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  1. USCIS, America's Immigration Cutcherry, Adopts New Procedures as the Boss Readies for a Move Upstairs

    by , 07-08-2013 at 08:46 AM (Angelo Paparelli on Dysfunctional Government)

    Over the 4th of July weekend, I devoured a fascinating book and, in the course of it, learned a new synonym for "bureaucracy" -- "cutcherry" -- taken from Hindi and apparently originating with the British East-India Company's bureau office in what is now Chennai.

    The book, The Professor and the Madman ~ A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester, describes the unusual literary collaboration between Professor James Murray, who led most of the 70-year effort to compile the Oxford English Dictionary, and an American, Dr. William Chester Minor, acquitted of murder by reason of insanity and held for decades in a British asylum for the mentally ill. Dr. Minor was among the most prolific and insightful contributors to the OED, as this passage shows:

    And yet as came the madness, so came the words. Many of those that fascinated him were Anglo -Indian, reflecting his birthplace: There were bhang, brinjal, catamaran, cholera, chunnam, and cutcherry. He liked brick-tea. By the time of the middle 1890s he became very active working on the letter D, and though there are some Hindustani words like dubash, dubba, and dhobi, he was interested also in what were regarded as the core words of the dictionary-- and contributions of quotations are in the Oxford archives for such words as delicately, directly, dirt, disquiet, drink, duty, and dye. He was able more often than not to supply the quotation for the first use of a word-- always an occasion for celebration.

    For years Prof. Murray and his staff were astounded at the time and energy their contributor, Dr. Minor, devoted to the OED. They assumed that he was retired and did not know that his abundance of effort was a daytime remedy to keep at bay the psychological demons who assailed him at night.

    Often it seems that our own immigration cutcherry, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), labors with the energy and effort of a Dr. Minor and the vast army of co-contributors who helped Prof. Murray compile the OED. Public outreach and engagements, both nationally and locally, are announced with great frequency, not just in English, but also in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Spanish.

    The frequency and quality of these engagements are a testament to the man who introduced them, Alejandro Mayorkas, the USCIS Director the past four years. Director Mayorkas, himself an immigrant from Cuba, has made great strides in transforming the world's largest immigration agency, a cutcherry so plagued when he arrived that it became apparent to him that his first order of business was to instruct his staff to compile a list of all extant immigration policies and canvass the public about which agency practices and interpretations should be reassessed first.

    An example of his leadership can be seen in two recent policy memos published last week with an invitation for the public to comment: Interim Policy Memorandum: PM-602-0086 Precedent and Non-Precedent Decisions of the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) and Final Policy Memorandum: PM-602-0087 Certification of Decisions to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO).

    Director Mayorkas spoke movingly of his immigrant roots, his accomplishments and his vision for the future of USCIS at what may have been his valedictory address at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in San Francisco last month, receiving a heartfelt standing ovation, rather than the usually perfunctory applause, from a too-often jaundiced immigration bar. On June 27, President Obama announced his attention to nominate Director Mayorkas to serve as the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, under Janet Napolitano, who likewise applauded the announcement.

    Earlier last month, he also spoke at the annual symposium of the American Council for International Personnel, where a questioner asked how USCIS could possibly assemble the infrastructure and legions of personnel needed if comprehensive immigration reform with its innumerable changes to visa categories and a registered provisional immigrant category and prospect of citizenship for the 11 million or so unauthorized persons among us were to pass. He responded in reasonable granularity and then ended his answer confidently with: "We will be ready!"

    I've not always agreed with Director Mayorkas, as more than a few posts on this blog will attest. For example, while the AAO has improved in speed and quality of adjudication in recent months, it remains afflicted by antiquated processes and too often exhibits faux rather than full-fledged justice that will not be remedied by the mere issuance of two policy memos, as I've noted before (here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). See my listing of "25 Proposed Reforms to the Administrative Appellate Process within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services." (By the way, in reading the two new policy memos, I am reminded of one more reform -- USCIS should allow the public to recommend non-precededent AAO decisions as the Board of Immigration Appeals has done, see, e.g., Matter of Walsh and Pollard, which the BIA designated as precedent as the request of James Stillwaggon and yours truly many years ago.)

    Yet I've long admired Director Mayorkas for his sincerity, diligence, commitment, intelligence, elocution, rhetorical flourishes and wit. He has faced his challenges from within and without, and addressed them with his resolute energy and drive, never losing sight of his oath of office and the people his agency helps and protects. Our consolation as immigration stakeholders is that once he leaves he'll likely not forget his experiences at USCIS and with the larger community, and apply his learning and insight to address the even more daunting problems faced by the Homeland Security Department, of which immigration is only one component. Godspeed, Ali Mayorkas. We will miss you but never forget you.

