot longer than two weeks.  So far this year, I have been to 11 asylum interviews: five from Afghanistan, six from other countries (five from Ethiopia and one from Iran).  All five of the Afghan cases are still pending.  Of the other six, we have decisions in all cases except one (the Iranian case).  In my longest-pending Afghan asylum case, the applicant was interviewed more than seven months ago; we are still waiting for a decision. 
    According to an Asylum Officer I spoke to, the reason for the delay has to do with "security."  Obviously, there are legitimate concerns about people coming from Afghanistan and seeking asylum in the U.S.  But there are several reasons why I am skeptical about these "security" checks.  For one, many of my Afghan clients worked closely with the U.S. military, and they have letters, certificates, and photos (often with high-ranking military and civilian officials, including some who were photographed with President Bush) to prove it.  Such individuals have already been subject to some pretty serious scrutiny, so it is not clear what additional checks are necessary.  Second, all the Afghan asylum seekers were screened for security issues in Afghanistan before they received their U.S. visas.  Since nothing suspicious was found in Afghanistan, it seems unlikely (at best) that anything would turn up during an additional security background check in the United States.  Finally, my clients are currently in the United States.  If they are dangerous, they should not be walking freely around our country for six months (or more) while USCIS checks to see whether they pose a security risk.  If USCIS believed that a particular asylum seeker presented a threat, I image (and I hope) that they would detain the person immediately.
    A number of my clients have family members in Afghanistan who are hoping to join their relative in the United States if asylum is approved.  Some of these people are living in precarious circumstances and face threats from the Taliban.  It is frustrating and frightening for my clients and their family members when they have no idea how long until they will receive a decision.  It is not fair to keep people waiting in limbo.  I hope that USCIS will consider improving the processing time for Afghan cases.  If they cannot do that, I hope they will at least provide an estimate to the asylum seekers about how long a decision will take.  Treating asylum seekers with respect and dignity means processing cases as quickly as possible and being as open about the waiting time as circumstances allow.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
  3. Republicans Showing Pragmatism on Immigration - or Just Wishful Thinking

    by , 06-02-2011 at 05:20 AM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    Here's an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times discussing the change in tone of at least three leading contenders for the GOP presidential nomination. I've blogged about Newt Gingrich's immigration position and I have to say that over many years he's shown an interest in coming up with workable immigration solutions. It's nice to hear Mitt Romney moving away from his 2008 "deport them all" rhetoric. Former governor Jon Huntsman from Utah is a name most people don't know yet, but a lot of GOP insiders think he could be a strong candidate. And he's now talking about alternatives to deporting millions of people as well. Tim Pawlenty said last week that he thinks longtime illegally present immigrants might also deserve special consideration (though he's on record supporting repealing the 14th Amendment right to birthright citizenship, something that will be hard to explain away to immigration moderates).
    The LA Times piece speculates as to why the rhetoric is softening. One reason seems to be that most focus is now on federal spending and the economy. I would also say that some candidates are betting that GOP primary voters who vote first on immigration issues are relatively small and that the risk of upsetting them is worth the much greater benefit of being seen as reasonable on immigration to the general electorate (including 50 million Latinos in the country, a sizeable percentage of which are US citizens).
    But I've also noticed that politicians seem to get cowed by the antis email, fax, phone and newspaper letter writing campaigns and these are folks that regularly show up at town hall meetings. Despite their very small numbers, they project a loud voice. Those politicians who actually study the polling will see that there is a large, but relatively silent majority who support compromise on immigration. But that's been the case for several years so I while I am optimistic, I'm also realistic and think it may take a few more election cycles before a lot of GOP officeholders come around.
  4. Secure Communities Over in New York

    by , 06-01-2011 at 01:58 PM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    A major blow to the Obama Administration's efforts to force this program on every state in the country. New York joins Illinois and Washington and Minnesota are probably next. California is a possibility as well.
    Folks, we have a new Mason-Dixon line forming with red states like Arizona and Mississippi passing laws reminiscent of Jim Crow in their efforts to make life as difficult as possible for immigrants in their states while blue states like New York and Illinois are making it clear that they are welcoming and not interested in fostering divisions in their populations.
  5. My Grandfather Ben

    by , 06-01-2011 at 10:00 AM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    Congrats to budding poet Maya Young Wong, a fifth grader hailing from Altadena, California! She submitted the winning entry in the American Immigration Council's annual creative writing competition. You can read her entry here.
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