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Michelle Obama was given the unenviable task of having to answer for her husband's failed immigration policies yesterday. I don't feel for her, as I am given this task on a daily basis: having to tell a family that mommy or daddy won't be around anymore because of the President's 1,000 person per day deportation record.We can only hope that Michelle gave Barrack an earful after dinner.
The Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing yesterday on the Refugee Protection Act. I wasn't able to attend, but the Senate conveniently records such hearings, and you can view it here.
Doggone it, people like the RPA
My friend who attended thought it did not go very well for supporters of the bill. I can't say I agree, though the last five minutes, when neither of the pro-RPA witnesses could answer Senator Franken's softball questions and each tried to defer to the other, was not a shining moment. Here are some other moments worth mentioning:
The ranking Republican, Senator Sessions from Alabama, raised some legitimate (and some not-so-legitimate) concerns that will probably need to be addressed if the bill is ever to become law. Of course, the first issue was national security. He felt that the RPA would allow Osama Bin Laden's wife (wives?) and children to claim asylum in the United States, as the law relaxes barriers for family members of terrorists. Given the limited number of people we can admit each year, he argued, we would be better off admitting people without close ties to terrorists. He also stated that the RPA would broaden the definition of "asylum seeker," and thus encourage more fraudulent claims. He questioned how many people we could realistically allow to enter the United States as refugees and asylees. He argued that we could not admit everyone who meets the definition of a refugee, and said that if things fell apart in Afghanistan or Iraq, we could not take in all the people who sided with us in those wars.
There were two pro-RPA witnesses, Dan Glickman of Refugees International and Patrick Giantonio of Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates. They argued that the one-year filing deadline does not serve its intended purpose of reducing fraud. Mr. Giantonio noted that many asylum seekers who fail to file within one year of arrival receive withholding of removal or relief under the UN Convention Against Torture. Both forms of relief have a higher burden of proof than asylum. Thus, if the one year deadline were not an issue, such people would have qualified for asylum (I agree with this point). From the alien's point of view, asylum is a more desirable outcome than the other forms of relief, but the witnesses did not mention the benefits of asylum. The pro-RPA witnesses also emphasized that the bill would not compromise national security because refugees and asylum seekers would remain subject to all the same background checks that are currently required. Mr. Giantonio also briefly mentioned some of the deleterious effects of immigration detention on asylum seekers.
Igor V. Timofeyev, a former DHS official and a Soviet Jewish refugee, testified in his personal capacity. He appeared as the anti-RPA witness, though his criticisms were fairly tame (refreshing given the normal discourse on most immigration-related issues). His concerns were national security, national security, and national security. He also mentioned that federal appeals courts are overburdened with immigration cases.
Finally, it bears mentioning that Senator Leahy included in the record a letter signed by 89 faith-based, human rights, legal services and refugee assistance organizations and 99 individual asylum law practitioners, pro bono attorneys, law professors and other experts in the field (including this humble blogger).
As everybody knows by now, recently Arizona's Governor signed a law requiring local law enforcement officials to take into custody persons when they have a "reasonable suspicion" that they are present in the U.S. illegally. The person would be turned over to the Immigration Service, and be released from jail if they could demonstrate their legal status.
Last Monday, the ACLU and various other groups sued Arizona officials in Federal Court to void the law on a number of grounds including violation of the Constitutional rights of equal protection of the law and free speech. President Obama has questioned the validity of the law and a number of individuals, organizations and governmental entities are protesting against the law.
Yet, polls show that a majority of Americans support the law.
I suspect that most Americans think that enforcement activity will be limited only to illegal aliens, and that as American citizens, they have nothing to fear. I hope that the following true story will make some people think twice about supporting a law that gives the government such tremendous powers over the lives of ordinary citizens.
In the 1980s, shortly after I had left my job as an INS Trial Attorney and entered private practice, I received a telephone call from Washington, D.C. from Congressman Edward Roybal. Rep. Roybal was angry about something that the INS had done to one of his constituents, and he asked me to help.
A young man had attempted to enter the U.S. from Mexico, and was being held in detention by the INS in Los Angeles. Although, he provided the officer with a birth certificate showing that he was born in Los Angeles (and was, therefore, a U.S. citizen), the officer did not believe him. Why not?
Because the birth certificate was typed with two different types of ink. Some of the words on the certificate were dark black, others were typed in a lighter shade of black. The officer suspected that the birth certificate may have been altered.
It should have been very easy for the INS to verify the validity of the birth certificate since the Hall of Records was located just down the street from the Federal Building.
The same day, on Friday, I visited the young man in detention. He told me that he had been incarcerated for five days. I assumed that the INS had obtained a copy of the birth certificate from the Hall of Records, and that the two certificates did not match. Instead, to my surprise, I learned that no one from the INS had even tried to obtain a copy of the birth certificate. How long were they going to keep this man in custody before someone paid a visit to the Hall of Records? No one could answer my question.
So together with an aide from Congressman Roybal's Los Angeles office, we obtained a certified copy of the birth certificate from the Hall of Records that same day. And guess what? The certified copy was also typed in different shades of ink. Maybe some secretary had replaced her typewriter ribbon midway through typing his birth certificate.
We quickly hurried back to the Federal Building, and presented the certified birth certificate to an INS Officer. "Oh, you're right", she said, "We will release him next Monday."
Next Monday? She explained that she had a number of work-related tasks to perform that afternoon, so the young man would have to remain in jail over the weekend. My jaw dropped in amazement. Congressman Roybal's aide was outraged. She demanded that the young man be released from detention immediately. And, in the end, the government relented. Still, he had been incarcerated, quite unnecessarily, for five days.
When I read the Arizona law (SB 1070) and the ACLU complaint (98 pages), before I could even start to think about all the legal arguments that will be raised in Federal Court, I think of that young man and the indifference of our government regarding his detention.
Is this what we mean by "liberty and justice for all"?
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Updated 12-02-2013 at 05:35 PM by CShusterman
In an extraordinary exchange at an event that is usually just a photo op, First Lady Michelle Obama fielded a question from a second grader that really reminds us of the fact that the millions of people in the US working without status today are real people with real families. While the antis choose to dehumanize these folks by portraying them as criminals and parasites, this little girl reminds us that we're talking about people who are faced with terrible choices in life - living in utter poverty in an unstable homeland or living in the shadows in a wealthy democratic country that hopefully offers the potential for a decent future for your children (and forget about acknowledging the fact that they make enormous contributions economically and culturally to our country).
I've found the comments in the news sites carrying this story fascinating. Do the most awful people in the country sit around all day searching for stories like this to spew their venom?
-----------------IMMIGRATION DAILY FROM ILW.COM------------------
May 19, 2010
5 News Items
Classifieds: Help Wanted: Immigration Attorney, Help Wanted:
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1. News: Contested AILA 2010 Elections: Candidate Statement -
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4. News: Contested AILA 2010 Elections: Candidate Statement - Ira
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