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Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Hispanic Students Vanish from Alabama Schools

Associated Press: BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) — Hispanic students have started vanishing from Alabama public schools in the wake of a court ruling that upheld the state's tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration.

Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week, afraid that sending the kids to school would draw attention from authorities.

There are no precise statewide numbers. But several districts with large immigrant enrollments — from small towns to large urban districts — reported a sudden exodus of children of Hispanic parents, some of whom told officials they planned to leave the state to avoid trouble with the law, which requires schools to check students' immigration status.

The anxiety has become so intense that the superintendent in one of the state's largest cities, Huntsville, went on a Spanish-language television show Thursday to try to calm widespread worries.

"In the case of this law, our students do not have anything to fear," Casey Wardynski said in halting Spanish. He urged families to send students to class and explained that the state is only trying to compile statistics.

Police, he insisted, were not getting involved in schools.

Victor Palafox graduated from a high school in suburban Birmingham last year and has lived in the United States without documentation since age 6, when his parents brought him and his brother here from Mexico.

"Younger students are watching their lives taken from their hands," said Palafox, whose family is staying put.

In Montgomery County, more than 200 Hispanic students were absent the morning after the judge's Wednesday ruling. A handful withdrew.

In tiny Albertville, 35 students withdrew in one day. And about 20 students in Shelby County, in suburban Birmingham, either withdrew or told teachers they were leaving.

Local and state officials are pleading with immigrant families to keep their children enrolled. The law does not ban anyone from school, they say, and neither students nor parents will be arrested for trying to get an education.

But many Spanish-speaking families aren't waiting around to see what happens.

A school worker in Albertville — a community with a large poultry industry that employs many Hispanic workers — said Friday that many families might leave town over the weekend for other states. About 22 percent of the community's 4,200 students are Hispanic.

"I met a Hispanic mother in the hallway at our community learning center this morning, where enrollment and withdrawal happens. She looked at me with tears in her eyes. I asked, 'Are you leaving?' She said 'Yes,' and hugged me, crying," said the worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not an authorized spokeswoman.

In Russellville, which has one of the largest immigrant populations in the state because of its poultry plants, overall school attendance was down more than 2 percent after the ruling, and the rate was higher among Hispanic students.

There's "no firm data yet, but several students have related to their teachers that they may be moving soon," said George Harper, who works in the central office.

Schools in Baldwin County, a heavily agricultural and tourist area near the Gulf Coast, and in Decatur in the Tennessee Valley also reported sudden decreases in Hispanic attendance.

The law does not require proof of citizenship to enroll, and it does not apply to any students who were enrolled before Sept. 1. While most students are not affected, school systems are supposed to begin checking the status of first-time enrollees now.

The Obama administration filed court documents Friday announcing its plans to appeal the ruling that upheld the law.

The state has distributed to schools sample letters that can be sent to parents of new students informing them of the law's requirements for either citizenship documents or sworn statements by parents.

In an attempt to ease suspicions that the law may lead to arrests, the letter tells parents immigration information will be used only to gather statistics.

"Rest assured," the letter states, "that it will not be a problem if you are unable or unwilling to provide either of the documents."

Women Spared Deportation to Bangladesh, for Now

New York Times: Nadia Habib and her mother, Nazmin Habib, are not being sent back to Bangladesh just yet.

At an immigration hearing in Federal Plaza on Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to review the Habibs’ case and decide whether to reopen it, their lawyer said.

The women, who live in Woodside, Queens, are to report back to the immigration agency in three months and remain under an order of supervision requiring them to notify immigration authorities if they intend to leave the state for more than two days, their lawyer, Aygul Charles, said.

Ms. Charles said the Habibs “could still be deported any day,” but she added that she thought the director of the New York office of ICE, Christopher Shanahan, “recognizes that it’s a sympathetic family.”

Officials at the immigration agency said they could not comment on an individual case without a privacy waiver from the Habibs, which was not immediately available.

Nadia Habib, 19, and her parents came to the United States in 1993 when she was 20 months old. Her father now has a green card and her three younger brothers, all born here, are citizens, but Nadia and Nazmin Habib overstayed a tourist visa and have been trying to reopen their case and press a political asylum claim since 2000.

All morning in front of Federal Plaza, friend and supporters had held up signs and protested for the Habibs not to be deported and the family split up. Nadia, a psychology major at Stony Brook University, was swarmed when she left the court building.

“I’m very excited, nervous,” she said. “I’m just going home to chill out.”

Illegal Immigrants Taking a Risk for Harvest

CBS (Cullman, AL) reported that: Farmers say their fields are ready to harvest, but workers are disappearing. A day after a federal judge makes a ruling blocking certain parts of the Immigration Law, some illegal workers are not staying around to find out how it effects them.

Even with the preliminary injunction, fear of the unknown is driving these migrant workers away. They feel it's just a matter of time before they are forced to leave or face deportation.

Farmer Keith Smith breathed a sigh of relief after the ruling ... that was until he got to the field this morning. Only five of his twenty workers showed up.

Workers say it would only take one traffic incident to send them to jail. The law does not call for random checks of residents or targeting them based on race or ethnicity, however, law enforcement say they will continue to pull people over for traffic violations.

Today, the Civil Rights Coalition filed an emergency request to block key provisions of the law that would among other things, authorize police to demand "papers" showing immigration or citizenship status during routine traffic stops.

Critics of Tough Alabama Immigration Law Appeal

Reuters: A coalition of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups filed an appeal on Thursday of a federal judge's ruling that let stand much of Alabama's tough new immigration law.

The groups, along with President Barack Obama's administration and church leaders, have sought to block what is widely seen as the toughest state crackdown on illegal immigration.

Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ruled on Wednesday that Alabama could begin requiring public schools to determine the legal residency of children.

She also gave the green light for police to detain people suspected of being in the United States illegally if they cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and fellow Republican lawmakers hailed the judge's decision as a major win in their efforts to curb illegal immigration in their state. Federal judges have previously blocked key parts of other immigration laws passed in Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Indiana.

The Obama administration argues that the U.S. Constitution bars states from adopting immigration measures that conflict with federal laws.

But conservatives complain that the federal government has failed to sufficiently stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country, forcing states to take action to protect their borders and jobs.

The plaintiffs group in the appeal, led by the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, also filed an emergency motion on Thursday seeking to keep some disputed parts of the law from taking effect pending a review by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


LEGAL FIGHT CONTINUES

The latest legal challenge comes as no surprise. Supporters of the law also have vowed to continue the court fight, with the aim of getting the entire law in effect.

Blackburn temporarily barred the state from making it a crime to knowingly transport or harbor an illegal immigrant or prohibiting illegal immigrants from attending its public colleges.

"The overwhelming majority of people in this state are supportive of this law," said Republican state Representative Jim McClendon, a co-sponsor of the measure.

"The opponents lost hands-down in the legislative process, so now, they're turning to the court system to see if they can find somebody who sympathizes with their position."

University of Alabama constitutional law professor Bryan Fair said he thinks opponents have a shot at getting some of the more controversial provisions of the law overturned by a higher court, specifically those involving schools and police.

"I think those provisions invite racial profiling, and I think racial profiling violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment," Fair told Reuters.

Educators and law enforcement officials in the state were among those waiting for guidance on how to proceed as the court battle plays out.

"At this point we do not know if that will involve a stay of the law from going into effect before the appeal is heard," said Randy Christian, chief deputy of the Jefferson County Sheriff Department.

"We also have to get some answers on how we actually enforce it and how we can do so without involving racial profiling."

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan said a statewide web seminar series would be held on October 14 to help instruct farmers on how to comply with the new law.

The measure already has had an impact on the state's agribusiness, with McMillan and others telling of crops rotting in fields as a result of day laborers leaving the state ahead of the law taking effect.

"This law contains many provisions with stiff fines and penalties," McMillan said in a statement. "It is critical for farmers and agribusinesses to understand fully how this law applies to them."

Justice Department Eyes 4 More Immigration Lawsuits

Politico reported that: The Obama administration is ratcheting up its efforts against state immigration laws around the country, according to a new report.

After suing Arizona and Alabama over immigration measures enacted in those states, the Justice Department is currently reviewing immigration laws in four other states to decide whether to challenge the measures, the Washington Post reported. The immigration measures being examined were enacted in Utah, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana.

The Justice Department will examine the four laws to see the extent to which the measures interfere with the federal government’s enforcement of immigration law.

“Based on that review and applying those principles, the United States will decide whether and when to bring suit challenging particular state laws,” Justice Department spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said.

The potential challenges come at an opportune time for the White House, which is seeking to boost Hispanic support for President Barack Obama’s reelection bid.

“I don’t recall any time in history that the Justice Department has so aggressively challenged state laws,” Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University Law School, told the Post.

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that Alabama could begin enforcing some of the most controversial parts of its toughest-in-the-nation immigration law, including requirements for schools to verify students’ immigration status and for police to determine citizenship and status of those they stop, detain or arrest. Other provisions challenged by the Obama administration were blocked until a federal judge can make a final ruling.

