Immigration Law Blogs on ILW.COM
, 01-08-2017 at 10:11 AM (4304 Views)
This comment will continue a discussion of the possible use of INA Section 274 to harass and intimidate US citizens and other immigrant rights supporters though criminal prosecutions that was begun in my September 26, 2016 Immigration Daily blog post. See:
Jeff Sessions, who is Donald Trump's choice to be the chief law enforcement officer of the United States in the post of Attorney General, and who will have wide power to prosecute immigration violations as criminal, not just civil offenses, has a history as a U.S. Attorney of using the criminal laws to attempt to punish and intimidate activists who tried to assist minority US citizens in exercising their right to vote.
As Attorney General, will Sessions use an expanded interpretation of an already very broad criminal statute, INA Section 274, as a weapon against immigration advocates who try to help minority immigrants assert their rights or protect themselves against deportation?
Based on his past conduct in a 1985 Alabama voting rights case, his call for more prosecutions under INA Section 274 in his recent letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his antipathy toward immigrants from outside Europe as expressed in a 2015 memorandum he sent to fellow Congressional Republicans, there is every reason to believe that he will do so.
USA today reports that in 1985, while he was the US attorney for Mobile, Sessions brought voting fraud charges against three activists for African-American voting rights, including a former adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., for allegedly altering ballots.
The defendants claimed that they were only trying to assist poor, elderly or illiterate voters who were having problems understanding and casting their ballots. More than half of the charges were dismissed by the presiding judge without being submitted to the jury, which promptly acquitted the defendants of all the remaining charges.
Fast forward to July, 2016, when Sessions, together with his fellow Alabama Republican Senator, Richard Shelby, sent a letter to President Obama's Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, accusing the federal government of being complicit in "criminal conspiracies" to violate the immigration laws, and in effect, demanding that there be more criminal prosecutions for immigration violations under Section 274.
At issue in the letter was the Obama administration's practice of releasing many of the unaccompanied minor children from Central America who had entered the US to pursue asylum claims to the custody of relatives who are already in the US, rather than summarily sending the children back to their gang violence ridden countries.
Sessions' letter called for prosecution under Section 274 of the same relatives to whose custody these children were being released. His letter states:
"Section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 8 U.S.C. 1324 provides for the criminal prosecution of anyone who 'encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry or residence is or will be in violation of law,' anyone who 'engages in any conspiracy to do so,' or 'anyone who 'aids or abets the commission of such acts'."
The letter then goes on to ask how many relatives ("sponsors") of these minor children have been prosecuted or convicted under INA Section 274.
There could not be a clearer warning that not only unauthorized or "criminal" immigrants (including immigrants who may have been charged with but not actually convicted of any crime), but anyone in the United States, including a US citizen, who gives them any kind of support or assistance, could risk prosecution and a jail sentence.
For a link to a full story and text of the letter in the Washington Examiner on July 7, 2016, see:
What kind of message will this send to immigration rights advocates? In the era of the new administration beginning on January 20, will America's immigration detention centers and prison camps soon start to fill up, not only with immigrants, but with American citizens who stand up for immigrants' rights or assist immigrants in asserting those rights?
This question becomes particularly urgent in the face of clear indications contained in a January 2015 immigration "Handbook" that Sessions prepared and distributed to his Republican Congressional colleagues. In that manifesto, Sessions expresses high praise for the overtly racially biased immigration system that limited legal immigration to Northern Europeans almost exclusively for some 40 years beginning in 1924.
For a link to the "Handbook" and more details about Sessions' support for America's "Nordics"-only pre-1965 immigration system, see my January 5 Immigration Daily comment:
How secure will the future of legal employment-based immigration be under Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General?
Also, according to a January 6 news report, Sessions supported a draconian Alabama state immigration bill, HB 56, that was actually a harsher version of Arizona's notorious SB 1070 (most of which was thrown out in 2012 by the Supreme Court in Arizona v. US).
This bill was described by the ACLU as:
"...an extraordinary attempt to regulate every aspect of the lives of immigrants in Alabama."
For foreign and American citizens alike who are concerned about whether America will continue to be a nation of equal justice and opportunity for immigrants of all ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations and areas of the world, the coming Trump/Sessions years are likely to be ones of very great challenges.
There could be a strong possibility that there will be overt efforts (through legislation by a compliant Congress, or perhaps more likely by a presidential proclamation under INA Section 212(f) or some other kind of executive action) to change America's immigration system back to the mainly Europeans-only immigration system that was was in effect before 1965 (though very likely with much more liberal visa quotas for Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe than was the case under the quotas in effect prior to that year)!
The coming years may also see considerably more intense efforts by the new administration than America has ever seen in the past to silence and intimidate immigrant rights supporters through the threat of federal criminal prosecutions or investigations, using the enormous powers that the Attorney General has over immigration enforcement.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been representing mainly skilled and professional immigrants for more than 35 years, based only on their qualifications and merit for receiving work visas and green cards under our laws, without regard to ethnicity, religion or national origin.
Roger opposes any attempt to take America back to the pre-1965 immigration laws which favored immigrants of one particular ancestry or area of the world over all others. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org