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The White House Comes to Seattle- To Talk #WelcomingCitizens

June 10th 2016 was a special day in Seattle.  It was the day the White House came to Seattle! Two key immigration policy staff members from the White House visited Seattle to hold a “White House Regional Convening” at City Hall together with the city’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.thumb[6]  Ms. Felicia Escobar, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration Policy at White House Domestic Policy Council and Manar Waheed, Deputy Policy Director of Immigration at White House Domestic Policy Council both attended.  To have two such leaders attend our locality was a great honor. It was indeed a special privilege for myself to be invited to this exclusive event.

From left: Maha Jahshan, Language Access Program and Policy Specialist city of Seattle; Courtney Chappell, Regional Director at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Executive; Manar Waheed, Deputy Policy Director of Immigration at White House Domestic Policy Council; Ms. Felicia Escobar, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration Policy at White House Domestic Policy Council; Tahmina Watson

On November 21, 2014, President Obama established the White House Task Force on New Americans—a government-wide effort tasked with better integrating immigrants and refugees into American communities.  The City of Seattle’s efforts to help immigrants were noted in a recent White House report discussing the progress of the task force and as such, White House was here to bring the private, financial, and philanthropic sectors together to spark an important dialogue about immigrant integration.

After the convening, a reception was held where some 200 leaders from various organizations around the City of Seattle attended.
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All in all, the event was educational, inspirational and informative. Thank you to the White House staff members for visiting Seattle specifically for these issues and to the City of Seattle for taking immigration issues so seriously. And of course, for inviting me!

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 Source: Watson

What to Know About the Big Immigration Case at the Supreme Court

The nation’s highest court will hear arguments today in the case of the United States v. Texas.

Texas — along with a number of other states — is challenging President Obama’s effort to, among other things, allow millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.

A lower court blocked the action, which was announced in 2014, so the programs have not taken effect and their future remains in limbo as the Supreme Court hears the case.

It’s a complex issue with very real human and political implications.

So Kate Shaw, an ABC News contributor and an assistant professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, will help explain what you need to know.

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1) Let’s set the stage. What presidential action is the plaintiff, aka “Texas,” challenging? What did Obama basically intend to do? Who would be affected?

SHAW: This case involves the administration’s 2014 announcement that it intends to grant “deferred action” — essentially, temporary relief from the threat of deportation — to millions of people living in the United States without legal status. The program would mainly apply to parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. (That’s why it’s commonly known as “DAPA” – “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.”)

But the announcement also expands an earlier deferred-action initiative that applies to people who came to the United States as children (that one is referred to as “DACA” – “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”).

The administration argues that recipients of “deferred action” don’t receive lawful immigration status; they’re just notified that they’re not a deportation priority, so they can, in the administration’s words, “come out of the shadows,” and do things like apply for work authorization. Most estimates place the number of potentially affected individuals at 4 million or more.

2) What’s the core of the challenge to this plan? And how does Obama defend it?

SHAW: The states, joined by the House of Representatives (which will share argument time today), make a few arguments. They claim that the plan conflicts with the existing immigration statutes, unilaterally granting legal status to individuals who are here unlawfully under existing immigration law; they also argue that the administration should have announced the new policy through a formal “notice-and-comment” rulemaking process. And, after the Supreme Court specifically asked them to address this question, they argue that the plan is unconstitutional; that by crafting this plan the president has failed to “Take Care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

The administration responds, first, that Texas has no right to be in court attacking this policy in the first place. It also argues that the plan is well within the discretion Congress has granted the executive branch to set immigration priorities, and that the administration is just deciding how best to use its limited enforcement resources; that it was entitled to use the processes it did to announce the program; and that it is plainly constitutional.

3) Broadly, what are the potential outcomes of this case and the real-life impact?

SHAW: If the court strikes down the program, that will essentially spell the end of any meaningful action on immigration in this administration. If, however, the court decides either that Texas has no “standing” to be in court, or that the program is lawful, the administration will likely begin rolling the program out quickly (though another challenge is certainly conceivable).

4) With former Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat left empty, there could be a tie. What happens in that case?

SHAW: A 4-4 tie is a definite possibility, and a tie in this case would leave the law in a state of profound uncertainty. (For that reason, I think the Justices will work very hard to avoid a tie if they can find common ground.) A 4-4 tie technically just affirms the lower court decision, so it usually doesn’t make law outside of the circuit that produced the opinion being reviewed.