The Supreme Court could decide to hear Arizona’s case — the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April to blocked most of the contested parts of the law from taking effect — this term, before the 2012 election.

The laws in the Utah, Indiana, Georgia and South Carolina include a variety of controversial measures, such as making it a crime to harbor an illegal immigrant and allowing police to determine a person’s immigration status in certain situations.

Obama Administration Widens Challenges to State Immigration Laws

Washington Post: The Obama administration is escalating its crackdown on tough immigration laws, with lawyers reviewing four new state statutes to determine whether the federal government will take the extraordinary step of challenging the measures in court.

Justice Department attorneys have sued Arizona and Alabama, where a federal judge on Wednesday allowed key parts of that state’s immigration law to take effect but blocked other provisions. Federal lawyers are talking to Utah officials about a third possible lawsuit and are considering legal challenges in Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina, according to court documents and government officials.

The level of federal intervention is highly unusual, legal experts said, especially because civil rights groups already have sued most of those states. Typically, the government files briefs or seeks to intervene in other lawsuits filed against state statutes.

“I don’t recall any time in history that the Justice Department has so aggressively challenged state laws,” said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University Law School.

The legal skirmishing was triggered by last year’s Arizona law, which requires that police check immigration status if they stop someone while enforcing other laws. Amid a fierce national debate, a Justice Department lawsuit led federal courts to block that measure’s most contested provisions, but similar laws were approved in recent months in Alabama, Utah, Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina. At least 17 other states have considered such measures this year.

Although Wednesday’s ruling in Alabama was something of a setback, the Justice Department and civil rights groups have been on a winning streak. The ACLU and other groups have obtained rulings temporarily blocking all or key parts of immigration laws in Utah, Georgia and Indiana, with Republican- and Democrat-appointed judges blasting the measures as devoid of due process protections or for targeting illegal immigrants.

Now, the administration is under pressure from some quarters to intervene in those states, as well as South Carolina, where a new immigration law is set to take effect Jan. 1. Civil rights groups have been lobbying the White House and Justice and State departments, according to people familiar with the effort, and the ACLU is circulating an online petition calling for federal lawsuits. More than 23,000 people have signed.

On the other side, Utah is lobbying the government to stay out. Mark Shurtleff (R), that state’s attorney general, has met with senior Justice officials, who he said are considering whether to seek to join the civil rights lawsuit as a plaintiff.

“We believe our defense is much better if the Justice Department is not the one saying our law is superseded by federal law,” said Shurtleff, who added that Utah “worked very hard and carefully to make our law different from Arizona” so it is constitutional.

The legal maneuvering comes as immigration is flaring as a political issue, with many conservatives and GOP presidential candidates calling for a hard line on the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

Conservatives have criticized the Obama administration for suing Arizona and Alabama, and some legal observers said they detect political motives in the administration’s additional legal steps. The White House and Obama’s reelection campaign have been trying to rekindle excitement among Hispanic voters, many of whom have been disappointed over his immigration policies.

“It suggests that they are waiting to test the political winds and see if this is good or bad for the Obama administration,” said Kris Kobach, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration who is helping Arizona and Alabama defend the lawsuits.

Justice officials have denied any political motives and said they are proceeding based on the facts and the law. Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. have been critical of the state measures, with the president telling a roundtable with Latino reporters on Wednesday that the Arizona law created “a great danger that naturalized citizens, individuals with Latino surnames, potentially could be vulnerable to questioning; the laws could be potentially abused in ways that were not fair to Latino citizens in Arizona.”

Obama added: “We can’t have a patchwork of 50 states with 50 different immigration laws.”

Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said lawyers are reviewing the Utah, Indiana, Georgia and South Carolina laws and the “legal principles” established in the Arizona case. “Based on that review and applying those principles, the United States will decide whether and when to bring suit challenging particular state laws,” Hinojosa said.

Hovering over the debate is the possible involvement of the Supreme Court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in April that the most contested parts of Arizona’s immigration law will remain blocked from taking effect. They include provisions allowing for warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants and criminalizing the failure of immigrants to carry registration papers.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is seeking Supreme Court review, and the court could decide to hear the case this term. That would mean a decision before the 2012 presidential election, one that would affect the other state laws as well.

“My guess is that they will take it,” said Jonathan Benner, a Washington lawyer who has argued numerous cases involving federal-state conflicts. “This is the kind of case that is most interesting to the Supreme Court.”

The other state statutes, signed into law over the past five months, include a range of provisions, including authorizing police to question people’s immigration status in a variety of circumstances, limiting the ability of immigrants to use certain forms of identification and criminalizing the harboring or transport of illegal immigrants.

The Justice Department and civil rights groups are arguing that the laws will lead to harassment of immigrants or racial profiling and that they are “preempted” under federal law, which gives the federal government control of immigration enforcement.

“You’d have to be crazy to pass one of these laws, knowing you’re buying yourself an enormous lawsuit,” said Cecillia D. Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. She called the Alabama statute, signed into law in June, “by far the most draconian and extreme.”

The Justice Department and a coalition of civil rights groups sued over the law, which caused particular outrage because it requires public school officials to determine citizenship by seeking children’s birth certificates. Civil rights advocates say that will keep some children out of school because their parents will fear being deported.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn allowed that provision to take effect, along with other elements of the law, until she can issue a final ruling. But she temporarily blocked other provisions, including those making it crimes for illegal immigrants to solicit work and to transport or harbor them.

Alabama lawyers have backed the law’s constitutionality, and Gov. Robert Bentley (R) on Wednesday called it “the strongest immigration law in the country.” Other states also have defended their laws, with some accusing the federal government of failing to stem the growing problem of illegal immigration.

But some judges have been highly critical. In Indiana, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in June blocked the two most contested parts of that state’s law. The provisions would authorize warrantless arrests of illegal immigrants in certain circumstances and make it a crime to accept an identification card used by many immigrants.

Barker, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, called the law “seriously flawed” and said that it was completely “void” of due process protections for immigrants and that parts of the state’s defense were “entirely fanciful.”

The judge also had strong words for all of the new state immigration laws, calling them “tortuous attempts to carve out legally permissible roles that do not run afoul of federal jurisdictional and constitutional requirements.”

Indiana officials are defending the law as the case proceeds toward trial in November. Greg Zoeller (R), that state’s attorney general, said the judge’s ruling “can be seen as an indictment of the federal government on their failure to enact and enforce immigration policy.

Federal Court Blocks Parts of Alabama’s Tough Immigration Law

Latin American Herald Tribune: A U.S. district court judge temporarily blocked four of the most controversial portions of a harsh Alabama law against undocumented immigrants but left others standing, once again bringing proponents and foes of immigration reform into conflict.

As a result of the decision, Alabama state authorities will not be able to arrest undocumented immigrants for working or seeking employment, nor will they be able to arrest people who hide, transport or shelter undocumented foreigners.

HB 56, which criminalizes the presence of undocumented immigrants in Alabama, was the target of lawsuits by the Obama administration, as well as by civic and religious groups.

In her 115-page ruling, Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn prohibited the state government from enforcing four of the clauses contained in the law, enacted in June by Gov. Robert J. Bentley.

However, the judge did not issue any ruling about the constitutionality of HB 56, which – its detractors say – tramples on the civil rights of immigrants and interferes in a task that is the responsibility of the federal government.

Judge Blackburn left standing a clause that, in practice, transforms school administrators into immigration agents and another that demands that when police arrest people for infractions of any kind they ask for their papers if officers suspect them to be undocumented immigrants.

Immigrant defense groups expressed unease over the ruling and called for an increase in activism in favor of immigration reform.

The immigrant community should pressure the government “so that it finally displays the leadership and courage to – once and for all – fix our immigration system for everyone, and thus remove the (possibility) of measures like those in Alabama that criminalize immigrants,” Katherine Vargas, a spokesperson for the National Immigration Forum, told Efe.

Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, said that this is “an outrageous ruling,” because laws such HB 56 will not solve the problem of illegal immigration, “they just make a bad system worse and pit groups against each other.”

“The federal government is in charge of immigration policy and it is the federal government’s job to fix what is broken,” he said. “The Alabama law plays to Americans’ worst fears rather than our best instincts.”

But Dan Stein, the president of the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform, applauded the ruling because, in his judgment, it “offers relief to the residents of Alabama” and means that other states suffering from the cost of illegal immigration can take measures in the face of the inaction of the Obama administration.

The Alabama law was inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070, which is partially blocked in the courts.

Alabama is the fifth U.S. state to adopt laws to combat illegal immigration, given the lack of a route to legalization for the 11 million undocumented foreigners in the country.

Tough New Immigration Law Launched in Alabama

AFP reported that: The U.S. state of Alabama on Thursday launched the nation's toughest crackdown on illegal immigration, making it a crime to be undocumented and allowing schools to check the immigrant status of students.

