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  1. Letters of the Week: Dec 5 - Dec 9

    Please email your letters to or post them directly as "Comment" below.
  2. State Legislator Proposes Immigration Initiative in California

    by , 12-05-2011 at 05:45 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    The Sacramento Bee reports that last Friday State Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, filed an initiative that is being billed as a "moderate, common-sense approach" to immigration reform in the State of California.  The initiative would create "safe harbor" and "exceptions" to Federal law that prohibits employers from hiring individuals that lack immigration status or employment authorization.
    The proposal would apply to undocumented immigrants living in California for four years, and who pay a fee.  Individuals must speak, or be in the process of learning English.  An individual would be excluded from consideration if they have a felony conviction, or are a suspected terrorist.
    The measure requires 504,760 voter signatures to be placed on the ballot for consideration by California voters.  It has been alleged that $325 million in tax revenue would be generated from the legalization of undocumented workers.
    Click here for more of the story.
  3. EOIR’s Experimental “Pilot Program” Devastates Asylum Seekers

    The New York Times recently reported on a new policy at the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") and the Executive Office for Immigration Review ("EOIR") designed to prioritize the removal of criminal aliens.* Under the policy, DHS will review cases and terminate proceedings for aliens deemed a low priority for removal.* At the same time, EOIR (the Immigration Courts) will re-arrange its dockets to expedite priority cases.* From December 4, 2011 to January 13, 2012, EOIR will be implementing the Prosecutorial Discretion Pilot Project in Baltimore and Denver.* The results for aliens seeking asylum are already pretty devastating, and if the program goes national in its present form, we can expect serious problems for many asylum seekers.

    Some experiments have unintended consequences.

    My first experience with the program came last week when we received notice that my client's Individual Hearing was re-scheduled from this December to May 2014 (yes, that is 2014, almost 2.5 years from now).* The man is an Eritrean national who fled persecution in his homeland.* He has a decent case and he had been hoping for a resolution later this month.* Now he must wait until 2014.* He has no work permit and the Asylum Clock is stopped in his case.
    According to EOIR, the goal of the Pilot Program is "to ensure that [limited] resources are focused on the Administration's highest immigration enforcement priorities."* Unfortunately, in this case, the Administration's "enforcement priorities" (i.e., removal of aliens) comes at the expense of our country's humanitarian obligations.
    Part of the problem, I think, is the government's attitude, articulated by the Supreme Court in INS v. Doherty, 502 U.S. 314, 323 (1992), that "every delay works to the advantage of the deportable alien who wishes merely to remain in the United States."* I have always felt that this statement reflects an insensitivity and ignorance about many aliens who are in the U.S.* While some aliens do merely hope to delay their removal, asylum seekers wish to see their cases resolved as quickly as possible.* There are a number of reasons for this: Asylum seekers are hoping to petition for their family members, some of whom face threats in the home country; asylum seekers fear return to their country, and waiting for years to learn their fate is extremely stressful; many asylum seekers are young and hope to study in university, which is difficult without lawful status; many asylum seekers are well educated and hope to find professional jobs, which is also difficult without status.
    For all these reasons, delaying asylum hearings for 2+ years is devastating to many asylum seekers.
    The Pilot Program is going forward, and I imagine that the same or similar policies will be adopted throughout the U.S.* Given this new reality, here are a couple suggestions about how EOIR can mitigate the difficulty to asylum seekers and other aliens who are hoping for a resolution of their cases:
    - When an asylum case is postponed, the Asylum Clock should start automatically, so that the asylum seeker can obtain her work permit.
    - EOIR should reserve some time slots in the (relatively) near future for asylum seekers and others whose cases have been postponed.* Aliens that wish to have a sooner resolution of their cases can file motions to expedite.* Thus, for example, if EOIR reserved some time slots in 2012, my 2014 client could file a motion requesting one of those dates.
    Finally, while it might be futile to argue that we should not be prioritizing removals over protecting people fleeing persecution, I want to give it a try.* Statistically, most removals involve people with no criminal histories.* Even many "criminal aliens" are convicted of very minor violations (driving without a license, using a false ID, and drunk in public are three common violations).* The benefit to the U.S. of removing these people quickly-and often separating them from their family members-is pretty minimal.* On the other hand, as discussed above, the harm of leaving legitimate asylum seekers in limbo for long periods is severe.* If these competing interests are balanced, it seems unjust that asylum seekers should never receive priority over the removal of "criminal aliens."* EOIR should re-think its policy to account for the needs of legitimate asylum seekers.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  4. Bloggings: Can Gingrich become president by running to the left of Obama on immigration? Yes he can. By Roger Algase

