About Me

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Beverly Hills, California, United States
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


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Local Leaders Criticize Plans for New Child-Migrant Shelters

By Alejandro Lazo

The Trump administration aims to build new permanent shelters for unaccompanied child migrants in California, Virginia and Florida, drawing criticism from local officials opposed to the president’s immigration detention policies.

The federal government is planning shelter space for as many as 1,370 unaccompanied children in the three states, according to documents made public earlier this month and recently highlighted by some irate Democrats.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement had about 7,000 unaccompanied minors in its care as of Aug. 25. The agency, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and is charged with sheltering young migrants who come to the U.S. alone, takes custody of such children from border authorities. Adults traveling with children are handled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities and are sheltered separately from unaccompanied minors.

Migrant shelters have become a lightning rod in immigration debates. Democratic lawmakers have decried conditions of some Border Patrol detention facilities that the Department of Homeland Security last month deemed overcrowded, unsanitary and lacking basic amenities. The Trump administration is seeking space for the record number of families and children who cross the border illegally and typically request asylum, most from Central America. The influx has slowed this summer as Mexico, under pressure by President Trump, cracked on down on migrants and tightened security along its southern border.

Shelters for unaccompanied minors, like the ones proposed in California, Virginia and Florida, have faced their own revelations of poor oversight and abuse, including forcing children to take psychotropic medications at a shelter in Texas, according to a 2018 lawsuit. Attorneys representing the ORR said authorities there hadn’t flagged any violations of Texas state law, and that the drugs were administered on an emergency basis. The court rejected those arguments.

An ORR shelter for teenagers in Texas opened last month but didn’t have enough minors to continue operating and quickly shut down.

An ORR spokesman said the proposed shelters in California, Florida and Virginia are slated to open in spring 2020. He said they would provide more long-term capacity to reduce the need for temporary shelters should the number of unaccompanied child migrants increase again.

Emergency facilities aren’t licensed by state agencies for child care, which critics say allows operators contracted by the federal government to bypass standard oversight. The ORR spokesman said the proposed facilities would be privately operated and state-licensed. He added that their locations were chosen in part for their proximity to more people eligible to serve as sponsors who could take custody of migrant children from the government.

Rep. Mark Takano was one of four congressional Democrats from California’s Inland Empire—a populous region in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, east of Los Angeles—who officially protested the shelter space being scouted in the area, saying they weren’t consulted on the plans.

“My community is outraged,” Mr. Takano said. “We have people very, very concerned. They do not want to see these emblems of cruelty.”

He said he hasn’t received a response from the Trump administration.

The proposed California shelter would accommodate roughly 430 children who would be cared for around the clock by a staff of about the same number, according to the public documents. The lease requirements call for bedrooms, bathrooms, classrooms, multipurpose areas, dining services, administrative offices and about 2 acres of outdoor recreation areas.

In a letter to the ORR this month, the four lawmakers said they were shocked to learn of the agency’s plans to put the shelter in their region, asking why the agency wasn’t prioritizing “community-based residential care.”

Mr. Takano said his criticisms of the proposed shelters are related to broader concerns about the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including a move last week to start indefinitely detaining families that cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. The move, which will likely face court challenges, would supersede a decades-old court settlement limiting how long migrant children can be detained and setting standards for their care.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Federal Workers’ Children Born Abroad May Not Receive Automatic Citizenship

By Zolan Kanno-Youngs

Children born abroad to certain United States service members and other federal employees will no longer be granted automatic citizenship under a Trump administration policy set to take effect in October.

Parents of those children, including those born on military bases, will have to apply for citizenship on the children’s behalf before they turn 18, according to a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services policy released on Wednesday.

The policy appeared to be aimed at military families who have not lived in the United States for years. According to the immigration agency, the change would not affect the children of families with at least one parent who is an American citizen and has lived in the United States for at least five years.

It was unclear how many families the change would affect.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon said the impact would be small, without specifying how many parents would be required to apply for citizenship for their children under the change. A spokeswoman for the citizenship and immigration agency, which oversees legal immigration, also declined to provide the number of families who would be affected.

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The policy change from the agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, infuriated many at the Pentagon and confused others in the military community, who said it called into question the administration’s appreciation of members of the armed services.

“The children of Americans who risk their lives in uniform are not automatically citizens of the United States: That is an abominable and antipatriotic position for the Trump administration to take,” said Will Goodwin, an Army veteran and the director of government relations for VoteVets, a liberal advocacy organization for veterans.

Officials at Citizenship and Immigration Services said the change would rescind a policy that considered children of the government employees stationed abroad to be “residing in the United States” at the time of their birth, allowing them to obtain automatic citizenship.

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the agency’s acting director, issued a statement contrasting the new policy and birthright citizenship, which grants citizenship to any baby born on United States soil. President Trump had previously said that his administration was seriously looking at removing the right to citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants.

“This policy update does not affect anyone who is born a U.S. citizen, period,” said Mr. Cuccinelli, who has aggressively pushed hard-line immigration policies backed by Mr. Trump and Stephen Miller, a White House adviser. “This only affects children who were born outside the United States and were not U.S. citizens.”

It was Mr. Cuccinelli’s latest attempt to limit legal immigration to the United States.

He previously announced a new rule that would deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to be heavy welfare users. In defense of that policy, Mr. Cuccinelli said the famous poem on the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to the United States referred to “people coming from Europe.”

Officials from the immigration agency said on Wednesday that the children of the military members who are affected would still have the opportunity to apply for citizenship.

“This policy update does not deny citizenship to the children of U.S. government employees or members of the military born abroad,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

Andy Blevins, the executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, a nonprofit representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military and veteran families, said the change would add to the toll of the armed services.

“Military members already have enough to deal with, and the last thing that they should have to do when stationed overseas is go through hoops to ensure their children are U.S. citizens,” Mr. Blevins said. “This preposterous change by the Trump-Pence administration is truly beyond reasonable.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Immigrants in US Military Face New Citizenship Rule for Kids

PHOENIX — The Trump administration on Wednesday unveiled new rules that will make it harder for children of some immigrants serving in the military to obtain citizenship.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released updated guidance Wednesday that appears to mostly affect non-citizen service members but which caused confusion among immigration lawyers and advocates after a document appeared to show children of American citizens would also be affected.

Department of Defense spokeswoman Lt. Col. Carla M. Gleason said in a statement that the department worked closely with USCIS and “understands the estimated impact of this particular change is small.”

“However, we are committed to ensuring affected families are provided the appropriate information, resources, and support during this transition,” Gleason said.