Opponents say the measures — even harsher than the deeply controversial laws established last year in Arizona — are largely unconstitutional and amount to racial profiling, while supporters insist the state is merely implementing policy that Washington has been too weak to enforce itself.

The bulk of the law known as HB 56 was upheld Wednesday by District Judge Sharon Blackburn, after President Barack Obama's administration filed suit to stop it.

And while she blocked some of the most contentious parts of the legislation, such as forbidding undocumented migrants from looking for work and barring them from enrolling in public colleges, Blackburn let stand previsions that federal authorities had vigorously opposed.

The new law will let police detain suspected illegal immigrants without bail; make it a misdemeanor for people to be in the country illegally; and order primary and secondary schools to verify children's immigration status.

"This law is much worse than Arizona," Andre Segura, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told AFP, adding that the legislation "threatens public safety and undermines American values."

"It's a wrong ruling that leaves many doors open to interpretation by police officers," Segura said, adding that the ACLU on Thursday filed a motion to stay as a first step in appealing the ruling.

Application of the law begins in part on Thursday, with police being given the order to act under the new guidelines, according to the state attorney general's office.

"Today is a victory for Alabama," Governor Robert Bentley said in a statement.

"During my campaign, I promised a tough law against illegal immigration, and we now have one," he said.

"If the federal government had done its job by enforcing its own immigration laws, there would be no need for Alabama — or other states — to pass a law such as this. Unfortunately, they have failed to do their job."

Critics are especially worried that enforcement of migration status checks will keep children from going to school because their parents are undocumented.

"This is an ugly law and an outrageous ruling," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice Education Fund.

"State laws like Alabama's won't fix anything; they just make a bad system worse and pit groups against each other."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department said it was "reviewing the decision to determine next steps."

We will continue to evaluate state immigration-related laws and will not hesitate to bring suit if, in fact, a state creates its own immigration policy or enforces state laws in a manner that interferes with federal immigration law," the spokeswoman told AFP in an email.

Tough immigration laws in two other states, Utah and Georgia, were suspended earlier this year by court order after immigrant advocacy groups filed suit. The cases could return to court.

Ali Noorani, head of the National Immigration Forum, blasted Alabama for "making history in all the wrong ways," saying the ruling will "burden local police departments with responsibilities that belong to the federal government and it will prove to be extremely costly to enforce."

"In the United States of America, no one should have to be afraid to walk down the street because of the color of their skin. This law tramples on the civil rights of all Alabamans," he said.

While Noorani pointed the finger at "Republican extremists" in Alabama's legislature, he also laid blame squarely on the U.S. Congress.

"Their inaction on immigration reform has let the states run amok with proposals that attack our American values of fairness and equal treatment," he said.

Obama has called for comprehensive immigration reform that would include strengthening borders but also granting a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

His Republican rivals have adamantly rejected what they say would amount to "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, and have said the administration has not done enough to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Obama: Deportation Statistics "Deceptive"

The Hill reported that: President Obama said statistics that show his administration is on track to deport more illegal immigrants than the Bush administration are misleading.

"The statistics are a little deceptive," he said Wednesday in an online discussion aimed at Hispanic voters.

Obama explained that enhanced border security has led to Border Patrol agents arresting more people as they cross into the country illegally. Those people are quickly sent back to their countries, but are counted as deported illegal immigrants.

He said his administration has focused on deporting illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes.

"Our enforcement priority is not to chase down young people who are following all the other laws," he said.

The online talk was hosted by Yahoo, MSN Latino and AOL Latino/Huffington Post Latino Voice. Users submitted their questions online for the president.

Obama renewed his call to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

"We are a nation of laws, but we are also a nation of immigrants," he said, adding that illegal immigrants applying for citizenship will have to meet a series of requirements, likely including paying a fine or learning English.

Critics of a pathway to citizenship decry it as amnesty for immigrants who have broken the law.

The president acknowledged that the chance of pushing comprehensive immigration reform through a Republican-controlled House is slim.

"Our key approach is trying to push Republicans back to where they were only a few years ago," he said.

When Obama was asked for his thoughts on the eventual Republican presidential nominee possibly choosing Hispanic Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as his or her running mate, the president said: "I am absolutely certain that within my lifetime we will have a Latino candidate for president who will be competitive and might even win."

The event was Obama's latest effort to engage the public online, but his first Hispanic-focused online event. He participated in a Twitter town hall in July, a Facebook town hall in April and a LinkedIn town hall earlier this week.

Immigration Raids Net 2,900 Criminals in Largest National Crackdown

Los Angeles Times: About 2,900 illegal immigrants with criminal records have been arrested in what authorities on Wednesday called the largest such nationwide crackdown.

The arrests, during the last seven days, came a month after the Obama administration announced that immigration officials would concentrate on finding and deporting serious criminals and delay deportation proceedings against non-criminals who do not pose a public safety threat.

Wednesday's announcement came on the day that President Obama told Latinos during a roundtable at the White House that he was still committed to comprehensive immigration reform, which he said had been prevented by Republican intransigence.

"We're a nation of laws, but we're also a nation of immigrants," Obama said at the forum for viewers of Yahoo! en Espanol, MSN Latino, AOL Latino and Huffington Post Latino Voices.

The latest arrests involved more than 1,900 agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement working with state and local officers across the country over the last week, part of an operation called "Cross Check." Officials said 2,901 illegal immigrants were arrested and all had at least one criminal conviction.

Of that group, at least 1,282 had been convicted of multiple charges and more than 1,600 had felony convictions including manslaughter, attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, drug trafficking, child abuse, sexual crimes against minors, and aggravated assault, ICE said in a prepared statement. Forty-two were identified as gang members, the agency said.

In addition, 681 of those arrested were immigration fugitives who had previously been ordered to leave the country but failed to go. Additionally, 386 were illegal re-entrants who had been previously removed from the country multiple times.

Cases involving a least 146 of those arrested during the sweep were turned over to various U.S. attorneys for prosecution on a variety of charges including illegal re-entry after deportation, a felony which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the agency stated.

Suspects were arrested in all 50 states and four U.S. territories, according to the statement.

"This is what we should be doing; this is good law enforcement," ICE director John Morton told a news conference. "It makes sense to be removing people who are committing crimes who are here illegally, first and foremost."

The Obama administration has been wrestling with immigration issues. On Wednesday, Obama again defended his administration's actions in tightening border security while increasing deportations.

In August, the Obama administration announced that it will review about 300,000 pending deportation cases to separate out non-criminals who do not pose a threat. Those individuals would be allowed to stay in the United States and apply for work permits. The government has also stepped up its efforts to deport those who have committed serious crimes.

Latinos represent a key voting bloc as the nation moves more deeply into the 2012 presidential election. While Obama and other Democrats have been the chief beneficiaries of Latino support, recent polls show that the backing has been softening.

Meanwhile, Republicans have also had their problems with immigration issues. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been attacked by fellow conservatives for his support of a 2001 Texas law that allows undocumented immigrant children to pay in-state tuition rates at state universities if they meet some criteria. He has also argued that a physical fence at the border with Mexico wouldn't work.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is running second to Perry in most national polls, backs a fence and opposes in-state tuition rates.

Companies Use Immigration Crackdown to Turn a Profit

New York Times (Reported by Nina Bernstein): The men showed up in a small town in Australia's outback early last year, offering top dollar for all available lodgings. Within days, their company, Serco, was flying in recruits from as far away as London, and busing them from trailers to work 12-hour shifts as guards in a remote camp where immigrants seeking asylum are indefinitely detained.

It was just a small part of a pattern on three continents where a handful of multinational security companies have been turning crackdowns on immigration into a growing global industry.

Especially in Britain, the United States and Australia, governments of different stripes have increasingly looked to such companies to expand detention and show voters they are enforcing tougher immigration laws.

Some of the companies are huge (one is among the largest private employers in the world) and they say they are meeting demand faster and less expensively than the public sector could.

But the ballooning of privatized detention has been accompanied by scathing inspection reports, lawsuits and the documentation of widespread abuse and neglect, sometimes lethal. Human rights groups say detention has neither worked as a deterrent nor speeded deportation, as governments contend, and some worry about the creation of a "detention-industrial complex" with a momentum of its own.

"They're very good at the glossy brochure," said Kaye Bernard, general secretary of the union of detention workers on the Australian territory of Christmas Island, where riots erupted this year between asylum seekers and guards. "On the ground, it's almost laughable, the chaos and the inability to function."

Private prisons in the United States have long stirred controversy. But while there have been conflicting studies about their costs and benefits, no systematic comparisons exist for immigration detention, say scholars like Matthew J. Gibney, a political scientist at the University of Oxford who tracks immigration systems.

Still, Mr. Gibney and others say the pitfalls of outsourcing immigration enforcement have become evident in the past 15 years. "When something goes wrong -- a death, an escape -- the government can blame it on a kind of market failure instead of an accountability failure," he said.

