Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

Ghosts Amongst Us: Obama’s Legacy of Trauma

September 16, 2011

A crisp, nascent autumn breeze whistles through the air. A young girl, of 5-years-old, waits with her mother for the school bus to whisk her away to her first-ever day of school.

She is nervous, not wanting to leave the comfortable confines of her home, where her parents have doted on her from since she can remember.

“When will daddy be back?”, the girl asks her mother. “He went home. Don’t worry, honey, he will be back soon.”, the mother says, fighting back tears in a futile effort to shield her daughter from the truth, a truth that is cutting her up inside: her father is gone, perhaps forever.

This young family of three was achieving the dream that so many associate with the United States of America: food on the table, a small but well-kept house, and a supreme confidence that no goal is too far out of reach.

The dream suffered a fatal blow when the girl’s father was deported to Honduras just a few weeks ago.

The Stunning Hypocrisy of the Obama Administration         

With the 2012 presidential elections imminent, President Obama’s approval rating has plummeted precipitously, dropping to a lowly 38 % as recently as August of this year. When Obama was first elected, he consistently promised he would pass immigration reform. This likely helped him get elected, as many Latinos voted for precisely because of these promises.

According a pew report, 67% of  Hispanic voters cast their ballot for Obama in the 2008 presidential elections. And these votes were important to his eventual victory.

Shortly after the election, a NY Times article stated that:

“Latino voters shifted in huge numbers away from Republicans to vote for Senator Barack Obama…providing the votes that gave him unexpectedly large margins of victory in three battleground states: Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.”

So far, Barack Obama has done nothing to fulfill the promises he made in 2008. Rather, he has arguably done the opposite: under his watch, immigrants have been deported in record numbers. His explanation up until recently has revealed a man who is stunningly transparent in revealing why what he says does not comport with what he does.

When pressed on why no reform has been passed, Mr. Obama delivers the predictable: “I can’t do it by myself. We’re going to have to change the laws of Congress.” The latter admission of defeat is in sharp contrast to his oft-flowery rhetoric:

Comprehensive immigration reform is not only an economic imperative or a security imperative, it is also a moral imperative. (emphasis added)

Voting Time

The 2012 Presidential Elections are upon us, and the Obama Administration has made a public about-face on whether only Congress can stop deportations.

First, on June 17, 2011, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued an internal memorandum listing various factors that should be considered in deciding whether to exercise prosecutorial discretion. In other words, when not to deport an immigrant, even if ICE is legally able to do so.

Specifically, the memo addressed several stages of immigration enforcement, including when to deport an immigrant who already has an order and when to put an immigrant into deportation proceedings before the immigration court.

Second, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a public announcement via a letter Janet Napolitano wrote to Senator Dick Durbin, stating that the factors enumerated in the June 17 memorandum were already being implemented. Importantly, the letter stated:

Together with the Department of Justice (DOJ), we have initiated an inter-agency working group to a case-by-case review of all individuals currently in removal proceedings to ensure that they constitute our highest priorities.

In this same letter, Secretary Napolitano added: “the working group will issue guidance on how to provide for appropriate discretionary consideration to be given to compelling cases involving a final order of removal.”

These two announcements conflict with what reality is for many immigrants, particularly those who have been here for many years but have final orders of removal.

The Immigration Police: Blind Enforcement

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is the branch of ICE that executes final orders of removal. Once an immigrant is detained, ERO will immediately begin the process of deportation. Consulate visits, a travel document, and a charter flight back. All within a couple of weeks, sometimes even sooner.

Without an attorney (extremely expensive, given that substantial time is required to try to stop a deportation at this stage), ERO will rarely exercise discretion; the only time that it will is if a woman is pregnant, or the immigrant is the sole caretaker of a child, or if a child is seriously ill.

Notwithstanding the latter examples, ERO will deport anyone with a final order, criminal history or not.

