The Golden Door: September 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.

From Northern Border to Southern Border

In August, ILAP attorney Jennifer Bailey went to the border of Texas and Mexico with the American Bar Association and their South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project to assist detained asylum seekers.  At a federal detention facility housing 1200 adults, she met an indigenous Guatemalan man who had been separated from his son and deported in May under Sessions's "Zero Tolerance" border policy. Desperate to find his nine year old son, the man returned to the US and was locked up in detention.  She also helped a young Honduran man whose family was brutalized by domestic violence and whose mother was killed a few months ago by her abusive husband in front of the family. He fled with his two younger brothers to seek asylum but when they crossed the border the minor brothers were taken away and he was sent to the adult jail, where he remains today, unable to be released and forced to defend his asylum case alone with no lawyer. 

The recent legal decision by AG Sessions limiting asylum protections for victims of domestic violence means that he will likely be deported.  Jennifer also had the opportunity to watch federal criminal prosecutions of those who crossed the border without permission.  These mass prosecutions which tallied 500 per week in one courtroom have done little to deter people from fleeing violence. CBP reports that the number of apprehensions of borders crossers were even higher this August than one year ago - a testament to the people's desperation.  The administration's devastating assault on asylum seekers is evident from the southern border all the way to Maine.

House Members Speak Out Against AG's Asylum Attacks

Last week, over 100 House members signed a letter urging the Attorney General to reverse his decision in Matter of A-B-, which essentially prevents victims of domestic violence and gang violence from seeking asylum. Representative Pingree signed on, while Representative Poliquin did not. The members wrote, "[w]e are deeply alarmed and outraged over a series of actions taken by you, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security that undermine or curtail the ability of migrants lawfully requesting asylum in the United States to present their claims."

Trump Administration Slashes 2019 Refugee Numbers

The Trump administration has announced a new, incredibly low, cap of 30,000 for resettling refugees in 2019. While the world is facing an enormous refugee crisis with 68 million people displaced from their homes, the United States is turning its back on families fleeing violence and persecution. This 30,000 is merely a cap -- with two weeks left in the 2018 fiscal year, the US has only admitted 20,918 refugees for resettlement, which is less than half of the cap of 45,000.

As Mainers, we know how valuable refugees are to our communities, and we condemn this action by the administration.

Trump Administration Attempts to Flout Court Order and Detain More Children

While the administration's detention of children has reached record levels, the administration is proposing a regulation that will undo established protections for children in immigration detention. This regulation would set up a self-licensing structure in which the administration would certify its own detention facilities and allow for indefinite detention of families. This regulation flouts the 1997 Flores Settlement, which put into place safeguards for the safety and well-being of children in detention.

Speak out against the proposed regulation here, and we will keep you updated with more action steps.

New Decision and Speech from AG Sessions Further Erodes Due Process

In Matter of L-A-B-R-, AG Sessions issued a decision that tried to curb the number of continuances in immigration court. An immigration judge can use continuances so that people who are in removal proceedings (deportation) can pursue what is known as "collateral relief." For example, someone can be awaiting adjudication of an immigrant application or petition outside of immigration court while fighting their removal in immigration court. If their application or petition were approved, they would get lawful permanent status in the United States. This new decision would add barriers, including showing that the application or petition will be successful, to asking a judge to continue the removal proceeding to wait for adjudication of the application or petition. It will be particularly difficult for unrepresented individuals in immigration court to overcome these new requirements.

Meanwhile, last week, AG Sessions told an incoming class of immigration judges that immigration attorneys act "like water seeping through an earthen dam to get around the plain words of [immigration law] to advance their clients' interests." He further stated, "[t]he law is never serviced when deceit is rewarded so that the fundamental principles of the law are defeated."

This claim from the nation's top prosecutor shows how little regard this administration has for due process. People who find themselves in immigration court have the right to an attorney, and immigration lawyers work hard to represent them. To allege that the lawyers are trying to get around the law is outrageous.

Currently, immigration judges are housed in the Department of Justice, so the Attorney General oversees them. Immigration courts must be independent, as it is clear that the Attorney General will not allow them to be so.

Immigrants Contribute Enormously to Portland's Economy

A report by New American Economy revealed that foreign-born residents added 1.2 billion dollars to Greater Portland's economy in 2016. This data shows what we have known all along - immigrants make Maine stronger. Maine's population is aging rapidly, and as this report proves, immigrants are making up the difference in Maine's shrinking population. The report also noted that immigrants make up 4.6 percent of the people living in the metro region, but they account for over five percent of the working age population and six percent of all workers in STEM fields.

Call to Action - Vote No on Kavanaugh!

In August, ILAP joined a group of representatives of several non-profit organizations in Maine in meetings with senior aides of Senator King and Senator Collins. These meetings, organized by the group Suit Up Maine, gave ILAP the opportunity to express deep concerns over past decisions by Judge Kavanaugh about immigration issues. 

ILAP is concerned about the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. His writings and dissents indicate he does not believe that Constitutional protections should apply to immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ, and other vulnerable communities. There are two cases in particular that are of concern because they demonstrate Judge Kavanaugh's opinion that immigrants should not be afforded the same Constitutional protections that are afforded to U.S. Citizens. These cases are Garza v. Hargan and Agri Processor Co. v. National Labor Relations Board. In his dissenting opinions, Judge Kavanaugh also demonstrates his propensity to ignore precedent when it relates to immigrants' rights. 

Suit Up Maine gathered each organization's memo into a report shared with both offices.

Senator King announced last week that he will vote "no" on Kavanaugh. 

Call Senator Collins, tell her your concerns, and urge her to vote "no" on Kavanaugh:
(202) 224-2523 DC 
(207) 622-8414 Augusta  
(207) 780-3575 Portland  
(207) 784-6969 Lewiston  
(207) 283-1101 Biddeford  
(207) 945-0417 Bangor  
(207) 493-7873 Caribou