In the United States -- with almost 400,000 annual detentions in 2010, up from 280,000 in 2005 -- private companies now control nearly half of all detention beds, compared with only 8 percent in state and federal prisons, according to government figures. In Britain, 7 of 11 detention centers and most short-term holding places for immigrants are run by for-profit contractors.

No country has more completely outsourced immigration enforcement, with more troubled results, than Australia. Under unusually severe mandatory detention laws, the system has been run by a succession of three publicly traded companies since 1998. All three are now major players in the international business of locking up and transporting unwanted foreigners.

The first, the Florida-based prison company GEO Group, lost its Australia contract in 2003 amid a commission's findings that detained children were subjected to cruel treatment. An Australian government audit reported that the contract had not delivered "value-for-money." In the United States, GEO controls 7,000 of 32,000 detention beds.

The second company, G4S, an Anglo-Danish security conglomerate with more than 600,000 employees in 125 countries, was faulted for lethal neglect and abusive use of solitary confinement in Australia. By the middle of the past decade, after refugee children had sewed their lips together during hunger strikes in camps like Woomera and Curtin, and government commissions discovered that Australian citizens and legal residents were being wrongly detained and deported, protests pushed the Liberal Party government to dismantle some aspects of the system.

But after promising to return the work to the public sector, a Labor government awarded a five-year, $370 million contract to Serco in 2009. The value of the contract has since soared beyond $756 million as detention sites quadrupled, to 24, and the number of detainees ballooned to 6,700 from 1,000.

Dangerous Problems

Over the past year, riots, fires and suicidal protests left millions of dollars in damage at Serco-run centers from Christmas Island to Villawood, outside Sydney, and self-harm by detainees rose twelvefold, government documents show. In August, a government inspection report cited dangerous overcrowding, inadequate and ill-trained staff, no crisis planning and no requirement that Serco add employees when population exceeded capacity.

At the detention center Serco runs in Villawood, immigrants spoke of long, open-ended detentions making them crazy. Alwy Fadhel, 33, an Indonesian Christian who said he needed asylum from Islamic persecution, had long black hair coming out in clumps after being held for more than three years, in and out of solitary confinement.

"We talk to ourselves," Mr. Fadhel said. "We talk to the mirror; we talk to the wall."

Naomi Leong, a shy 9-year-old, was born in the detention camp. For more than three years, at a cost of about $380,000, she and her mother were held behind its barbed wire. Psychiatrists said Naomi was growing up mute, banging her head against the walls while her mother, Virginia Leong, a Malaysian citizen accused of trying to use a false passport, sank into depression.

Naomi and her mother became a cause célèbre in protests against the mandatory detention system, leading to their release in 2005 on rare humanitarian visas. They are now citizens.

"I come here to give little bit of hope to the people," Ms. Leong said during a recent visit to Villawood, where posters display the governing principles of Serco, beginning with "We foster an entrepreneurial culture."

Free-Market Solutions

Companies often say that losing a contract is the ultimate accountability.

"We are acutely aware of our responsibilities and are committed to the humane, fair and decent treatment of all those in our care," a Serco spokesman said in an e-mail. "We will continue to work with our customers around the world and seek to improve the services we provide for them."

But lost detention contracts are rare and easily replaced in this fast-growing business. Serco's $10 billion portfolio includes many other businesses, from air traffic control and visa processing in the United States, to nuclear weapons maintenance, video surveillance and welfare-to-work programs in Britain, where it also operates several prisons and two "immigration removal centers."

"If one area or territory slows down, we can move where the growth is," Christopher Hyman, Serco's chief executive, told investors last year, after reporting a 35 percent increase in profits. This spring, Serco reported a 13 percent profit rise.

Its rival G4S delivers cash to banks on most continents, runs airport security in 80 countries and has 1,500 employees in immigration enforcement in Britain, the Netherlands and the United States, where its services include escorting illegal border-crossers back to Mexico for the Department of Homeland Security.

Nick Buckles, the chief executive of G4S, would not discuss the company. But last year he told analysts how its "justice" business in the Netherlands blossomed in one week after the 2002 assassination of a politician with an anti-immigrant and law-and-order agenda.

"There's nothing like a political crisis to stimulate a bit of change," Mr. Buckles said.

In Britain last fall, the company came under criminal investigation in the asphyxiation of an Angolan man who died as three G4S escorts held him down on a British Airways flight. Soon afterward, British immigration authorities announced that the company had lost its bid to renew a $48 million deportation escort contract because it was underbid by a competitor.

Even so, G4S has more than $1.1 billion in government contracts in Britain, a spokesman said, only about $126 million from the immigration authority. It quickly replaced the lost revenue with contracts to build, lease and run more police jails and prisons.

In 2007, Western Australia's Human Rights Commission found that G4S drivers had ignored the cries of detainees locked in a scorching van, leaving them so dehydrated that one drank his own urine. The company was ordered to pay $500,000 for inhumane treatment, but three of the five victims already had been deported. Immigration officials, relying on company misinformation, had dismissed their complaints without investigation, the commission found.

There was a public outcry when an Aborigine man died in another G4S van in similar circumstances the next year. A coroner ruled in 2009 that G4S, the drivers and the government shared the blame. The company was later awarded a $70 million, five-year prisoner transport contract in another state, Victoria, without competition.

G4S pleaded guilty to negligence in the van death this year, and was fined $285,000. Mr. Buckles, its chief executive, alluded to the case at a meeting with analysts in March, reassuring them.

"There is only two or three major players, typically sometimes only two people bidding," Mr. Buckles said. "In time, we will become a winner in that market because there's a lot of outsourcing opportunities and not many competitors."

In August, when GEO, the Florida prison company, posted a 40 percent rise in second-quarter profits, its executives in Boca Raton spoke of new immigration business on both sides of the Atlantic.

John M. Hurley, a GEO executive for North American operations, cited "the continued growth in the criminal alien population," larger facilities, and longer federal contracts, some up to 20 years.

At the company's Reeves County Detention Center in Texas, immigrant inmates rioted in 2009 and 2010 after several detainees died in solitary confinement. GEO executives declined to comment. But speaking to shareholders, they credited much of the quarter's $10 million increase in international revenue to the expansion of a detention center in Britain, where immigration was a hot issue in the 2010 election.

A Policy Backfires

"Britain is no longer a soft touch," Damian Green, the immigration minister, said in August 2010 when he visited the center, near Heathrow Airport, reopening wings that had burned in 2006 during detainee riots under a different private operator.

The riots started the day the chief inspector of prisons released a blistering report about abuses there, including excessive waits for deportation. Months after Mr. Green's appearance, an independent monitoring board complained that at the expanded center -- now Europe's largest, with 610 detainees -- at least 35 men had been waiting more than a year to be deported, including one locked up for three years and seven months at a cost of at least $237,000.

The camp that Serco took over in the Australian outback, the Curtin Immigration Detention Center, had also been shut down amid riots and hunger strikes in 2002. But it was reopened last year to handle a surge of asylum seekers arriving by boat even as the government imposed a moratorium on processing their claims. Refurbished for 300 men, the camp sits on an old air force base and held more than 1,500 detainees in huts and tents behind an electrified fence. Serco guards likened the compound to a free-range chicken farm.

On March 28, a 19-year-old Afghan from a group persecuted by the Taliban hanged himself after 10 months' detention -- the system's fifth suicide in seven months. A dozen guards, short of sleep and training, found themselves battling hundreds of grieving, angry detainees for the teenager's body.

"We have lost control," said Richard Harding, who served for a decade as Western Australia's chief prison inspector. He is no enemy of privatization, and his praise for a Serco-run prison is posted on the company's Web site. But he said Curtin today was emblematic of "a flawed arrangement that's going to go wrong no matter who's running it."

"These big global companies, in relation to specific activities, are more powerful than the governments they're dealing with," he added.

Rick Perry is Right on Dream Act, Though It May Cost Him

Winston-Salem Journal (Editorial): We don't agree with Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry on a lot of things, but his support of equal higher-education opportunities for the children of illegal immigrants brought to this country is right and moral.

One need only see the faces and learn the names of some of these bright young people to understand that they yearn for higher education so they can become productive citizens of the only country they've ever known.

Journal reporter Bertrand Gutierrez introduced us on Sunday to one. Moises Serrano, 21, spoke at Gallaway Memorial Episcopal Church in Elkin as part of the national campaign called DREAM Sabbath 2011, organized to raise awareness of the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would provide students like Serrano a path to legal status.

"My best friend was going to go off to college to be somebody, and I was going to stay here and be nobody," Serrano told the congregation.

Rick Perry's support of Texas legislation that allows students like Serrano who live in Texas to attend a state university and pay in-state tuition brought him boos at last week's Republican debate and probably contributed to the GOP frontrunner's poor showing in the Florida Republican presidential straw poll two days later. It could cost him the Republican nomination.

But Perry is in good Republican company when it comes to his moderate stance on illegal immigration. Ronald Reagan supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, a word so despised by the right today that no one dare utter it. In a debate with rival Walter Mondale in 1984, Reagan said, "I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally." You have to believe Reagan would have wholeheartedly endorsed the DREAM Act. And George W. Bush proposed reasonable and compassionate immigration reform.