The policy manual update is highly technical and contradicts parts of an 11-page memo the agency initially put out that implied American citizens were among those whose children would no longer be automatically granted citizenship if born abroad.

Agency spokeswoman Meredith Parker told the military news organization Task and Report that the policy change “explains that we will not consider children who live abroad with their parents to be residing in the United States even if their parents are U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States, and as a result, these children will no longer be considered to have acquired citizenship automatically.”

Her boss, acting director Ken Cuccinelli, played down the changes in a Twitter statement, saying the update doesn’t deny citizenship to children of government and military members.

“This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedures for these children — that’s it. Period.”

The policy change is yet another roadblock that the administration of President Donald Trump has placed for people to live legally in the United States, said immigration attorney Martin W. Lester, who is based in Tennessee and who serves on the military assistance committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

It appears to target children of service members who are legal permanent residents and not U.S. citizens, but could also affect citizens if they can’t prove they lived in the U.S. for a certain amount of time. People in those scenarios would have to undergo a more cumbersome process for obtaining American citizenship for their kids.

“It’s gonna take time, money, it’s gonna cause stress. There’s gonna be some people whose kids aren’t gonna qualify and that’s gonna cause a huge problem,” Lester said.

Parker, the USCIS spokeswoman, repeatedly refused to answer questions from The Associated Press, referring only to Cuccinelli’s Twitter statement.

Immigrant advocates have said the Trump administration has unfairly treated members of the military who aren’t American citizens. The AP reported last year that the Army was quietly and abruptly discharging soldiers who enlisted through a special recruitment program that promised a path to citizenship.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Harvard Student Says He Was Barred From U.S. Over His Friends’ Social Media Posts

By Karen Zraick and Mihir Zaveri

A Palestinian student from Lebanon who was set to begin his freshman year at Harvard was denied entry to the United States after immigration officials objected to his friends’ social media posts, he said this week, prompting furor among free-speech advocates.

The student, Ismail B. Ajjawi, 17, landed at Logan International Airport in Boston on Friday, and was turned back by a Customs and Border Protection agent, according to an account he gave The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper.

Mr. Ajjawi, a resident of Tyre, Lebanon, said in the account that his phone and laptop were searched and that he was questioned at the airport about his friends’ social media activity. He wrote that an agent had yelled at him and “said she found people posting political points of view that oppose the U.S. on my friend list.”

He told the agent that he should not be held responsible for others’ posts, the statement said.

“I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn’t like, share or comment on them and told her that I shouldn’t be held responsible for what others post,” he wrote.

He added, “I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics.”

Mr. Ajjawi told The Crimson that his visa was then canceled and that he was sent back to Lebanon. Classes at Harvard are set to begin Sept. 3.

Michael S. McCarthy, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said he could not comment on the specifics of Mr. Ajjawi’s case because of privacy rules.

“This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection,” the agency said in a statement.

The statement noted that foreign visitors must “demonstrate they are admissible into the U.S. by overcoming all grounds of inadmissibility including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds.”

Mr. McCarthy noted that Mr. Ajjawi could reapply for a visa.

Reached through an intermediary, Mr. Ajjawi declined to comment and referred questions about his case to his lawyer, Albert Mokhiber. Mr. Mokhiber did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The action that Mr. Ajjawi said was taken against him was widely criticized by free-speech advocates, who argued that denying a student the chance to begin classes at one of the world’s foremost universities over social media posts written by other people, as Mr. Ajjawi contended had occurred, was unfair and alarming.

They said Mr. Ajjawi’s case highlighted the potential dangers of a policy announced by the Trump administration last year that nearly all applicants for a visa to enter the United States would be asked to submit their social media user names for the past five years.

Sarah McLaughlin, the director of targeted advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that there had been “numerous recent accusations that U.S. immigration officials are denying visas on the basis of political viewpoints.”

“Ajjawi’s allegations, if accurate, represent a threat to academic freedom, one that should be taken seriously by those who care about protecting expressive freedoms in the United States,” she said.

Summer Lopez, senior director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America, said in a statement that “preventing people from entering the country because their friends critiqued the U.S. on social media shows an astounding disregard for the principle of free speech.”

Carrie DeCell, a lawyer on staff at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said in a statement that the case underscored the problems with giving the government broad authority to trawl through travelers’ data.

“The chilling effects of incidents like these ripple through communities far beyond Harvard’s incoming freshman class, resulting in widespread self-censorship on social media and threatening intellectual freedom,” she said.

In a statement, Harvard said that it was “working closely with the student’s family and appropriate authorities to resolve this matter so that he can join his classmates in the coming days.”

In a video posted last week on the Facebook page of Al Araby, a London-based Arabic broadcaster, Mr. Ajjawi said in an interview that he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. He said that his acceptance to Harvard “shows that Palestinians can succeed and excel despite all the pressure on them.”

Last month, the university president, Lawrence S. Bacow, wrote a letter to Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, expressing concern about the student visa process. He noted the crucial role that students, faculty and researchers from across the globe play in the university’s work.

“Increasingly, visa delays are making these scholars’ attendance and engagement in the university unpredictable and anxiety-ridden,” he wrote. “Students report difficulties getting initial visas — from delays to denials. Scholars have experienced postponements and disruptions for what have previously been routine immigration processes such as family visas, renewals of status, or clearance for international travel.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Homeland Security moves $155 million from FEMA disaster relief for immigration enforcement

By Geneva Sands and Priscilla Alvarez

Washington (CNN)The Trump administration plans to shift at least $155 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund to support its policy of returning some migrants to Mexico.

The Department of Homeland Security has informed Congress it will reprogram and transfer $271 million in total to its immigration enforcement agency from elsewhere in the department, including the FEMA money, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The moves comes as Tropical Storm Dorian nears hurricane strength as it approaches Puerto Rico.

Last week, the administration announced its intention to hold migrant families indefinitely, aimed at scrapping a settlement that put a 20-day limit on family detention.

DHS notified Congress of its plan to reprogram and transfer funds from agencies over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS’ enforcement arm, on July 26, according to a DHS official. The department plans to transfer around $116 million for ICE detention beds, as well as transportation and deportation, the official said.

The department will not pull funds for detention beds from the US Secret Service, the Office of the Inspector General, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

“In this case, this is a must-pay bill that needed to be addressed,” said the official.

“We would not say that this is with no risk,” said the official, who added that it was done in ways to “minimize the risk” to agencies that are losing funding.