    Updated 07-16-2013 at 03:17 PM by APaparelli

  2. Unlawful Deportations of U.S. Citizens Today, I read an obituary in the Los Angeles Times entitled "He documented 1930s deportations". As an immigration attorney, and a former INS prosecutor, I wondered "What deportations?".

    The obituary was about Raymond Rodriguez (1926-2013), a historian from Long Beach, California who died on June 24. When Raymond was 10-years-old, his father, who had immigrated to the United States in 1918, was deported, never to see his family again.

    In 1995, he co-authored a book with university professor Francisco Balderrama entitled "Decade of Betrayal" which focuses on the unlawful deportation of over one million persons to Mexico in the 1930s. To my astonishment, it is estimated that 60% of the people deported to Mexico were U.S. citizens. According to the article, this program was an effort to free up jobs for white Americans during the Great Depression. "Americans, reeling from the economic disorientation of the depression, sought a convenient scapegoat. They found it in the Mexican community," as stated in the "Decade of Betrayal".

    How could I, as an immigration attorney for almost 40 years be completely ignorant of this? How could hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens be deported? Aren't we a country of laws where citizens and immigrants alike have certain basic rights?

    Nevertheless, it is clear that these unlawful deportations are not figments of Mr. Rodriguez's imagination.

    Both the State of California and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, but not our Federal Government, have apologized for their roles in the illegal round-ups of citizens, immigrants and their families at dance halls, markets, hospitals, theaters and parks, loading them onto trains and vans and deporting them to Mexico. These illegal raids and deportations occurred all across the U.S. during the 1930s, not just in Southern California.

    Former State Senator Joseph Dunn, a self-described "Irish white guy from Minnesota", who sponsored the 2005 legislation in California that apologized for the illegal deportations states that "it is no exaggeration to say that without the scholarly work by Ray (Rodriguez) and Francisco (Balderrama), no one but a handful of individuals would ever know about the illegal deportations of Mexican Americans in the 1930s".

    I plan to buy the book, but in the meantime, I watched two YouTube videos on the subject "Deportations of Mexican Americans in the 1930s" and "A Forgotten Injustice", read an online newspaper story in USA Today entitled "U.S. Urged to Apologize the 1930s Deportations" and a Wikipedia entry entitled "Mexican Repatriation".

    One paragraph of the USA Today story is particularly troubling:

    ""The slogan has gone out over the city (Los Angeles) and is being adhered to -- 'Employ no Mexican while a white man is unemployed,' " wrote George Clements, manager of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce's agriculture department, in a memo to his boss Arthur Arnoll. He said the Mexicans' legal status was not a factor: "It is a question of pigment, not a question of citizenship or right." "

    The Wikipedia entry goes into considerable detail about what happened and states that these events are not widely covered in American history textbooks. Of particular interest to me is the following:

    "Most people were unconstitutionally denied their legal rights of Due Process and Equal Protection under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment. Any presence of the law was absent whilst hundreds of thousands of people were interrogated and detained by authorities. When it came to federal deportation proceedings, undocumented immigrants, once apprehended, had two options. They could either ask for a hearing or "voluntarily" return back to their native country. The benefit to asking for a hearing was the potential to persuade the immigration officer that if they were returned to their home country they would be placed in a life threatening situation (which was the case for those who had fled the war or were escaping religious persecution) and would be able to stay under the current immigration law as refugees, but if they lost the hearing, they would be barred from ever returning to the United States legally again. Although requesting a hearing was a possibility, immigration officers rarely informed undocumented immigrants of their rights, and the hearings were "official but informal," in that immigration inspectors "acted as interpreter, accuser, judge, and jury" (Balderrama 67). Moreover, the deportee was seldom represented by a lawyer, a privilege that could only be granted at the discretion of the immigration officer (Balderrama). The second option, which was to voluntarily deport themselves from the US, would allow these individuals to reenter the US legally at a later date because "no arrest warrant was issued and no legal record or judicial transcript of the incident was kept" (Balderrama 79). However, many were being misled and enticed to leave the country by county officials who told Mexicans if they left now they would be able to return later."

    This is indeed a sad and shameful chapter of our history, one that deserves to be known and understood by all Americans so that such events will not be repeated now nor in the future.