Perry has argued that the Texas in-state tuition policy is compassionate and practical, and that to deprive children of illegal immigrants an education increases the likelihood that they will become a burden on society. Qualified illegal immigrants are allowed at public community colleges and universities in North Carolina but pay out-of-state fees, which is reasonable.

"All we want to do is get an education and give back. I want to own a house," Serrano said. "I want to settle down." He said he told his mother, who blamed herself for bringing him to the United States, that all the people he loves are here. "This is my country," he said.

Let's support the DREAM Act and not deny these young people a bright future.

Perry Shows Courage on Immigration

San Antonio Express (Opinion): As a libertarian/conservative Republican, I have great respect for the extraordinary honesty and courage Gov. Rick Perry has shown on the contentious issue of immigration. He's the only one of the Republican candidates who's got it all right.

He's been excoriated for wanting to subsidize illegal-immigrant college students with in-state tuition. True, they are subsidized. But these students live in Texas and pay sales and property taxes; there is no state income tax. These educated immigrants subsequently earn more than uneducated immigrants and therefore pay more taxes, contributing to economic growth. It's a budget neutral swap.

Perry has said that a suggested construction of a border fence is "a cop-out"; it would be like constructing a wall from "Bangor, Maine, to Miami Beach, Florida." On E-Verification he says, "It would not make a hill of beans' difference." He's the Greek Messenger.

The Government Accountability Office reported in March that building the fence would cost $30 billion and take 10 to 15 years to complete. The Bush administration found it would cost a half-trillion dollars to secure tightly the 2,000-mile southern border of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

The next unworkable suggestion is to have Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) find and deport all illegal immigrants. Not possible. There are 12 million such immigrants in the U.S. Last year, ICE deported an all-time record of 393,289. To find and to deport 12 million would require that the ICE staff be increased by 31 times.

Another proposed solution that would work a little, but not as much as thought, is mandating that employers subject employees and applicants to E-Verification.

There would be two enormous problems with this mandate: One, illegal immigrants would seek different lines of work that don't require E-Verification. Two, E-Verify lists are fraught with inaccuracies and incompletions. The Wall Street Journal reports that "with all the inaccuracies in the database, up to 1.3 million U. S. citizens and legal workers will be mistakenly flagged for problems if E-Verify passes."

And the Journal adds, "A 2009 report for the Department of Homeland Security found that 54 percent of undocumented workers would slip through the E-Verify net, partly because illegals use stolen documents."

What's more, the federal agencies that provide E-Verify lists are too broke to continue research. A December 2010 GAO report stated that the "cost estimates" and "workload" of agencies that prepare E-Verify lists "are at an increased risk of not securing sufficient resources to effectively execute program plans in the future."

If the border fence is too expensive to build and maintain, if it is too expensive to increase the ICE staff by 31 times, and if E-Verification is flawed, how do we approach 12 million illegal immigrants?

A partial solution would be granting screened pathways to citizenship. Such "amnesty" would of course drive millions of Americans to apoplexy. But doing little or nothing to 12 million illegals means most will remain in the shadows'which amounts to amnesty by default.

Wouldn't it be better to grant selected illegals pathways to citizenship, forcing them to pay fines and get onto tax rolls? Half a loaf is better than no loaf.

Perry has the greater honesty and courage on this issue than the other Republican candidates. "Courage," said C. S. Lewis, "is the most difficult virtue because it is all virtues at the testing point."

Ronald L. Trowbridge worked for President Ronald Reagan and later for Chief Justice Warren Burger. He lives in Conroe.

Dream Act Has Become Political Nightmare for Perry

Houston Chronicle (Blog): When Loren Campos received his engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin in May, it was the culmination of hard work that began at Houston's Booker T. Washington High School's engineering magnet program, where he took honors and advanced placement courses to prepare for college.

The son of an illegal immigrant, Campos was able to afford UT only because Gov. Rick Perry in 2001 signed legislation offering in-state college tuition to undocumented students who attend Texas high schools for at least three years and apply to become U.S. citizens.

"This was an earned opportunity, not a free ride," said Campos, who came to the United States when he was 11. Now applying for admission to a master's in structural engineering program, he added, "The students who take advantage of this law are top-notch. This is good public policy, and we are going to give back to this state."

Campos and some 16,000 other students like him are at the center of a firestorm raging in the Republican Party presidential nomination contest, where Perry's support of the so-called Texas Dream Act has landed him in hot water with conservatives.

Perry has been pummeled in the recent Republican debates by his opponents, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney charging that Perry created an inducement for illegal immigration by offering what amounts to a $100,000 break on four years of tuition at UT. In an indication that the issue has become a hot-button topic, Lt. Gov. David

Dewhurst, a Perry ally, told Dallas television station WFAA this week that he would not have signed the law if he had been governor.

Of the 16,000 students who take advantage of the in-state tuition policy, about 12,000 of them attend community college.

Perry on Monday night held a conference call with Iowa Republicans to address mounting uneasiness among his supporters that the issue will hurt his quest for the presidency.

"He definitely made an effort to smooth concerns," said Craig Robinson, former political director of the Iowa Republican Party and now editor of a conservative online news outlet. Noting that the Iowa Legislature rejected a similar policy in 2004, Robinson said Perry's position could make it "difficult for him to hold a coalition" in the state's crucial caucuses.

Other criticisms, too

The criticism of Perry comes at a time he is under attack at home for supporting policies that opponents say are hostile to Hispanics, including a proposed ban on "sanctuary cities" that critics say would have led to racial profiling by police. The Texas Democratic Party has launched a website calling Perry the "anti-Latino" presidential candidate.

Texas Association of Business president Bill Hammond, whose organization supported the tuition-break legislation, said the national criticism of Perry demonstrates a lack of understanding of the issue.

"We have to have an educated workforce," Hammond said. "Like it or not, these students make up a large percentage of our workforce. The only question is whether or not they will be able to afford college. It is a good investment of taxpayer money to have an educated workforce."

A complete agenda

Furthermore, Hammond said Perry has "a strong record of enforcing the border and advocating for (a ban on) sanctuary cities. He has a complete agenda dealing with this issue, paying for boots on the ground on the border and repeatedly asking for the National Guard."

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who sponsored the legislation in the Texas Senate, noted that a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision requires states to educate children regardless of immigration status. Offering in-state tuition, she said, makes sense since the state already has invested so much in educating undocumented students through high school.

Robinson said Iowans are familiar with the issue of in-state tuition for immigrants, which was rejected by the Iowa Legislature after an acrimonious debate in 2004. Republican candidates who supported it drew primary opposition in 2006.

"It started off as this feel-good legislation, but it became a hot topic," he said.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said the debate demonstrates "a lack of understanding of our broken immigration system."

"What are you going to do with all these young people who grew up in this country? This is the only country they know. Many came as babies," Vargas said. "What is the alternative? Not educating them is economic suicide."

Vargas also had a cautionary message to the Republican Party.

"Whoever wins the nomination will have to explain their position to a more moderate electorate participating in the general election, including the 12.2 million Hispanics who will be voting in 2012," he said.

Last election cycle, he said, just over 9 million Hispanics participated.

Stop Deporting Harmless Immigrants: Many Pose No Risk, But Feds Expel Them Anyway

New York Daily News (Opinion): Stop deporting harmless immigrants: Many pose no risk, but feds expel them anyway

When I was district attorney, facing a flood of new arrests every day, I learned the critical importance of prosecutorial discretion. Given limited resources, it is essential to focus on the most serious cases, exercise leniency toward those who deserve it and dismiss unprovable cases at the earliest possible stage.

Federal immigration officials also face a flood of new cases. But recent data suggest that they are not exercising their discretion wisely or effectively.

Figures from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) disclose that the federal government cannot effectively prosecute even 4% of its potential caseload annually. Long ago, the government should have made sensitive policy decisions about when and against whom to seek deportation, and made sure those decisions were carried out.

Regrettably, on too many occasions, the government's exercise of discretion has been little short of folly. I vividly recall President Richard Nixon's unrelenting efforts to deport a man he believed to be a threat to America: John Lennon.

Recent administrations have attempted to be more rational. For more than a decade, the Homeland Security Department has published sound criteria for the exercise of discretion in removal cases. But then, too often, those principles have simply been ignored.

ICE Director John Morton issued a memorandum this year instructing all ICE employees to follow these principles in enforcing immigration laws. Priority one would be to focus enforcement efforts on deporting undocumented immigrants who pose a danger to national security, or a risk to public safety. And where cases did not merit prosecution, the director instructed his agents to dismiss them promptly.

It was a great directive - if only it had been followed. Now, more than six months later, the statistics show that the backlog of cases has only gotten worse, and the focus of prosecution even less rational.