FEMA said in a statement to CNN, “This transfer of funds to support the border emergency will leave a remaining balance of $447 million in the DRF (Disaster Relief Fund) Base account. Based on DHS and FEMA’s review of historical emergency spending from the DRF Base account, this amount will be sufficient to support operational needs and will not impact ongoing long-term recovery efforts across the country. The DRF Majors account, which provides funding for ongoing recovery efforts, including those supporting communities impacted by the 2017 disasters, has a current balance of approximately $27 billion and is not impacted by the reprogramming.”

It’s not uncommon for departments, including DHS, to reprogram funds. DHS, in particular, has previously reprogrammed funds for detention beds, for example.

The reprogramming of money to Immigration and Customs Enforcement is sure to receive pushback from Democratic lawmakers who’ve criticized the agency.

In a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, chair of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, opposed the reprogramming of funds, saying she had “significant concerns about the intended use of funds” and the shifting of funds from other components.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement that the administration is “flouting the law and Congressional intent to fund its extremist indefinite detention immigration policies.”

“Taking money away from TSA and from FEMA in the middle of hurricane season could have deadly consequences. Congress should work to undo the damage this Administration is continually doing to our homeland security infrastructure,” the Mississippi Democrat added.

DHS plans to transfer $23.8 million from the Transportation Security Administration for immigration enforcement, according to a document obtained by CNN.

Earlier this year, funds for additional detention beds — as the administration has repeatedly pushed for — became a sticking point in appropriations negotiations.

Democrats argued that by allowing ICE to up the number of detention beds, the agency would have the capacity to pursue a broader population of undocumented immigrants, including those without criminal records. But Republicans view the number of detention beds as central to limiting the release of detained undocumented immigrants into the US as they await hearings.

In the end, the spending bill included funding for an average 45,274 detention beds per day, with the intent to return to 40,520 by the end of the fiscal year, which is the level funded in the last fiscal year, but short of the administration’s request of 52,000 detention beds. The reprogramming of funds will up ICE’s bed count to roughly 50,000.

In recent months, however, the agency has been consistently holding more people in detention: As of August 10, 55,530 people were in immigration detention, according to the agency.

Last year, the department was also sharply criticized for shifting around $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s operating budget to fund immigration detention and deportations. The administration also quietly redirected $200 million from multiple parts of DHS to ICE last summer, according to a congressional document released last fall.

The latest shift in funds will also pull more money from FEMA — $3.4 million for detention efforts.

Additionally, $4.3 million will be transferred from DHS’ cyber agency.

DHS resources have been stretched thin amid an influx of migrants at the southern border. So far this fiscal year, more than 760,000 migrants have been arrested for crossing the border illegally. Many of them turn themselves in to agents.

In May, the Trump administration asked Congress for $4.5 billion in emergency funding. The request included additional detention beds. That part of the request was not fulfilled.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

US Moves FEMA, Coast Guard Money to Fund Border Programs

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security is moving $271 million from other agencies such as FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard to increase the number of beds for detained immigrants and support its policy forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases play out.

The news comes as hurricane season is ramping up and Tropical Storm Dorian is heading toward Puerto Rico. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the move “stunningly reckless.”

The sprawling 240,000-person Homeland Security Department includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard and the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in addition to immigration agencies.

It is not uncommon for unassigned funds to be transferred between agencies under the same department as the fiscal year ends. Last year around the same time, about $200 million was transferred, including $10 million from FEMA that prompted major criticism from Democrats.

Homeland Security officials said in a statement Tuesday they would transfer $155 million to create temporary facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border for holding hearings with the aim of moving asylum cases through the system faster.

The government has sent more than 30,000 people back to Mexico to wait out their immigration cases in an effort to deter migrants from making a dangerous journey to the U.S. and ease the crush of families from Central America that has vastly strained the system.

Asylum seekers generally had been released into the U.S. and allowed to work, but many Trump administration officials believe migrants take advantage of the laws and stop showing up to court. Lawyers for migrants waiting in Mexico have reported major problems reaching clients and getting them to the U.S. for their hearings. And some of the locations in Mexico where migrants are sent are violent and unsafe.

The money will come out of unobligated money from the base disaster relief fund at FEMA, lawmakers said.

Democratic House members strongly disagreed and accused DHS of going around their specific appropriations.

Pelosi said, “Stealing from appropriated funds is always unacceptable, but to pick the pockets of disaster relief funding in order to fund an appalling, inhumane family incarceration plan is staggering — and to do so on the eve of hurricane season is stunningly reckless.”

The chairwoman of the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, said the reprogramming would support “inhumane” programs and take away necessary funding for other agencies.

“I am greatly concerned that during the course of this administration, there has been a growing disconnect between the will of Congress … and the implementation of the Department’s immigration enforcement operations,” she said in a statement.

Homeland Security officials will also transfer $116 million to fund detention bed space for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Congress allocated 45,000 beds for detention, but as of Aug. 24, ICE was detaining 54,344 people. Congress specifically did not authorize additional ICE funding for detention beds when it approved an emergency supplemental funding request of about $1.3 billion from Homeland Security to manage the huge increase in migrants.

“Given the rise of single adults crossing the border, ICE has already had to increase the number of detention beds above what Congress funded,” according to the DHS statement. Without the funding increase ICE can’t keep up with apprehensions by Border Patrol.

“This realignment of resources allows DHS to address ongoing border emergency crisis … while minimizing the risk to overall DHS mission performance,” according to the statement.

More than 860,000 people have been encountered at the Southern border this budget year, a decade-long high. Of that, 432,838 were in families — last year for the whole fiscal year there were only 107,212 in families. The increase has caused vast overcrowding in border facilities and reports of fetid, filthy conditions and children held for weeks in temporary facilities not meant to hold anyone for longer than a few days.

As Tropical Storm Dorian approached the Caribbean and gathered strength, it threatened to turn into a small hurricane that forecasters said could affect the northern Windward Islands and Puerto Rico in upcoming days.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Singh v. Barr

The three-factor test developed by the Board of Immigration Appeals for determining whether retaliation for opposition to official corruption or whistleblowing constitutes persecution on account of a political opinion corresponds to the federal precedent for whistleblowing cases and therefore is reasonable.

Singh v. Barr - filed Aug. 27, 2019 
Cite as 2019 S.O.S. 15-73940 

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court for Power to Enforce Asylum Rule

By Jess Bravin

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration on Monday asked the Supreme Court for authority to immediately begin denying asylum to Central Americans who show up at the U.S. border without first seeking refugee status in Mexico or other countries they traveled through.

Federal courts in California had blocked implementation of the administration’s interim rule, finding that the Justice and Homeland Security departments skirted federal Administrative Procedure Act requirements that proposed rules be published for public notice and comment before taking effect.