I have personally seen several examples of immigrants being deported, even though they had extraordinary equities in their favor. What are these equities? One such example: Many have several U.S. citizen children; presence in the United States for over 10 years; and no criminal history. Yet this matters naught to ERO. There is no “prioritizing” of whether an immigrant will be deported once placed in the custody of ERO. It’s a machine.

“We get them in, and we deport them. Sorry, nothing we can do.”, one such officer commented to me.

From my own experience, there has been no discernible difference between whether the Obama administration’s announcement has made a change in immigration enforcement policy.

In removal proceedings, when an immigrant is still before an judge, discretion will and has been exercised, but whether this is a change from the past is not clear.

What is clear is that at the ERO level business is as brisk as usual.

It is of no import to the “moral imperative” touting Barack Obama that an agency under his control has and continues to leave an indelible legacy of trauma upon thousands of families.

In the end, as it so often is in the United States, the moral is superseded by the irrepressible need for our “leaders” to wrestle for the reins of power at the expense of human lives.


Hofstra Law Students to Assist with Naturalization Process at AILA Citizenship Day

April 11, 2011

Media Contact:

Kristen McMahon

Director of Public Relations

Hofstra Law School



Hofstra Law Students to Assist with Naturalization Process at
AILA Citizenship Day

Hofstra Law School, Hempstead, N.Y. Hofstra Law students will volunteer to help eligible immigrants become U.S. citizens at the annual American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Long Island Citizenship Day on Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., at Hofstra Law School, Room 308.

Throughout the day, immigrants living on Long Island will receive assistance filling out forms and applying for naturalization (citizenship). The event is free and open to the public.

“Hofstra Law School recognizes the great contributions immigrants make to Long Island, our community and, above all, our nation,” said Lauris Wren, associate clinical professor and attorney-in-charge of the Asylum Clinic. “We are honored to now give back to them by helping them to realize their dreams of becoming American citizens.”

Citizenship applicants are asked to bring their Green Card, all passports since becoming permanent residents, all previous home addresses, their children’s addresses, dates of birth, their marriage/divorce history, their Selective Service registration number, if applicable, and any information about arrests, if applicable.  Applicants should go to room 308 at Hofstra Law School, located at 121 California Avenue, Hempstead, N.Y. 11549.

In conjunction with AILA’s New York chapter, several Hofstra Law student organizations are co-sponsoring the event.





Europe’s Guantanamos

November 17, 2010

The European Union takes illegal immigration seriously. The poverty that pervades Africa and Asia has made Europe a magnet for migrants looking for a better life.

The leaders of Europe see migration from these poor continents  as a threat to  the prosperity that so many Europeans enjoy.

A threat so serious as to require draconian measures that shimmer with the similarity of the barbarous human rights violations that accompanied WWII.

In an extensive report by Migreurop, the human rights violations that the EU’s restrictive immigration policies are responsible for shatter preconceptions that Europe has any concern for the rights of humans who are not a member of their exclusive club.

Subcontracting The Dirty Work

Part of the current immigration control strategy of the EU is to encourage third nations, such as Libya, to stem the flow of migration before it can reach the EU’s borders.

In fact, the EU has allocated 60 million Euros from 2011-13 to Libya so that it can “offer greater assistance in the field of health care and to fight illegal immigration“. (emphasis added)

Italy, in particular, has given Libya 10 million Euros to fight irregular immigration in the Sahara and in the Mediterranean.

To African nations overall, the EU has made available 250 million Euros from 2004-08 and again for 2009-13 largely to “aid third countries to ensure a better management of migration flows”.

In the superficial sense, the above seems innocuous; substantively, it is a different story.

In Libya, there are 20 known immigrant detention camps. A report by Fortress Europe documented the conditions of these camps:

These camps are often “old warehouses fitted out for the purpose of detention and guarded by the police. […] The accounts talk of detentions that have lasted months and, in some cases,years, without any trial, in unbearable conditions with up to 60 or 70 people in cells measuring six metres by eight, with a single toilet. Women are systematically victims of sexual violence by the police.