A study by a research center based at Syracuse University discloses that by the end of July, the backlog of pending cases before our immigration courts had reached an all-time high - more than a quarter of a million cases, an increase of 3.7% over the backlog just three months earlier. The average length that a pending case has been awaiting review is now a staggering 490 days. For no sane reason I can imagine, Armenians face even bleaker odds: Their cases have been pending, on average, nearly twice as long - 923 days.

One immigration attorney in Los Angeles recalls getting an adjournment date in one of his cases. "What year, judge?" he asked.

All this might be less vexing if immigration officials had been executing the ICE director's supposed top priority, focusing on public safety. But most disturbing of all, the figures show just the opposite is true.

Of ICE's massive docket, only 8.3% consisted of "criminal cases" - persons charged with criminal activities or actions adverse to national security or aiding terrorism. That's down from 9.1% the year before. Clearly, the staff did not get the message on the executive policy.

And even the dwindling percentage of "criminal cases" includes too many that simply do not merit prosecution. Thirty-four percent of those persons arraigned in New York City Criminal Court eventually have their cases dismissed. Those defendants should simply be allowed to continue with their lives. But New York correction officials routinely refer detainees reporting non-U.S. places of birth to 15 ICE inspectors stationed at Rikers Island.

As a result, many defendants find that posting bail or winning their criminal case has left them in an even worse predicament: facing an immigration detainer and potential deportation.

When discretion is not exercised thoughtfully, the law ceases to be an instrument of justice. When immigrants cannot rely upon rational enforcement of our deportation laws, they become afraid to report a crime or to file an income tax form, lest they come to the attention of ICE. A victim of domestic violence may hesitate to report the father of her children to authorities if she believes the next step will be his mandatory deportation.

What is to be done? We need not wring our hands searching for solutions.

The Homeland Security Department has already published a small library of well-reasoned policy papers stating exactly what must be done. All that is needed is the political will to do it.

Morgenthau, former Manhattan district attorney, is of counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Mass. GOP Sheriffs Criticize Gov on Immigration

Associated Press - Massachussetts: Several Massachusetts sheriffs and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown said Wednesday that Gov. Deval Patrick's opposition to Secure Communities could push the state to the bottom of the list for implementation of the federal program aimed at identifying illegal immigrants who are arrested for crimes.

But federal immigration officials countered that the program, which is slated to be fully activated by the end of 2013, would be rolled out nationally according to a schedule that would not be influenced by the support -- or lack thereof -- from individual states or officials.

The issue has become increasingly contentious in Massachusetts, where critics of Patrick's position have pointed to several recent crimes allegedly committed by illegal immigrants and contended that the crimes may have been prevented had Secure Communities been in effect.

Three Massachusetts sheriffs, accompanied by several lawmakers, held a news conference at the Statehouse on Wednesday to announce that they would seek to immediately implement elements of the federal program in their counties. The news conference was cut short after a group of immigrant advocates holding signs denouncing Secure Communities entered the room where it was being held and some attempted to shout their own questions at the sheriffs.

Under the program, fingerprints taken from a crime suspect by local law enforcement officials would be turned over to the FBI, who would then share the information with the Department of Homeland Security. If it appeared that a person was in the U.S. illegally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could initiate deportation proceedings.

Critics say it could lead to profiling and increase tensions between police and immigrant communities.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson declared that Massachusetts was becoming a "magnet" for illegal immigrants who believe they will not be discovered in the state.

"We need to get Secure Communities faster than any other state," Hodgson said. "It's no secret that based on the kind of benefits that people are able to access here that, much like terrorists, they are looking for the place to go where no one will notice them."

Hodgson speculated that Massachusetts would be considered for speedier implementation of the program if Patrick were supportive of it.

"That would move us up the chain as far as Washington is concerned, if they heard from this governor. But if they're hearing that this governor doesn't want it, they are obviously going to the states that do want it first," said Hodgson, who was joined by two fellow Republicans, Worcester Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis and Joseph McDonald, sheriff of Plymouth County.

Brown, who did not attend the Statehouse event, on Wednesday released a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, in which the Republican senator asked that Secure Communities be activated "swiftly and expeditiously" in Massachusetts.

Brown also expressed concern in his letter that Patrick's opposition would make Massachusetts a "low priority" for implementation by ICE.

But federal officials say arguments offered for or against the program won't impact the timing of its rollout.

"Because Secure Communities is fundamentally an information sharing program between two federal partners, the federal government makes the determination on when and where to activate it, based on the availability of federal resources," Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for ICE, said in an e-mailed statement.

Patrick, a Democrat, has made a similar argument, saying that Secure Communities is a federal program that the state cannot opt in to or opt out of. In June, however, he instructed his public safety secretary to send a letter to Homeland Security stating that Patrick wouldn't sign any memorandum of understanding for the state to join the program.

Patrick says police already turn fingerprints over to the FBI and he's expressed concern that the federal program would lead to profiling and create distrust between immigrants and law enforcement.

Activists who crashed the sheriffs' news conference on Wednesday agreed.

"Secure Communities is a program that is criminalizing people just because they don't have the proper documentation to live and work in the United States," said Patricia Montes, head of Centro Presente, a Latino immigrant rights organization.

The sheriffs declined to engage the protesters, saying the event was a news conference intended for reporters only. State police and park rangers arrived and asked the activists to leave the room, but they responded with the chant: "We have every right to speak."

The news conference was then abruptly ended.

Among the events that reignited the Secure Communities controversy in Massachusetts was the death in August of a 23-year-old motorcyclist in Milford. Authorities said an illegal immigrant from Ecuador, who was driving a pickup truck drunk and without a license, struck Matthew Denice, dragged his body a quarter of a mile and then backed up over him.

On Monday, a Brazilian native who officials said may be in the U.S. illegally was arrested and charged with the fatal stabbing of his ex-girlfriend in Marshfield.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has unveiled a bill that among other things would crack down on illegal immigrants caught driving without a license and make it more difficult for them to live in public housing.

Former KSU Student in Immigration Controversy Called Back to Court

Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that: Jessica Colotl, a former Kennesaw State University student who sparked a national immigration debate when she was nearly deported after being jailed for a driving offense, may not avoid a criminal conviction after all.

Superior Court Judge Mary Staley issued an order Wednesday indicating that she will reconsider allowing Colotl to enter a pretrial diversion program after reading comments critical of her ruling in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The judge ordered Colotl, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head to appear in court Oct. 7 to consider if the diversion program is an appropriate resolution to the case.

Successful completion of a pretrial diversion program would result in the dismissal of a felony charge of false swearing against Colotl. The 23-year-old was accused of lying to deputies about her address on March 30, 2010, when she was arrested on a charge of driving without a license. The arrest came after Colotl was stopped for a minor traffic offense in a parking lot near Kennesaw State University. A Mexican native, she was subsequently found to be in the U.S. illegally.

The judge's order said that the district attorney is responsible for vetting participants in the pretrial diversion program, which is run by his office. Part of the vetting process involves consulting the victims and the law enforcement agency that made the arrest.

Staley noted in the order that, based upon the sheriff's comments in the newspaper, it did not appear that Warren was aware of the decision to let Colotl into the program. She said it appeared there were questions about Warren's consent.

Colotl's attorney, Jerome Lee, declined to comment about the order Wednesday. Head and Warren could not be reached for comment.

Warren told an AJC reporter on Monday that he was not aware Colotl's case was put in pretrial diversion.

"I am disappointed, but it is the district attorney's job to prosecute and up to the courts to find someone guilty or not guilty," Warren said in an email. "I believe it sets a bad precedent that someone who is not only in the country illegally and commits the offense of false statement by lying to law enforcement officials is given nothing but a slap on the wrist."

Participants in the pretrial diversion program are required to perform community service and regular check-ins with the district attorney's office. The program takes six months to a year to complete.

Head said Monday that the federal government has granted Colotl, who graduated KSU with a political science degree in May, a one-year deferment from deportation. That technically makes her a legal resident and Head said, "I'm not going to treat her differently than I would treat any other legal resident."

Judge Partially Rejects Challenge to Alabama Immigration Law

Wall Street Journal: A federal judge today partially rejected the federal government's request to block Alabama's strict new immigration law.

At issue is a law considered the nation's toughest on illegal immigrants. It makes it a crime in Alabama for an illegal resident to apply for a job; it requires public schools to check the immigration status of students, and it authorizes state police in certain instances to verify the immigration status of people detained or arrested.

The Justice Department filed suit, claiming the law is unconstitutional on the grounds it allegedly usurps federal authority over immigration.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn of Alabama upheld key sections of the Alabama law concluding that they are not preempted by federal law. Blackburn let stand the provisions authorizing local police to inquire about detainees' immigration status and requiring public schools to verify students' immigration status. But the judge did enjoin other sections of the law, ruling that "there is a substantial likelihood" that the Justice Department can establish that the sections are preempted by federal law. Blackburn, for example, blocked regulations that make it a crime for illegal residents to apply for a job and that make it unlawful for people to "conceal, harbor or shield" an illegal resident.

The Law Blog has sought comment from the Department of Justice and Alabama Governor's Office.