Four immigrant-rights groups had sued to stop the rule; Monday’s application, filed by Solicitor General Noel Francisco, argued that the groups lack legal standing to bring the lawsuit. Additionally, the administration contended that the rule was necessary to lessen the “crushing burden” a surge of such asylum seekers has imposed on the U.S. immigration system.

The rule “screens out asylum seekers who declined to request protection at the first opportunity,” and thus “deters aliens without a genuine need for asylum from making the arduous and potentially dangerous journey from Central America to the United States,” the administration said Monday.

Blocking the rule impairs border security and impedes diplomatic negotiations with foreign countries such as Mexico, the administration argued.

In July, a federal district court in San Francisco issued a nationwide injunction blocking implementation of the rule.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, also in San Francisco, narrowed the injunction to its own circuit, which includes the southern border states of Arizona and California.

The Ninth Circuit injunction temporarily blocks implementation of the rule in those states while the courts weigh its ultimate validity; in Monday’s application, the Justice Department asks the high court for authority to carry out the policy as that litigation proceeds.

The “ban upends four decades of unbroken practice and would cause untold harm to families and children if allowed to take effect,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who represents groups challenging the rule.

Other challenges to the policy are pending in different courts.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

California leads effort to block Trump move to detain migrant children longer

By Maria Sacchetti

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called a new Trump administration rule that could lead to expanded family detention and longer periods in custody for migrant children “perverse” and “unconscionable,” announcing Monday that a coalition of 19 states and the District of Columbia is preparing to file a lawsuit to block it from taking effect.

Newsom and the state’s attorney general said officials from coast to coast — all Democrats — plan to file a lawsuit in Los Angeles that aims to prevent the U.S. government from overriding a federal consent decree that has set basic conditions for detaining underage migrants in the United States since 1997. A judge overseeing the decree, known as the Flores Settlement Agreement, issued a ruling in 2015 that limited the amount of time children can be held to 20 days.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a new rule Friday that would lift the 20-day cap and would expand family detention, part of the Trump administration’s efforts to deter migration to the United States amid record surges of Central American families seeking to cross the southern border.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee must review the rule, which is set to take effect in 60 days. Gee denied the Trump administration’s request to expand the allowable duration for family detention last year. The new lawsuit would join an existing claim that led to the original Flores agreement. Lawyers in that case have said they, too, will challenge the rule soon.

U.S. officials have argued that smugglers are using the Flores settlement and other court rulings to their advantage, enticing adults in Central America to bring children on the dangerous journey to the U.S.-Mexico border because government officials must release most families into the United States to await immigration court hearings. Officials argue that many do not show up for their hearings and that they are rarely deported.

California and other states say the rule cannot take effect because it violates the spirit of the long-standing court agreement, could lead to the prolonged detention of minors, and in turn probably would cause increased trauma for tens of thousands of children and their families.

They said they also plan to argue that the rule undermines state licensing programs for child-care facilities and violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the due-process clause of the 5th Amendment.

Newsom said the Trump administration’s claims that the rule change is designed to protect children from smuggling is “laughable and ludicrous,” alleging that it is instead an end-run around Congress, which has declined to expand family detention.

“The policies of this administration are exacerbating the early childhood trauma of young children,” Newsom said.

The governor also said the Trump administration should not be trusted to care for children, as several have died after being taken into custody at the border in recent months.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra blasted President Trump for trying to hold children in “jail-like conditions.” He said the rule’s new provisions “aren’t just morally reprehensible — as I said, they’re illegal.”

“All children are God’s children,” Becerra said. “They’re America’s children, and America should never treat them otherwise.”

Advocates for migrants say the families are fleeing violence, poverty and other social dysfunction in Central America and should be freed to await court hearings.

Joining California and the District of Columbia in the lawsuit are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the announcement.

Homeland Security officials have said they do not intend to hold families indefinitely, and expect to complete their immigration cases within 50 to 60 days. Acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan said last week that the new rule would “eliminate the major factor fueling the crisis.”

Officials said expanding family detention led to a marked decrease in apprehensions from approximately 68,000 family members in 2014 to nearly 40,000 the following year.

But the Trump administration has seen a dramatically larger number of family members arriving at the U.S. border; during this fiscal year, from October 2018 to July, more than 432,000 family members have been taken into custody, a record high, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Becerra and the state of California have filed dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration, challenging his policies on immigration, the environment and other issues. California recently joined other states in a lawsuit seeking to halt a new “public charge” rule that aims to bar immigrants from getting green cards or visa renewals if they might use Medicaid, food stamps or other government assistance.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Administration Ends Protection for Migrant Medical Care

BOSTON — The Trump administration has eliminated a protection that lets immigrants remain in the country and avoid deportation while they or their relatives receive life-saving medical treatments or endure other hardships, immigration officials said in letters issued to families this month.

Critics denounced the decision as a cruel change that could force desperate migrants to accept lesser treatment in their poverty-stricken homelands.

Mariela Sanchez, a native of Honduras who recently applied for the special exemption, said a denial would amount to a death sentence for her 16-year-old son, Jonathan, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. They are among many families who settled in Boston to seek care at some of the nation’s top hospitals.

Sanchez, who arrived in the U.S. with her family in 2016, said she lost a daughter to the same disease years ago after doctors in her home country failed to diagnose it.

The disease, which is hereditary, affects the lungs and digestive system and has no cure.

“He would be dead,” if the family had remained in Honduras, she said of her son. “I have panic attacks over this every day.”

In Boston alone, the decision could affect about 20 families with children fighting cancer, HIV, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and other serious conditions, said Anthony Marino, head of immigration legal services at the Irish International Immigrant Center, which represents the families.

Advocates say similar letters from Citizenship and Immigration Services have been issued to immigrants in California, North Carolina and elsewhere.

“Can anyone imagine the government ordering you to disconnect your child from life-saving care — to pull them from a hospital bed — knowing that it will cost them their lives?” Marino said.

“This is a new low,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey said. “Donald Trump is literally deporting kids with cancer.”

A Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman said the policy change was effective Aug. 7.

It affects all pending requests, including from those seeking a renewal of the two-year authorization and those applying for the first time. The only exception is for military members and their families.

The special status is similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that then-President Barack Obama created in 2012 to shield immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation — another policy the administration has been trying to dismantle.

The agency estimates it receives about 1,000 deferred action requests per year that are related neither to the military nor to DACA. Most of them cite medical or financial hardships, the agency said.

Going forward, applicants will be able to seek deportation deferrals from a different agency, Immigration Customs and Enforcement, according to the spokeswoman.

Letters sent to Boston-area families last week and reviewed by The Associated Press, however, do not mention that option. They simply order applicants to leave the country within 33 days or face deportation, which can hurt future visa or immigration requests.