The first-hand accounts of these camps are more descriptive and thus induce greater outrage:

We are 600 detainees in Misratah, all of us Eritreans. There are around a hundred women and fifty children. The first group of 450 people has been inside for a year and a half, the others were taken there four months ago […] Before taking us to the centre they took everything from us. Some had refugee papers that the police ripped up. Some women were raped by officers. At least seven people have been admitted into hospital with nervous breakdowns. […] We don’thave any medical care. We sleep on the floor in groups of 60. In the daytime, the heat is unbearable and makes the stench from the toilets riseback up the pipes. We are given three drums of water to drink, for 600 people. At night, it is cold and we don’t have any covers”

“There were 78 of us in a cell measuring six metres by eight. […] We were so hungry. A plate of rice could be shared between eight people”.[…] There was one toilet for 60 people.[…] “There were lice and fleas everywhere, in the mattress, in the clothes, in your hair. […]Sometimes, the police came into the room, they picked up a woman and raped her in front of us.

A European Commission in 2004 mildly criticized the conditions in these camps, yet stated that they are acceptable in the view of the general context.

The general context being something like the very important fight against “illegal immigration”, akin to the abandonment of all principles in a fight against “terror”?

Most definitely.

Even outside of the detention centers in Libya, the migrants fare no better, or worse: If the Libyans cannot deport some migrants, they simply abandon them in the desert.

The description of these camps is nothing short of arbitrary torture. If the Libyans, or other African flash points of migration, are keeping the migrants away from Europe’s borders, Europe has not and still does not hesitate to be an accomplice to known torture and other serious human rights violations committed by its partners. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes.

The EU Rings Hollow

Ever since the United States employed Guantanamo as a prison to indefinitely detain terrorist suspects, the European Union has been one of the more notable voices in advocating for its closure, stating that the fight against terrorism should be done “firmly and tenaciously” but at the same time  “cannot be waged in breach of international law and at the expense of established basic, shared values such as respect for human rights, the rule of law and the relevant Geneva Conventions.”

Yet in its fight against “illegal immigration”, the EU acts quite similarly to its US counterparts in endorsing the abandonment of established “basic, shared values such as respect for human rights, the rule of law and the relevant Geneva Conventions”. But given the United States recent descent into the more repressive immigration tactics practiced by the EU(See SB1070), the criticism has, alas, not been reciprocal.




Governor Haley Barbour’s Double Speak on Immigration

November 16, 2010

Republican Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi has been lauded in some circles(including right here on this blog), for his common sense, anti-GOP establishment stance on immigration. To wit, he said in an interview that:

A lot of this is just common sense, and common sense tells us we’re not gonna take ten or twelve or fourteen million people [currently here illegally] and put them in jail and deport them. We’re not gonna do it, and we need to quit—some people need to quit acting like we are, and let’s talk about real solutions.

Yet Governor Barbour lauded Arizona’s SB1070 as good policy. The Arizona immigration law is attrition through enforcement, which is the closest to rounding up and deporting that reality in the United States will allow for the foreseeable future.

Thus, Governor Barbour endorsed what his own words painted as an impractical solution.

Perhaps I am being too picky; after all, Barbour is a Republican who has White House aspirations. To have a chance in the rampant tea party atmosphere in U.S. politics, Barbour would have to modify his positions so as to best comport with the Republican demographics’ position on immigration, a position wrapped in strident anti-immigrant hysteria.

But if President Obama is any indication of post-campaign politics, perhaps Barbour will go back on his words as well.

Mark Lyttle: A U.S. Citizen kidnapped and deported with impunity by ICE

October 25, 2010

Mark Lyttle, a U.S. Citizen, was kidnapped and illegally deported by U.S. Government

The United States Government kidnapped and deported Mark Lyttle, a United States Citizen. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Mr. Lyttle’s tormentors on October 13th, 2010.