Omar Jadwat, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, which has also challenged the Alabama law in court, called today's ruling a mixed bag. The judge let stand sections of the Alabama law "that are of serious concern, and the enforcement of those sections would lead to widespread civil rights violations," Jadwat said. "It is positive that she has enjoined some of the sections" of the law.

(Here's a recent WSJ article on the case)

Update: A Justice Department spokesperson said that DOJ is reviewing the ruling to determine its next steps. "We will continue to evaluate state immigration-related laws and will not hesitate to bring suit if, in fact, a state creates its own immigration policy or enforces state laws in a manner that interferes with federal immigration law," the spokesperson said.

Alabama governor Robert Bentley has released a statement calling the judge's ruling a "victory for Alabama."

"If the federal government had done its job by enforcing its own immigration laws, there would be no need for Alabama -- or other states -- to pass a law such as this. Unfortunately, they have failed to do their job," the governor said.

"The judge temporarily enjoined four parts of the law, but this fight is just beginning. I am optimistic that this law will be completely upheld, and I remain committed to seeing this law fully implemented. I will continue to fight at every turn to defend this law against any and all challenges."

Police Set to Enforce Parts of Tough Alabama Immigration Law That Federal Judge Upheld

Associated Press: Police in Alabama are getting ready to enforce what is considered by many as the toughest immigration law in the nation.

Beginning Thursday, authorities can question people suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them without bond, and officials can check the immigration status of students in public schools, Gov. Robert Bentley said.

Those two key aspects of Alabama's new law were upheld by a federal judge on Wednesday.

The governor said parts of the law take effect immediately.

"We intend to enforce it," Bentley said.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn, a Republican appointee, wrote in a 115-page opinion that some parts of the GOP-backed law conflict with federal statutes, but others don't. Left standing were several key elements that help make the Alabama law stricter than similar laws passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. Other federal judges have blocked all or parts of those.

There are three separate lawsuits against the Alabama law, including a challenge from President Barack Obama's administration. Blackburn's ruling is expected to be appealed.

John Carroll, a former U.S. magistrate judge who is now dean of Samford University's law school in suburban Birmingham, said Blackburn's ruling was mostly consistent with decisions from other states with the exception of her allowing Alabama's "stop and ask" provision, which lets police request people's immigration papers.

"I think down the line there are other arguments that can be made as the case goes forward," said Carroll.

Agricultural leaders fear the law could cost farmers money this autumn by scaring away Hispanic workers who are vital to harvesting crops statewide.

"There are some sweet potato farmers in this state it's really going to hurt. I don't know how they're going to get their crops out," said Jeremy Calvert, a farmer in rural Bremen.

Zan Green, a tea party activist in metro Birmingham, said she was happy with the decision, saying citizens of foreign countries have benefited for years through welfare, entitlements, education, medical care and child tax credits.

"Judge Blackburn's ruling is the beginning of removing the enormous financial burden of illegal immigration from the backs of Alabama citizens," she said in a statement.

The judge refused to block a section of the law that requires public schools to verify students' citizenship and report overall statistics to the state, but the immediate effect isn't clear since schools have already started. Alabama was the first state to include such a provision, so Blackburn's decision could set a blueprint should others adopt similar laws.

Immigration became a hot issue in Alabama over the last decade as the state's Hispanic population grew by 145 percent to about 185,600. While the group still represents only about 4 percent of the population, some counties in north Alabama have large Spanish-speaking communities and schools where most of the students are Hispanic.

Alabama Republicans have long sought to clamp down on illegal immigration and passed the law earlier this year after gaining control of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. Bentley signed it, saying it was vital to protect jobs of legal residents.

Republican Sen. Scott Beason, one of the sponsors of the bill, was happy with Blackburn's decision and hopes, like the governor, that the entire law takes effect after appeals.

"There are still legal questions and there's still work to be done," he said.

Blackburn's orders temporarily blocked several parts of the law until she can issue a final ruling. Those measures would:

— Make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to solicit work.

— Make it a crime to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant.

— Allow discrimination lawsuits against companies that dismiss legal workers while hiring illegal immigrants.

— Forbid businesses from taking tax deductions for wages paid to workers who are in the country illegally.

— Bar illegal immigrants from attending public colleges.

— Bar drivers from stopping along a road to hire temporary workers.

— Make federal verification the only way in court to determine if someone is here legally.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Immigration Stand Hurts Perry Now; Asset vs. Obama

Reuters: Republicans fighting for the presidential nomination are slamming frontrunner Rick Perry over illegal immigration, but his moderate stance could be one of his biggest assets in a contest with President Barack Obama.

Perry, three-term governor of Texas, has a strong record of attracting Hispanics -- the largest and fastest-growing minority group, and one whose voters could prove decisive in the 2012 race for the White House.

He drew 39 percent of Hispanic voters when he won a third term as governor in 2010. To defeat Obama, political strategists say a Republican would need to win 40 percent of the Hispanic vote nationwide, a figure President George W. Bush hit when he won re-election in 2004.

"Rick Perry has always been a pragmatist in terms of his relationship with the Hispanic community," said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Texas.

"What he tries to do is keep the Republican base happy but not pursue policies that will alienate that part of the Hispanic population that, other things being equal, would prefer to vote Republican," Jones said.

But Perry has to get to the general election first, and the very immigration platform that would help him -- and the Republican Party -- face Obama could stop him from clinching the nomination at all.

Illegal immigration is a hot-button issue in the Republican party, and wavering from staunch opposition can lessen chances of success in the fight to become the nominee, in which conservative party members play an outsized role.

That might mean a missed opportunity for Republicans to capitalize on Hispanic unhappiness with Obama for deporting record numbers of illegal immigrants and failing to pass immigration reforms. Several recent polls have show Obama's support slipping among Hispanics, who say he has not done enough to address their needs.

Attacks on Perry's immigration positions scored points at a debate in Florida last week -- he was booed by the Republican audience for allowing immigrants to pay the lower tuition rate for state residents at Texas colleges -- and helped contribute to questions about the front-runner's staying power.

Perry also opposes a bigger fence along the border.

His main rival, Mitt Romney, who is viewed skeptically by many on the party's right wing, pounced on the issue to bolster his own conservative credentials. Two days after the debate, Florida conservatives staged a protest vote in a nonbinding straw poll that gave former pizza executive Herman Cain the win over Perry.

"Governor Perry badly miscalculated on immigration. To most Republican voters, it is not the top issue in their minds, but it is symbolic of whether someone shares in their values," said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who has worked for Florida's governor.

NOT A DEMOCRATIC BLOC

Hispanic voters generally support Democrats, but they are far more divided than black voters. Republicans who have moderated their tone on the polarizing immigration issue have won over Latinos on the economy and jobs, and social issues like opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

"Republican candidates can be very, very competitive with the Hispanic community," said Lisa Navarrete of the National Council of La Raza, the largest U.S. Hispanic civil rights organization.

There are many high-profile Latino Republican officeholders, including Marco Rubio, a Florida senator considered a potential vice presidential candidate.

Bush, Texas governor before Perry, supported immigration reform and won Hispanic support in both 2000 and 2004.

But the Republican party has since turned against initiatives that include paths to citizenship for the country's 12 million illegal immigrants, focusing instead on measures like fencing the Mexican border.

In 2008, Obama defeated Republican John McCain by more than a 2-1 margin among Hispanics -- 67 percent to 31 percent, according to the Pew Hispanic center.

More recently, many Republicans have rallied around a law in Arizona that gave police more power to check whether anyone is a legal immigrant, which many Hispanics reject as racial profiling.

As Perry defended his immigration stance, he said he had helped defend the Arizona law, which raised flags for some activists. The controversial 2010 statute has kept immigration near the top of Latino voters' concerns.

"We consider it anti-Latino legislation, and that has really shaken up the community," said Navarrete, whose organization sponsored a boycott of Arizona.

Making E-Verify Mandatory: Labor, Immigrant Rights Groups To Launch Spanish-Language Attack Ads

Huffington Post: Spanish-language ads will target Republican congressmen from California for their support of a federal employment eligibility program called E-Verify, an immigrant rights group and a labor union announced Tuesday.

America's Voice and the Service Employees International Union said they will run three Spanish-language ads aimed at Reps. Elton Gallegly and Dan Lungren as well as California Republicans in general. The ads will appear on radio stations in Sacramento, Santa Barbara and East San Gabriel Valley and in La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country.

"Once again, Republican Congressmen are promoting a terrible immigration plan that would harm Latino workers in California and across the country," the basic ad says, according to a translation provided by its sponsors.

A bill that would make use of E-Verify mandatory for all employers passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote last Wednesday, with support from Gallegly and Lungren. Currently, E-Verify is a voluntary Internet-based system to help employers confirm that individuals are authorized to work in the United States.

But the system has at times led to false negatives, indicating that legal workers are actually undocumented. This "database full of errors" could put Latinos and other minorities out of work, the ad charges -- a claim backed up by the Government Accountability Office and the Center for American Progress.