The elimination of the special status for medical care is one of several aggressive steps the Trump administration has taken in recent weeks to crack down on immigrants.

The administration also wants to deny green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other public assistance, and to end a long-running agreement limiting how long migrant children can be kept in detention. President Donald Trump floated the idea of ending the right to citizenship for babies born to foreigners on American soil, and the administration wants to effectively ban asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Without the discretionary deferrals, immigrant families facing serious health issues have few other options for relief, medical experts in Boston argued Monday.

The deferrals, they added, do not provide families a pathway to citizenship, though they can qualify for government-funded health benefits and receive legal permission to work while their children receive medical treatment.

“They’re not coming for a free ride. They’re coming to save their children,” said Joe Chabot, a director at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “It’s bewildering.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Monday, August 26, 2019

ICE shut down a hotline for detained immigrants after it was featured on ‘Orange Is the New Black’

By Andrea Castillo

In the fifth episode of the last season of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” the character Maritza, who has been languishing in an immigrant detention center, finds out about a toll-free hotline she can call to get a free lawyer. As she’s rejoicing, another character, Gloria, cuts her off.

Gloria warns Maritza: “You have to be careful, though. Apparently if they figure out that you’re using the hotline, Big Brother shuts it down.”

That’s exactly what happened, advocates say. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shut down a real hotline for detained immigrants run by the California group Freedom for Immigrants less than two weeks after it was prominently featured on the show.

Freedom for Immigrants, which runs visitation programs in detention centers across the country, responded Thursday with a cease-and-desist letter charging that the termination is a violation of free speech and amounts to retaliation by the government in an attempt to silence one of its prominent critics. Six actors from “Orange Is the New Black” and more than 100 organizations signed a letter to acting ICE Director Matthew Albence demanding that the line be restored.

The hotline was featured as part of the immigrant detention plot in the show’s seventh season, which was released July 26. After two longtime characters end up in deportation proceedings, they learn that immigrants don’t have the right to a free phone call after they are detained. Out of money, they learn about the Freedom for Immigrants hotline and start passing out the number to others in the facility.

“Even a freely given benefit such as the pro bono hotline can’t be taken away simply because the government is now unhappy with how we are sharing with the public what we know from our communications with people inside,” said Christina Fialho, co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants.

ICE told Freedom for Immigrants that toll-free numbers for pro bono attorneys and organizations must be approved by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the immigration courts, every three years and that those no longer appearing on the EOIR list will be removed from the system. The numbers are extensions issued by the phone service provider, Talton Communications, as 1-800 numbers don’t work from within detention facilities. Detainees must pay for calls to all other numbers.

ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer did not respond to a list of specific questions about the termination of the Freedom for Immigrants hotline. But he said detainees are allowed to make free calls to legal service providers on the ICE-approved list “for the purpose of obtaining initial legal representation.”

“Pro bono organizations found to be violating these rules may be removed from the platform,” he said.

Freedom for Immigrants had held a national toll-free immigrant detention hotline since 2013, when it started a visitation program in Miami. Some months, the organization received 14,000 calls from detainees around the country, many of them held in rural facilities and with no money to call friends or family. Volunteers who staff the phone lines connect immigrants to lawyers, help them gather necessary documents for their immigration case, and assist them in filing complaints about rights violations and abuse.

Last year, ICE stopped allowing a volunteer group to visit people at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego after members refused to sign an agreement to not talk with the media or other groups about conditions inside. Fialho said that in October, less than a week after the organization sent ICE a letter charging that the shutdown was retaliatory, the agency restricted the previously national hotline to eight facilities in Florida.

In response, Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and 14 other members of Congress sent ICE’s deputy director a letter requesting more information and calling the restriction troubling.

On Aug. 7, shortly after the episode of “Orange Is the New Black” aired, the line was shut down for the remaining Florida facilities. Fialho said her group now operates a regular phone number, at a cost of several thousand dollars a month, to continue offering free calls to detainees.

At its peak, Freedom for Immigrants had three hotline numbers so volunteers could take more calls, but the other two had already been shut down. Fialho said that ICE shut down one of the extensions at the request of Bristol County Jail in Massachusetts shortly after she had an op-ed published in the local newspaper. She said she received a similar response then from ICE about removing numbers from the system that aren’t on the approved EOIR list. Freedom for Immigrants was never on that list but had been issued extension numbers anyway.

Laura Gomez, who plays Blanca on “Orange Is the New Black,” said she was heartbroken to learn that the hotline had been eliminated. At the end of Season 6, Blanca is released from prison, only to learn that she’s been transferred to ICE custody.

“Now we see life mimic art in the most destructive way,” she said. “I wish this were more of a fictional situation and we were exaggerating reality, but it’s kind of the other way around.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

ICE’s chief called family detention ‘summer camp.’ Here’s what it looks like inside.

By Maria Sacchetti

DILLEY, Tex. — More than a year after he drew criticism for comparing family detention to a “summer camp,” the nation’s top immigration enforcer stood in a clean hallway in America’s largest family detention complex and gestured around himself.

“Take a look,” said Matthew Albence, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director.

Across the hall was a dental office, with a reclining chair and sterile instruments. The cafeteria was serving hot dogs, lime-cilantro chicken, tortillas and green salad — all you can eat. Kindergartners sat on a colorful mat in a schoolhouse trailer and learned to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

ICE allowed news photographers and television cameras into the family residential center on Friday because, they said, some news reports and members of Congress have confused the Border Patrol’s cramped, short-term jails — criticized by immigration attorneys and Democratic lawmakers for their “horrendous” conditions — with the comprehensive family detention centers that ICE is attempting to expand.

Albence and other officials led the tour on the same day the Trump administration officially moved to terminate a court agreement that sets basic standards for the care of underage migrants, including a 20-day limit on their detention. The administration says withdrawing from the Flores Settlement Agreement, in place since 1997, would not mean families would be detained indefinitely. Officials said they hope to hold them no longer than 50 to 60 days, enough time to deport those who are ineligible for asylum and release the rest.

That would triple the length of time children are held, and appeals could take longer.

The South Texas Family Residential Center sits off a vast stretch of scrubland in a tiny former oil-boom town, an hour south of San Antonio. There’s a Dairy Queen, a motel named White House Inn and not much else. CoreCivic, a private for-profit company that specializes in corrections and runs adult immigration jails, also runs the center.

The Dilley facility is one of three family detention centers in the United States, with a total capacity of about 3,000 beds, though only two are in use. Approximately 900 parents and children were being held in Dilley and another facility in Pennsylvania as of last week.