    According to a current article in the Washington Post, Democratic strategists are worried about Newt Gingrich's possible appeal among Latino voters. They should be. According to the same article, Gingrich is learning Spanish, has a monthly Spanish newsletter, and appears on Univision. This is in addition to his standing up for the reality that not all unauthorized immigrants can be deported, and in fact, millions never will be. Everyone in America knows that, including Romney, Bachmann, Perry, et al. 
    What is Obama doing, in contrast? Yes, he has Latinos in his staff, and some outreach to Latino communities. But as long as he continues to deport 400,000 men, women and children each year and break up Spanish-speaking American families, he will become increasingly hated by the same voters who are essential to his re-election chances. He is engaging in the greatest possible insult to Latino voters of all - taking them for granted, when not actually throwing them under the bus.
    Ironically, Obama's incredible stupidity on immigration and his slap in the face towards America's fastest growing ethnic community may wind up electing one the most autocratic and bigoted presidents in modern history. Gingrich's attempts to exploit prejudice against American Muslims by spreading McCarthy-style fears that they are disloyal, by outrageously misrepresenting the history of great landmarks of interfaith tolerance such as the Spanish city of Cordoba, and by buying into the "Sharia Law" takeover fiction, are in stark contrast to his tolerance toward Latino communities (which just happen to have many more voters than America's Muslim communities).
    Gingrich's proposals on relief from deportation, though probably quite a bit more limited than many in the media realize, are welcome. But his open bigotry toward Muslims is a disturbing sign. It may be no accident that Gingrich said that someone needs to be "going to church" to be eligible for relief from deportation. As the world-famous Arabic epic: Alf Laila Wa Laila ("Thousand And One Nights") points out, once a genie is out, it is hard to put it back in the bottle. This certainly applies to Newt Gingrich's genie of anti-Muslim hate. 
  5. Pakistan: Friend or Foe for Asylum; By Danielle Beach-Oswald

    Most people that are prosecuted in their various countries seek asylum in the US for safety reasons.   Generally, most asylum cases do not attract considerable media attention.
    Pamela Constable from the Washington Post wrote an article on Siraji Ahmed Malik a Pakistani journalist who was granted  asylum because of the threats against him and the persistent disappearances and  deaths that occurred in his hometown of Baluchistan.  Realistically, there are multiple reasons why Pakistan has created opprobrium in the media as many perceive it to be a country that has engaged in continued connivance and subterfuge as regards terrorists hiding there.  However, why has this asylum case drawn media attention as compared to other asylum cases.
    Pakistan is currently a topic of concern due to the recent Bin Laden killing, and also the amount of foreign aid sent to Pakistan from the U.S.  According to the Jane Perlez from the New York Times, " The aid program promoted by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, promised Pakistan $7.5 billion over five years much of it delivered through the civilian government".
    Additionally, the republican presidential candidates have taken the initiative to discuss the dysfunctional relation between the U.S and Pakistan. While candidate Michele Bachman is for the continuity of the relationship, Rick Perry promotes the severing of  ties. In the end, there is no doubt that these reasons play a role in this attentiveness given to this particular  recent Pakistan asylum case.
    Hightlighted in The Washington Post article  are extensive discussions of  the threats, disappearances, and torture that the journalist and other activists encountered from the Pakistan military intelligence agencies.   As a journalist, Malik talked about the reoccurring disappearances and deaths happening in Baluchistan his hometown.  As his friends and colleagues were disappearing, he learned that their bodies were discovered with bullet holes and burn marks.  He states, "a fellow reporter was kidnapped, and his corpse was found near a river".  Pamela Constable goes on to state that, "Baluchistan is the wild west of Pakistan- a remote desert province, larger than France, that is home to a mix of radical Islamic groups, rival ethnic and refugee's gangs, rebellious armed tribes, and security agencies that have long been reported to kidnap, torture and kill dissidents with impunity".
    In actuality, the Human Right Watch does back up Siraji Malik's facts from several sources.  On July 23rd, 2011, the Human Rights Watch published a 132 page report titled "'We Can Torture, Kill or Keep You for Years': Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan security forces in Balochistan" which documents disappearances that the authorities have relentlessly revoked any responsibility. According to the Human Right Watch, "The report details 45 alleged cases of enforced disappearance, the majority in 2009 and 2010.
    Although on the U.S. and U.K have urged the Pakistani government to control terrorism it  has not in the past pinpointed Pakistan's human rights record or deviance in often spurious reports.
    Hence, it may seem  odd to a journalist like Pamela Constable for the U.S. to grant asylum from a country that is supposedly our ally.  She comments, "It was a highly unusual decision by US immigration officials given Pakistan's status: a strategic partner in Washington's war against Islamic terrorism; a longtime recipient of US aid; and a democracy with an elected civilian government and vibrant national news".
    The protection of an individual should be the utmost priority to the U.S.regardless of its relationship with the specific country and its government. The Immigration and National Act states in INA Section 208 that aliens who fear for their lives or freedom due to threats based on "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group, or political opinion" can claim protection in the U.S. Thus offering asylum to Siraji Malik was mandated.  There are numerous countries like Egypt that are allies with the US, but still have some form of persecution that their fellow citizens' encounter, and most of them eventually seek asylum in the US.  Hence, the issue at hand should not be Siraji's asylum approval case, but rather the blind eye the U.S. has shown towards the crisis in Pakistan.
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