E-Verify errors can cost jobs for workers and waste time for employers, said Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasury of the Service Employees International Union, on a conference call announcing the ad buy.

"It is a bad bill for workers, it is bad for employers and it is bad for the economy," Medina added.

In its December 2010 report, the GAO found that E-Verify errors were still common, especially when it came to foreign-born workers, and could lead to "the appearance of discrimination." Naturalized citizens are 26 times more likely to be caught up in the system's errors than native-born Americans, according to a December 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security.

Supporters of the bill argue that these figures have improved and that errors will decrease even more as additional companies participate in the E-Verify program. But House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee blocked an amendment last week that would allow class-action lawsuits on behalf of workers who lose wages due to such errors.

One of the Spanish-language ads will hit Lungren in particular for pushing a provision that would allow the entry of 500,000 new agricultural guest workers, whose presence could lower wages and overall standards, as well as force undocumented farm workers even further underground.

"Jobs and workers will simply move into a cash economy, reducing tax revenues by, we estimate, more than $17 billion," said Arturo Rodriguez of the United Farmworkers of America on the conference call. "The guest worker programs that are being proposed will ... be utilized to undermine the jobs of domestic workers that are here today, ready to work and do those jobs."

The ads quote Reynaldo Arevalo, a citizen who has worked as a mushroom picker for more than 20 years. "This plan treats me and my co-workers like we’re disposable," he says. "We are human beings, and we should be treated as such."

Chafee Considers Driver's Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

The Providence Journal reported that: Governor Chafee said Tuesday that he is looking into the possibility that the state might issue driver's licenses or driving permits to illegal immigrants.


Responding to questions about a vote by the Board of Governors for Higher Education to approve in-state rates for undocumented students, Chafee said being able to drive would help people who need transportation to go to school or work or to look for work.

He said has spoken with officials in Utah, which he said is the only state that has established a special class of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

"I'm working on it," he said.

R.I. Board Approves Tuition for Illegal Immigrants

Associated Press- Rhodes Island: A state higher education board on Monday approved a measure that would allow students who immigrated to the United States illegally to pay in-state tuition rates at Rhode Island's public colleges and universities after the General Assembly declined to take up the issue.

The Board of Governors for Higher Education heard hours of public testimony on the policy change from dozens of speakers at a meeting that at times featured cheers, boos and heckling from opponents and supporters -- both of whom said their position was the fairer one.

The board, 11 of whose 13 members were present, voted unanimously for the measure at the end of the meeting at the Community College of Rhode Island's Warwick campus.

Board member Eva Mancuso, chairwoman of the committee that gave the preliminary green light to the policy change, said just before the vote that the issue had been studied extensively. She called in-state tuition for illegal immigrants "fair" and "logical."

Under the new policy, in-state rates will be available only to illegal immigrants' children who have attended a high school in the state for at least three years and graduated or received an equivalent degree. They also have to commit to seek legal status as soon as they are eligible; they will lose the resident tuition if they do not, under an amendment adopted Monday night. The new policy takes effect in 2012.

Currently, in-state undergraduate tuition at the University of Rhode Island is $9,824, compared to $25,912 for out-of-state students. The state has two other public higher education institutions: the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.

The General Assembly did not act on a bill this year that would have granted the children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition -- legislation that has been introduced every year for years.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee threw his support behind the board measure Sunday, saying it would improve the state's "intellectual and cultural life" and allow more Rhode Islanders to attend college. In addition, those developments would make for a stronger work force and would boost the state's flagging economy, he said.

"All that separates these young people from the thousands of other students who gain entry to Rhode Island's public colleges and universities each year is the place where they were born -- a factor none of us can control," Chafee, an independent, said in a statement.

Several speakers Monday raised objections to the board taking any action at all, with some calling the meeting a sham and saying its unelected members would be circumventing the legislature if they changed the policy. No other state that has approved in-state tuition for illegal immigrants did so outside a legislative act.

"You have no business doing this. Period," state Rep. Doreen Costa, R-North Kingstown, told the board.

Delores Issler of the group Ocean State Tea Party in Action spoke against the policy change, saying her daughter, a citizen, has been unemployed since February and is struggling with an in-state tuition hike. It would be "unconscionable" to take "one thin dime and use it for anyone other than an American citizen," she said.

Other opponents said offering in-state tuition to illegal immigrants would reward illegal behavior.

Terry Gorman, executive director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, who testified before the board, said before the meeting that the policy change would be akin to "aiding and abetting" illegal immigrants. He called it unfair to students paying higher out-of-state rates.

"I've met a lot of these students," Gorman said. "My heart goes out to them, but their parents put them in this situation."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states, including Connecticut, have laws allowing the children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state rates if they meet certain requirements. Several states have also passed legislation barring in-state benefits for illegal immigrants.

A federal bill known as the DREAM Act that would allow illegal-immigrant students to remain in the country legally has repeatedly fallen short of the votes needed to pass Congress. Students would be granted legal status providing they were under the age of 16 when they entered the U.S., have been in the country at least five years and have graduated from high school.

At the start of Monday's meeting, supporters unfurled a banner declaring: "Our Dreams Can't Wait. We Want to Pay Tuition." Among those who spoke in favor of the policy change was Amanda Pereira, a freshman at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and a graduate of Classical High School in Providence.

Pereira, who has testified repeatedly at the Statehouse in favor of the Rhode Island bill, urged the board to adopt the new policy. She came with her family to the U.S. from Brazil when she was 6.

Now 18, she was granted permanent residency last spring along with her parents and brother -- a process she says took over a decade. But she has kept up the fight, saying she could have hit an educational dead end herself if her green card hadn't come through.

"Basically, it's just a matter of equality. The students that have been here and have worked hard deserve the same educational opportunities as those who were born here," she told The Associated Press before the meeting.

Justices Will Hear Appeals on Immigrants’ Residence

New York Times: The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to decide whether the length of immigrants’ lawful residence in the United States should be considered in determining whether their children may be deported.

The court also agreed to hear six other cases from among the hundreds of appeals that had piled up over the summer. The new cases mostly concern technical questions in low-profile areas of the law like tax shelters and workers’ compensation.

The number of cases accepted by the justices from their “long conference” after their summer break was unusually small. Last year, they added 14 cases to the docket at this time.

The immigration case is probably the most consequential of the new additions to the docket.

Federal immigration law allows people who have been lawful permanent residents for at least five years and have lived continuously in the United States for at least seven years to ask the government for leniency if they are threatened with deportation. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, has ruled in a series of cases that immigrants who entered the United States as children may count their parents’ years here to satisfy the residency requirements.

The court accepted two appeals from such rulings, consolidating them into a single case.

One of the appeals, Holder v. Gutierrez, No. 10-1542, concerns Carlos M. Gutierrez, a Mexican citizen who became a legal permanent resident of the United States in 2003, when he was 19. Two years later, the government sought to deport him after catching him trying to drive across the border from Mexico with three undocumented minors in his car.

The other appeal, Holder v. Sawyers, No. 10-1543, involved Damien A. Sawyers, a Jamaican citizen whom the government sought to deport after he was convicted of “maintaining a dwelling for keeping a controlled substance.” The conviction came 6 years and 10 months after Mr. Sawyers became a lawful permanent resident of the United States in 1995 at the age of 15.

Neither man could himself satisfy the criteria that would have allowed him to seek leniency. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the time their parents had spent in the United States could be imputed to them.

In its briefs urging the justices to hear the case, the Obama administration said the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation of the law was wrong and at odds with those of other appeals courts. The Ninth Circuit’s approach, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. wrote in one of the briefs, “impedes the government’s high-priority efforts to remove criminal aliens.”

Lawyers for the two men, in briefs urging the justices not to hear their cases, said the government had ignored a Congressional policy favoring keeping families intact. They also noted that the attorney general remained free to deny leniency however the math was computed.

The Supreme Court also agreed to decide whether private lawyers hired by municipalities to conduct investigations are entitled to protections against lawsuits generally available to government lawyers. The case, Filarsky v. Delia, No. 10-1018, arose from an investigation of Nicholas B. Delia, a firefighter in Rialto, Calif., who had been suspected of improperly taking sick days. The city filmed Mr. Delia buying rolls of fiberglass insulation at a home improvement store while he was on medical leave, questioned him about the purchases and then required him to retrieve the insulation from his home.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit determined that various city officials and the private lawyer, Steve A. Filarsky, had violated Mr. Delia’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches.

Judge Mark W. Bennett, writing for the panel, nonetheless dismissed Mr. Delia’s lawsuit against city officials, saying they were entitled to the qualified immunity available to government officials when the legal principle barring their conduct had yet not been clearly established. Mr. Filarsky, Judge Bennett wrote, was not entitled to that same immunity because he was a private lawyer.

In a brief supporting Mr. Filarsky, the League of California Cities argued that denying qualified immunity to lawyers like him “is not just legally wrong but will harm cities and other government units by making utilization of private attorneys less effective and more expensive.”