Albence said that, unlike the Border Patrol facilities where children lacked toothbrushes and were photographed sleeping on the ground, ICE’s family residential centers give children and parents three hot meals a day and access to a wide array of services, including a 24-hour infirmary, a day care, a library with Internet and email access, a beauty salon, a charter school and a canteen. Officials allowed a photographer to access the inside of the facility in 2015.

Mothers and children as young as babies sleep in dorms with bunk beds and share bathrooms, with trailers divided into neighborhoods with names such as Green Turtle and Yellow Frog.

“This is clearly not a concentration camp,” Albence said, referring to the “ugly rhetoric” that some activists have directed at ICE agents in recent months.

Pediatricians, child psychiatrists, immigration lawyers, congressional Democrats and others swiftly condemned the move to end Flores, and lawyers vowed to oppose the withdrawal in court. Advocates for immigrants say detaining children with hundreds of strangers is dangerous. Chickenpox, the flu and other diseases can spread quickly. Children and parents grow stressed, and some become suicidal.

The mother of a 19-month-old girl who fell ill at Dilley and died shortly after her release last year has filed a wrongful-death claim saying the girl, Mariee, was vomiting constantly and neglected at Dilley.

“Detention for any length of time, with or without their families, is bad for children,” said Caryl Stern, president and chief executive of UNICEF USA, the United Nations agency that advocates for women and children in the United States, in a statement. “The proof is there. Detained children experience long-lasting harm on their well-being, safety, and development.”

Before the rule can take effect, officials say it must go before U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee in Los Angeles, and lawyers for both sides are scheduled to file briefs in the coming days.

Officials said Dilley is not a secure facility, and that women and children are free to wander around the campus. But if families try to leave, officials said, they could be apprehended for being in the United States illegally. ICE did not allow reporters to speak with the women and children held in Dilley on Friday.

But in interviews Thursday at a San Antonio bus station an hour north of Dilley, women recently released from the facility and heading to join friends and relatives in Miami, Dallas and other cities, said they were treated well. The food was tasty, they said, and they appreciated access to doctors and lawyers. Dilley was far better than the Border Patrol holding cells, they said, or the safe houses they stayed in during their trip through Mexico.

Still, the women said, they considered Dilley a jail.

A tall fence surrounds it; guards keep watch. Women and children wear name tags stamped with the CoreCivic logo.

“We didn’t suffer. But we were locked up,” said Lillian, a 29-year-old woman who spoke on the condition that her last name not be used because she was afraid to speak publicly, in part because she said she had fled gang members attempting to extort her in Honduras. “For me, it was being locked up. You want to work, to go out. But you’re locked up.”

Dilley’s guards — not parents — set the rules: Children cannot run barefoot, officials said.

“Mothers must not leave their children alone in any moment,” not even to go to the bathroom, said signs posted in a dorm room.

If children color on walls or furniture, another rule said, “a disciplinary report will be produced.”

Everyone has to make their bed, fold their clothes and place their shoes against the wall or under the bed. Officials reward migrants with prizes for the “cleanest room.”

Officials said the rules are for the families’ health and safety. But advocates say it traumatizes children when their parents are not in charge.

Mirian, a 25-year-old mother of three children — 11, 7 and nearly 2 years old — said she struggled to sleep at Dilley. The Honduran native had to monitor each child constantly and worried about being deported or the children falling ill.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever get out,” she said, speaking on the condition that her last name not be used because of privacy concerns .

Migrant family residential centers expanded under the Obama administration to hold rapidly growing numbers of Central American families crossing the U.S. southern border with Mexico to seek asylum. Because of the 20-day limit on detaining children, officials say they have been forced to release most families in the United States to await an immigration hearing and many disappear.

Officials say expanding family detention under the Obama administration created a deterrent that led to a marked drop in apprehensions from 68,000 family members in 2014 to nearly 40,000 the following year.

But Gee ruled in 2015 that the government could not hold children with their parents longer than 20 days in facilities that had not been licensed by states — a decision officials blame for a record spike in crossings, more than 400,000 this fiscal year.

Gee ruled last year that “any number of other factors could have caused the increase in illegal border crossings, including civil strife, economic degradation, and fear of death in the migrants’ home countries.”

Trump administration officials say they are confident that detaining families can resolve the immigration cases quickly and combat smugglers’ claims in Central America that it is easy to enter the United States if migrants travel with a child.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

DOJ Making Changes to Agency That Runs Immigration Courts

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government on Friday announced changes to the agency that runs the country’s immigration courts, giving its director authority to weigh in and make appellate rulings on cases.

The interim rule published by the Justice Department faced immediate criticism by the immigration judges’ union and immigration lawyers’ association, which say the Trump administration is trying to exert political sway over immigration court decisions.

The rule gives the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review the ability to issue appellate decisions in cases that haven’t been decided within an allotted timeframe. It also cements the administration’s decision to create an office of policy for the immigration courts in 2017.

The rule comes as the Justice Department has sought to terminate the immigration judges’ union and imposed performance targets and rules for docket management on judges amid a surge in Central American families seeking asylum on the southwest border.

A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.

The country’s 440 immigration judges make decisions about who is eligible for asylum or green cards and who should be returned to their countries in courts backlogged with 900,000 cases. The judges are employees of the Justice Department, but their union has asked to become independent of the executive branch.

Immigration Judge Ashley Tabaddor, the union’s president, said allowing the director to rule on court cases is the Trump administration’s latest effort to strip judges of their autonomy and turn the courts into a federal law enforcement agency.

“They are collapsing what are supposed to be separate functions,” she said. “It confirms what we have suspected, frankly, now for a couple of years: that their ultimate goal is to dismantle the courts.”

The rule will be officially published Monday and takes effect 60 days after.

A message seeking comment was sent to the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Kate Voigt, associate director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the office of policy has been involved in a number of recent changes at the courts, and said she was concerned about giving the director this expanded authority.

“I think it’s another way to have political decisions imposed on the immigration courts,” she said. “We’re really concerned this is another way to try to speed cases along and undermine cases.”

The office this week sent judges a morning news briefing that included a blog post from a virulently anti-immigration website that also publishes work by white nationalists. Assistant Press Secretary Kathryn Mattingly said the daily morning news briefings are compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included.

