The Golden Door: March 2018
Legal and Policy Issues
We are closely monitoring state and federal immigration law and policy. Please check our social media accounts for more frequent updates.
It’s Groundhog Day at the State House this year. The Governor has introduced a slew of anti-immigrant bills that mirror previous bills that lost and did not become law.
Anti-Sanctuary City Bill, LD 1833
Representative Lawrence Lockman has presented an anti-sanctuary city bill. Just like last year’s LD 366, which was rejected by the state legislature, LD 1833, “An Act To Facilitate Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities,” seeks to force local and state employees to act like federal immigration agents. LD 1833 would charge fees of $500 a day ($182,500 a year) to towns and cities that choose not to divert their law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.
ILAP testified against the bill, along with many others. Over 800 people signed the ACLU’s letter in opposition to the bill. A majority of members of the Judiciary Committee voted “ought not to pass.” The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.
Bill to Cut Immigrants from Vital Anti-Poverty Programs, LD 1873
Representative Deborah Sanderson has presented an anti-immigrant bill that aims to cut off immigrants from vital programs. LD 1873 would eliminate access to General Assistance for all asylum seekers and certain other immigrants, as well as eliminate access to SNAP (food assistance), TANF (cash assistance for families with children), and SSI (cash assistance for people who are elderly and disabled) for certain immigrants.
Please check our social media for updates about public hearings and other calls to action around this piece of harmful legislation.
Call to Action
AG Sessions Sues California
The administration has continued its relentless attacks on the immigrant community by filing a lawsuit against California over its laws protecting its immigrant residents. California has passed three state laws designed to protect immigrants’ due process rights by requiring warrants for immigration arrests in workplaces and by local law enforcement as well as allowing state inspections of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities.
The United States sued California, arguing that the federal government has sole jurisdiction over immigration issues. California will most likely argue that its laws do not conflict with federal authority, and that states can protect their residents’ constitutional rights.
The Attorney General’s arguments that California is preventing the arrest of “violent criminals” are not based in fact, but rather, fear. ICE is not restricted from operating in California – the state is merely requiring procedural safeguards for California residents.
Lawsuit Challenging Arbitrary Detention of Asylum Seekers
Immigrants seeking asylum at the border must initially pass a “credible fear” interview (a process where an immigration officer determines if there is a “significant possibility” the person is eligible for asylum) or will be deported. Before the new administration, people who passed the “credible fear” interview were given something called “humanitarian parole” while awaiting immigration court. Under the current administration, almost no asylum seekers are receiving that parole. Instead they are being held for months in immigration detention facilities.
It seems that the federal government is illegally detaining asylum seekers in hopes that fewer people fleeing violence and persecution will come to the United States. The ACLU has filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, alleging that several ICE field offices “have detained these asylum seekers based not on individualized determinations that they pose a flight risk or a danger to the community, but rather to deter other migrants from seeking refuge here.”
United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) Changes Mission Statement
Last month, USCIS changed its mission statement.
The statement used to read:
"USCIS secures America's promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system."
The mission statement now says:
"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation's lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values."
This troubling reframing of USCIS's mission reflects the general trend we have seen in the past year. Whether USCIS has it in its mission statement or not, the United States has always been a "nation of immigrants." ILAP is proud to uphold our country's immigrant tradition.
ICE Spokesman Quits, Citing Pressure to Lie
A San Francisco spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), James Schwab, recently resigned, saying that he was being pressured to lie in order to attack the Oakland mayor's actions and to defend the false statements by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Oakland mayor had warned Oakland residents about upcoming ICE raids on workplaces and communities. Attorney General Sessions claimed that the mayor's actions led to over 800 dangerous criminals not being arrested by ICE. In his statements to media, Schwab said that not only would ICE not have been able to arrest all 800+ people, but also that they were not all "dangerous criminals on the street." He also said that he tried to correct the information, but his higher ups told him to "deflect" and to defend the false statements.
This administration is using false data and pressuring its employees to lie in order to justify anti-immigrant policies. To show how unprecedented this administration's actions are, Schwab had been a government spokesperson for 15 years. He said, "I've never been in a situation when I've been asked to ignore the facts because it was more convenient."
Census Will Ask Citizenship Question
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has issued a memo announcing the administration’s decision to ask a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Immigrants who are out of status (undocumented) will be less likely to respond to the census. Thus, advocates worry that the population figures in places with a large number of out of status people will be lower than they should be. This will result in fewer resources being allocated by the government and will affect House redistricting.
California immediately challenged this decision in federal court the same day, and New York announced the next day that it will lead a several state challenge. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra explained that “[w]hat the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate census count.”
Putting a citizenship question on the Census is a clear attempt to suppress the over 11 million undocumented people who live in this country. It is yet another tool this administration is using to perpetrate its white nationalist agenda.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
The Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear a DACA case last month. This case out of the US District Court of the Northern District of California is the source of the first nationwide preliminary injunction preventing the termination of DACA. The government had asked for a rare review called "certiorari before judgement," meaning that the Supreme Court would hear the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would. The Supreme Court denied that request. This means that people who have or have had DACA will continue to be able to renew their DACA status for the time being.
Congress has not yet acted on behalf of TPS holders or DACA recipients. However, uncertainty for TPS holders and Dreamers can be resolved by Congress. We ask you to contact Maine’s congressional delegation and urge quick action on behalf of Dreamers and TPS holders.
Senator Susan Collins (202) 224-2523
Senator Angus King (202) 224-5344
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (202) 225-6116
Congressman Bruce Poliquin (202) 225-6306