The complaint narrates Mark Lyttle’s odyssey with a comprehensive, compelling factual story. Here is an excerpt:

On or about August 22, 2008, Mr. Lyttle was booked into NCI to begin serving his sentence for the misdemeanor crime…On or about September 2, 2008, while in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Corrections (“DOC”), Mr. Lyttle was “apprehended” by ICE Agent Robert Kendall and thereafter interrogated by ICE Agent D. Faucette. At the time of the interrogation, Agent Faucette was aware that Mr. Lyttle was cognitively impaired and that he had, among other things, bipolar disorder…

On or about September 4, 2008, Agent Faucette or an ICE agent acting on Agent Faucette’s behalf or at her direction, performed a search…Numerous records produced as a result of these computerized database searches revealed that Mr. Lyttle was a U.S. citizen with a valid Social Security number.(emphasis added)

Disregarding the overwhelming record evidence of Mr. Lyttle’s U.S.citizenship, as well as his significant mental disabilities, on or about September 5,2008, Agent Caputo signed a “Warrant for Arrest of Alien”…to take Mr. Lyttle into custody so that he might be processed for removal as “an alien in the country in violation of the immigration laws.”

From October 28th, 2008 to until he was flown to the U.S./Mexico border and deported on December 18th, 2008, the U.S. government unlawfully detained Mark Lyttle. After being deported, Mark Lyttle was deported yet again, this time to Honduras by Mexican authorities.

In Honduras, officials arrested Mr. Lyttle and placed him in an immigration camp. From there, he was transferred to a Honduran jail, where he allegedly(more like likely), suffered mental and physical abuse by prison guards.

Mr. Lyttle was also incarcerated in Nicaragua. Ultimately, he found a competent embassy employee in Guatemala who listened to him, performed a search of information given by Mr. Lyttle, and issued him a passport and arranged for his return to the United States on April 22nd, 2009.

Mr. Lyttle spoke no Spanish and must have gone through much suffering in his odyssey throughout Mexico and Central America. His suffering was a direct consequence of the criminal conduct of a several actors in Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE).

Specifically, ICE agents committed the federal crime of kidnapping. 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a)1:

(a)Whoever unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts…when—

1. the person is willfully transported in interstate or foreign commerce…

3. any such act against the person is done within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States as defined in section 46501 of title 49;

Mark Lyttle was unlawfully seized and willfully transported in interstate commerce and possibly foreign commerce when he was (the gov’t use of aircraft to transport Mr. Lyttle falls under special aircraft jurisdiction) flown from Georgia to Texas for deportation.

Yet the Obama administration has issued no explanation or apology to Mark Lyttle.

Reading the complaint, there is little doubt that Mr. Lyttle will receive monetary compensation for the hell that the U.S. government put him through.

Yet this will not prevent future crimes committed by ICE against United States Citizens like Mr. Lyttle. The agents that recklessly caused Mark Lyttle to be illegally detained and deported do not have to pay out of their pocket. At best, the agents will be fired or reprimanded with a memo or some such method.

In other words, the perpetrators of this crime have acted with impunity. Criminal statutes such as 18 U.S.C 1201 are created with severe penalties–up to life imprisonment–so that the public will be deterred from committing the proscribed act, in this instance kidnapping. Federal prosecutors should follow the laws they are charged with enforcing, especially as the severity of the crime increases.

Kidnapping is a high crime in of itself. When the kidnappers are agents of the federal government, the importance of deterrence becomes greater.  With the full weight of the United States Government behind a criminal, the potential for grave wrongs borders the limitless.

Yet the Obama administration has done nothing to address this serious crime that occurred under its watch. No criminal charges were brought against the responsible agents. This is a terrible omen, one that creates serious doubts as to how many other Mark Lyttles there have been and will continue to be.

In essence, the inaction of Obama & Co. leads to a disturbing conclusion: he nor those in his administration are concerned with  the  basic constitutional rights guaranteed to United States Citizens.