“The Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms,” she said.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Trump Administration’s Sustained Attack on the Rights of Immigrant Children

By Jonathan Blitzer

In 1985, two Salvadoran children, ages twelve and fifteen, were held in a squalid, overcrowded room in a rundown motel in Pasadena, California. For weeks, the government denied them food and kept them from seeing doctors or family members. The circumstances, one of the girls later told the Times, were “too painful to remember, to discuss.” A team of lawyers who went on to represent them and two other girls sued the government, in a case that dragged on for more than a decade, well after the initial plaintiffs were released. By 1997, two Presidential Administrations later, the government decided to settle. Doris Meissner, who was then the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said, “If there are real issues surrounding the detention of minors, and the government is being held responsible for poor conditions, why are we litigating in favor of what we are doing wrong?”

For the past twenty-two years, the terms of this legal settlement, known as the Flores Agreement, have been a central tenet of U.S. immigration policy. When dealing with children, the most vulnerable immigrants to enter federal custody, the government must provide certain, baseline protections, including access to food and medical care; it must also promise to detain them for the shortest possible amount of time, in the “least restrictive” settings.

On Wednesday, the Trump Administration announced a sweeping new set of regulations to gut the Flores Agreement. “It is a wholesale attack on kids in custody,” Jennifer Podkul, the policy director of Kids in Need of Defense (kind), told me. The Administration’s immediate target is an outgrowth of the agreement, shored up by a judge a few years ago, which prevents children from being held in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security for more than twenty days. The agreement applies not just to children who came to the U.S. alone but also to those who crossed the border with their parents. This has meant, in effect, that thousands of asylum-seeking families have been released from detention while their cases have moved through the immigration courts. Now, according to Kevin McAleenan, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the government will detain families together for as long as it takes to resolve their immigration claims. For tens of thousands of families, that could easily amount to months in custody—an especially alarming prospect considering that another critical component of Flores, a requirement that the government keep children in licensed facilities overseen by independent monitors, would also fall away under the Administration’s plan.

In his announcement on Wednesday, McAleenan claimed that “all children in U.S. government custody” would be “treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability.” But his reassurances sound especially hollow at the present moment. In the past year and a half, seven children have died in immigration custody, and there have been widespread complaints about the conditions in which children are being held. Earlier this summer, at a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, two hundred and fifty infants, children, and teen-agers spent weeks without adequate food and water, and were denied soap and toothbrushes; despite lice and flu outbreaks, authorities skimped on providing medical care. “The Flores monitors are the reason we knew about what was happening at Clint,” Podkul said.

On Monday, a lawyer known as a “special master,” who was appointed last year to investigate potential violations of Flores in facilities run by D.H.S. and the Department of Health and Human Services, filed a report with further details. In Customs and Border Protection facilities, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, “allegations of severe overcrowding and excessive length of custody, lack of appropriate food for minors, inability of detainees to sleep, ambient temperatures outside a reasonably comfortable range, and lack of access to medical treatment remain unresolved,” the special master wrote. At H.H.S. shelters across the country, the average time that children spent in government custody, between January of 2018 and May of 2019, was sixty-seven days. Nearly three thousand children who turned eighteen while in detention were transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement because they “aged out” and were no longer treated as minors.

The Trump Administration has, from the start, attacked Flores as a “loophole” that immigrant families have continually sought to exploit; closing it was part of a broader mission to deter other families from coming to the U.S. to seek asylum in the first place. In August, 2017, a group of Administration officials met at D.H.S. headquarters, in Washington, to devise a series of policies to restrict the number of asylum seekers entering the country. Among the proposals was separating families at the border and a move to end the Flores agreement. Attendees were also tasked with writing ten separate memos with blueprints for how the Administration could implement each policy goal. “I recall being stumped about what we could do by decree or executive action to get around Flores,” one former official, who was present at the meeting, told me. “It was one of the memos that floundered,” the former official added, because of its “questionable legality.”

The White House decided to work around Flores instead. When the Trump Administration began separating families at the border, in the summer of 2017, part of its rationalization was that, by criminally charging parents for entering the country illegally, the government could detain the adults, and their children would be treated as unaccompanied minors and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services. The government could thus hold the parents indefinitely and penalize the entire family, as the children were kept in conditions that were notionally consistent with the terms of Flores. By late June, 2018, amid a national outcry, Trump promised to stop separating families at the border. But, in the same breath, he announced that the Administration would hold families together instead. Almost immediately, a federal judge in California named Dolly Gee, who is in charge of supervising the government’s compliance with Flores, blocked the Administration. There was a clear precedent for her decision, which the Trump Administration willfully ignored: in 2015, when President Obama responded to a sudden spike in Central American families seeking asylum by trying to detain families in ice facilities, Gee blocked him, too.

In September, 2018, the Trump Administration released a two-hundred-page document outlining proposed regulations that would end Flores altogether. Immigration advocates immediately appealed to Gee, in California, who took the challenge under advisement but withheld final judgment until after the Administration’s regulations were entered in the federal register, which is slated for Friday. “The President is telling [D.H.S.] they must terminate the settlement,” Peter Schey, one of the lead attorneys in the initial Flores class-action suit, told the Washington Post at the time. “They tried it in court, and now they’re trying it through regulations. But they’re in a bind, because the only way the regulations will be valid is if they’re consistent with the settlement, and if they’re consistent with the settlement then they won’t achieve the changes the President has demanded.” Now the Flores plaintiffs will have a week to amend their suit. Jennifer Nagda, an attorney at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, told me, “We’ll have to do a line-by-line comparison between the new regulations and the proposed version from last September to decide how to direct our energy in the next seven days.”

The broader consequences of the Administration’s rollback could extend well beyond detention conditions. When minors travel to the U.S. alone, for instance, they’re categorized as unaccompanied, a designation that affords them additional rights such as the ability to apply for asylum through an asylum officer, as opposed to a judge in the more adversarial setting of an immigration court. “This isn’t just about being detained,” Podkul said. “It’s about the next two to three years an immigrant child spends going through the judicial system.” Earlier this summer, an official at H.H.S.—who at the time suspected that the President’s senior adviser, Stephen Miller, was behind an unprecedented push to reclassify unaccompanied children—told me, “The expectation is that the Administration will change the policy regarding the definition of an unaccompanied child. . . . A child arriving at the border alone will not be declared unaccompanied if they have a parent ‘available’ in the U.S. to care for them. That means the child will be subject to expedited removal.” The idea, the official added, was to skirt Congress by instituting the change in the form of a regulation, while creating yet another pretext for assailing lawmakers for their failure to take some radical action of their own. And that is exactly what has happened: the regulations announced this week will further whittle away the legal rights of immigrant children. “The change will end up in court immediately,” the official had told me. But the Administration wanted to send a message anyway.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Hiring Is Very Hard for Restaurants These Days. Now They May Have to Fire.