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    Updated 12-02-2013 at 02:01 PM by CShusterman

  3. Bloggings: George W. Bush Boosts Immigration Reform, While House Republicans Continue to Tear it Down: Mission Not Yet Accomplished by Roger Algase

    George W. Bush, who tried but was unable to bring about immigration reform as president because of opposition in his own party, is now boosting CIR once again.
    According to the Huffington Post: George W. Bush: Immigration Reform Making Progress In Congress, July 7, Bush told ABC's "This Week" that lawmakers are making "some progress" in fixing a "broken system". 
    The former president also said: "Good policy yields good politics as far as I'm concerned."
    However, just as in 2007, anti-immigrant Republicans are determined to do everything possible to sabotage reform. Despite the Senate's having passed a CIR bill (S.744) which would throw an additional $30 billion and 20,000 more border patrol agents at the Mexican border, this is not enough for House Republicans such as Raul Labrador (Idaho) and Mike McCaul (Texas), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
    See, Politico: Labrador: Do immigration security before legalization, July 7, and McCaul: Senate bill throws 'candy' at border, July 7.
    The links are:
    Despite the 2012 election, and the increasing reality of America's transition to a true multiracial, multicultural society, the Congressional Republican right wing is still trying to get by with the same old, worn out, "enforcement first" or "enforcement only" anti-Latino strategy that it first unveiled in the failed 2005 Sensenbrenner bill. H.R. 4437, which would have criminalized much of the immigration system.
    This is not to say that there are no signs of progress toward immigration reform on the House side. Some House members are reportedly considering bills which would grant more visas to both high-skilled and low-skilled workers. Politico, Immigration bill's starts and stops, July 8.
    But according to the same article, the House is also considering poison pills, such as giving state and local officials the power to enforce federal immigration laws. We all know what that means - at least Sheriff Joe Arpiao knows. 
    The strategy among House Republicans seems to be to make immigration enforcement "triggers" even more impossible to achieve, and to put off permanent residence or citizenship for "provisionally legalized" immigrants even further off into the future, until the bill becomes entirely unworkable, liberals withdraw their support, or both. 
    But do House Republicans seriously think that Latinos and other immigration supporters are too blind to see through this charade? Have they already forgotten the lesson of November 2012?
    Rormer President Bush's support for CIR is welcome, but it is just a little too early to say: "Mission Accomplished".

  4. Governor Brewer Supports Senate Immigration Reform Bill

    by , 07-05-2013 at 08:40 AM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    This is a story from last week that I didn't get a chance to mention, but it's an interesting example of just how much the politics have changed on immigration. Readers will recall that Jan Brewer was the governor of Arizona who has pushed harsh anti-immigrant measures in her state and famously wagged her finger at President Obama during a heated discussion on immigration reform. Brewer was particularly swayed by the "border surge" provisions added in the Hoeven-Corker amendment.
  5. Bloggings: What Does it Really Mean to be an American in a Sharply Divided Nation? An Immigration Perspective. By Roger Algase

    As we celebrate the July 4th holiday weekend in the middle of an historic battle over immigration reform that may determine the face of America for a generation. it is worth thinking about what it means to be an American. Eric Liu, Bill Clinton's former speechwriter and policy advisor, whose parents were immigrants from China, has some ideas on this topic that deserve consideration.
    According to a July 4 Huffington Post article: Eric Liu: Asians Could Be Templates For Seeing Nuances Of Race, Citizenship
    Liu states:
    "I reject the idea that to become American is to quote become white...There's got to be a way to be American that's just about being yourself, claiming this country but not trying to whitewash yourself...
    After all, when I look at some of the selfish, fear-mongering, divisive, anti-immigrant activists seeking to end birthright citizenship, I see living proof that being born here doesn't necessarily make you a good citizen. And I know many non-citizens in America who, in the way they live and work and serve community and country, are many times better Americans than some of the entitled non-contributors who scream about 'anchor babies' subverting our way of life."
    Liu's comments might just as well apply to the people who are so desperate to derail Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
    Who are the ones who understand better what America really means, the backward-looking anti-immigrant politicians who are trying to make it difficult or impossible for 11 million minority immigrants ever to become Americans, or those immigrants themselves, who even though they may have come without permission because they were shut out of our legal immigration system, want nothing more than the chance to become a full part of our society?
    A good question to reflect on during this Independence Day weekend.
    From a broader perspective, the National Journal reminds us that the battle over immigration reform is only one symptom of an America that is divided between blue states which are moving forward in the direction of openness, tolerance and respect for human rights, and red states which are moving backwards not only on immigration, but on other issues also involving the rights of people who do not conform to a narrow, white male dominated, evangelical image of America.
    The NJ states (Red, Divided and Blue Fly This Independence Day, July 3):
    "All of this reflects a political system losing its capacity to create common ground between between coalitions divided along economic, racial, generational and even religious lines. Some variation in state policy is healthy, but states are now diverging to an extent that threatens to undermine equal protection under the law."
    Senate passage of CIR with small, but significant, bipartisan support may have been one exception, but S.744 seems set to meet with a hostile reception in a House dominated by red state Republicans beholden only to Tea Party voters in their gerrymandered districts.
    Will a sharply divided America be able to come together on immigration reform? This could be a very tall order indeed.

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