By David Yaffe-Bellany

Facing one of the most severe labor shortages in decades, restaurants across the country are trying virtually everything to recruit cooks and dishwashers, from offering quarterly bonuses to providing training programs for ex-convicts.

Now, the specter of increased immigration enforcement is putting many of those restaurants in a more fraught situation: let go of trusted employees or risk criminal prosecution.

The problems began in March and April, when the Social Security Administration sent letters to hundreds of thousands of business owners, notifying them that the names of some employees did not match the Social Security numbers on their tax forms.

These “no-match letters” sowed fear and confusion in workplaces that depend on immigrant employees, like farms, factories and construction sites. But few businesses have felt the impact of the government notices more than restaurants, which have long relied on undocumented labor and struggled with high turnover.

“If you ask any restaurant now what’s keeping them up at night, it’s this,” said Carolyn Richmond, an employment lawyer in New York. “We do have a lot more diverse work force than most industries, and unfortunately many of them may be undocumented.”

Over the last few months, the restaurant owners who received no-match letters have divided into two general camps. Some risk-averse employers are planning to fire their undocumented workers or adopt more stringent hiring protocols, like using the federal E-Verify program to check new hires’ documents. Others have done practically nothing, convinced that they have no choice but to ignore the notices because they can ill afford to lose employees in a tight labor market.

After the no-match letters arrived, many restaurant owners were advised by their lawyers to give affected employees a few months to correct the problems in the government’s records.

For some restaurants, the end of that window has already arrived or is fast approaching. That could mean a wave of firings is in store, once it becomes clear that certain employees lack legal status. But with restaurants already struggling to hire enough workers, some owners are likely to ignore the letters, putting themselves at risk of legal penalties.

“We’ve definitely seen every part of the spectrum, from wanting to be compliant to ‘we’re just going to stick our heads in the sand,’” said Becki Young, a lawyer in Maryland who has advised restaurants across the country on how to respond to the no-match letters. “Some of our clients will have some really hard decisions to make.”

A no-match letter from the Social Security Administration is not the same as an immigration audit, which would be conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And some of the Social Security discrepancies involve minor clerical issues, like a missing digit or a spelling mistake in an employee’s name.

“Social Security is not a law enforcement agency,” said Mark Hinkle, the agency’s acting press secretary. “Our role is limited in scope to trying to ensure we credit each employee with his or her earnings.”

But the letters effectively require business owners to check whether the employees identified are properly documented. And in a potential ICE audit, employers who fail to investigate a no-match letter — or to act on what they find — could be deemed to have “constructive knowledge” of an employee’s immigration status, exposing them to hefty fines and possible criminal charges.

The last time the federal government sent a large number of no-match letters was more than a decade ago, when President George W. Bush was in office. Amid a broader crackdown on illegal immigration, the Trump administration has revived the process, at the same time that ICE has upped the frequency of its audits. In fiscal 2018, the agency initiated nearly 6,000 I-9 audits, a more than 400 percent increase from the previous year. And the ICE raids in Mississippi this month, which swept up hundreds of undocumented employees at agricultural plants, underscored the specter of increased enforcement across the food industry.

The experiences of two restaurant owners in New York City show how the pressures that face the industry have elicited strikingly divergent responses. The owners spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to attract attention from ICE.

One of them, who owns a restaurant group with locations in New York and Miami, said he had consulted with five different law firms about how to respond to the no-match letters, which he said named 350 of his employees, or about a quarter of his staff. At the advice of several of those lawyers, he said, he is considering firing employees who cannot produce documentation. He has also hired a company to inspect the I-9 forms of all future employees.

Over the past few months, a number of his employees have left of their own accord, he said, concerned that the no-match letters could portend a federal immigration raid.

The second owner, whose restaurant is in Manhattan, said she received a no-match letter alerting her to issues with almost every member of her kitchen staff, many of whom she had suspected were in the country illegally. Ultimately, she said, she decided not to tell any of her employees about the letter because losing the workers would doom the establishment.

With unemployment at just 3.7 percent, its lowest level in many years, restaurants are hardly the only businesses struggling to recruit low-wage workers. But for them the labor shortage has become especially serious: Restaurants have long been the economy’s largest employer of teenagers, whose participation in the work force has declined in recent years; and Wall Street investment has led to a glut of restaurant openings, oversaturating the market.

Many of the restaurant owners wringing their hands over the no-match letters run local eateries or small to midsize restaurant groups. The larger fast-food chains often require that their stores or franchisees use E-Verify, making them less likely to violate to immigration law.

Chipotle adopted the verification system after an immigration probe in 2011 cut its work force in Minnesota in half. And over the last year, Dunkin’ has taken an especially hard line, suing franchisees that failed to use E-Verify.

“You might start seeing more franchisers perhaps tightening up their employment verification requirements,” said Vikrant Advani, a labor expert at Rutgers University’s business school. “I see that possibly becoming a trend. Franchisers have to be careful.”

At the moment, 22 states mandate that at least some businesses use E-Verify. It’s unclear, however, how many restaurants have adopted the system. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that oversees E-Verify, records the number of “food services and drinking places” that use it, but the agency does not keep track of restaurants specifically.

In the last three years, the number of food-and-drink locations using E-Verify has increased steadily, by about 20,000 to 25,000 a year; a total of 218,375 such locations have signed up over the history of the program, according to government data. And even in some states that do not require it, E-Verify is growing more popular. In Iowa, the local chapter of the National Restaurant Association has not heard any reports of no-match letters, possibly because so many restaurants in the state already use E-Verify, according to Jessica Dunker, the chapter’s president.

In New York, many small, independent restaurants have been reluctant to adopt the system because it can slow down the hiring process, putting employers at a competitive disadvantage. But now, some owners are starting to reconsider, as they wrestle with what to do about the no-match letters.

“There’s a lot of liability for employers, so it puts them in a very difficult position to make very difficult choices,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the city’s hospitality alliance. “Immigrants are the backbone of the city’s restaurant industry. There’s an incredible amount of anxiety.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Federal Shift May Increase Asylum Backlogs in Northeast

PORTLAND, Maine — A Trump administrative directive to shift federal resources from Boston and Newark, New Jersey, could increase delays for asylum seekers in the Northeast.

The temporary reassignments are part of an attempt to reduce a backlog at the southern border, but it will have an impact in the Northeast.

Phillip Mantis from the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project tells the Portland Press Herald that the Boston and Newark offices already have a combined backlog of 40,000 cases. The reassigned staff from the northeast offices will be assisting with initial border interviews.

The newspaper said the move does not affect more than 400 asylum seekers from African countries who’ve come to Maine since June. Those individuals sought asylum at the border and their cases are already in the immigration system.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com