But here the lower court issued a nationwide injunction, which means it said the administration’s program couldn’t go into effect anywhere in the country. There are a few ways the case could conceivably come before the court again, but it’s hard to see it happening during this administration. So a 4-4 tie likely means any action on immigration is in the hands of the next president.

5) When might the court issue a ruling and any indication as to how they might rule?

SHAW: The court is almost certain to rule by the end of June. This is a complex case with a number of moving parts —and it’s already April, which is late in the Supreme Court’s term — so it’s likely to be one of the last decisions issued this term.

How America’s harshest immigration law failed

“Illegal is illegal.” With that rallying cry, Alabama passed HB 56 in 2011, the harshest state immigration law in the country.

The lead sponsor of the bill boasted to state representatives that the law “attacks every aspect of an illegal alien’s life.” Among its key provisions: landlords were banned from renting homes to undocumented immigrants, schools had to check students’ legal status, and police were required to arrest suspected immigration violators. Even giving unauthorized immigrants a ride became a crime.

The vast scope of the law turned Alabama into an unprecedented test for the anti-immigration movement. If self-deportation didn’t work there, it’s hard to imagine where it could. Early reports suggested success: undocumented immigrants appeared to flee Alabama en masse. But two years later, HB 56 is in ruins. Its most far-reaching elements have proved unconstitutional, unworkable, or politically unsustainable. Elected officials, social workers, clergy, activists, and residents say an initial immigrant evacuation that roiled their communities ended long ago. Many who fled have returned to their old homes.

Will DAPA Be Obama’s Departing Legacy?

In mid-January of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it had granted cert to in United States v. Texas, meaning that it would consider the legal challenges, originally lodged by the state of Texas and many others, to President Obama’s November 2014 Executive Actions, including the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (“DAPA”) which would provide work authorization and protection from deportation to about 5 million undocumented immigrants.  The specific issues in that case are (1) if a state has a right to sue the federal government if they are voluntarily providing a subsidy to aliens who would benefit from the deferred action program; (2) if the guidance in Obama’s Executive Action provisions are lawful; (3) if that guidance was subject to notice-and-comment procedures; and (4) if that guidance violates the Take Care clause of the US Constitution (Article II, Section 3).  The fourth issue was added by the Supreme Court itself, suggesting the likelihood of a broad and detailed decision affecting far more than immigration law and reaching out into presidential power generally. A decision will likely be issued by the end of June 2016.

If the Supreme Court decides against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his coalition of 26 states, the Executive Actions could very well be carried out before the end of the year, and any new president will be forced to honor the policies as they stand when he or she comes into office (whether future changes can be made is a different matter, however). Indeed, the White House has stated publically that they intend to begin enrolling immigrants as soon as possible, and immigrants are likely to make haste in submitting their applications, given the political volatility of the program. Democratic presidential candidates have stated their intention to continue with the program while GOP candidates, predictably, have not.

The outcome of the case has undoubtedly been affected by Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden passing on February 13, 2016.  The conservative judge was almost certain to come down on the side of Attorney General Paxton.  While his missing vote is helpful to the immigrant cause, his absence could result in an equally divided court. A 4-4 tie verdict from the Supreme Court results in an automatic affirmation of the lower court’s ruling.  In this case, the lower court favored the state challenge by a 2-1 split.  While there may be an additional recourse in under those circumstances – a formal request for a re-hearing after a 9th justice has been appointed – the political machinations surrounding a quickly approaching presidential election are certain to slow down or halt any Supreme Court appointments, and any hope for DAPA as President Obama intended it become speculative at best.  Indeed, a week ago Senate Republicans have sworn that they will not hold any confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee selected by President Obama.  Of course, if five Supreme Court justices decide in the President’s favor and issue a positive decision this June, the DAPA program could likely become Obama’s departing legacy – and one of which he should be very proud.

Ignoring Alternatives & Increasing Detention of Families

Although the number of families being detained on the U.S.-Mexico border has dropped, the government is moving forward with plans to increase its capacity to detain families, with plans to open a new facility to house 2,400 women and children in Dilley, Texas, next month. Many of the women and children who would be housed in this facility are fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the option of releasing individuals on bond or providing an ankle monitor, detention is clearly the preferred solution. Detention is not only an expense that falls on the shoulders of tax-payers; it also exposes detainees to the risk of sexual abuse. In fact, a complaint from earlier this month alleges recent sexual abuse in the Karnes City, Texas, facility, and other centers were previously closed after numerous allegations of abuse. Meanwhile, an alternative program from 2004 known as ISAP (Intensive Supervision Appearance Program) has proven to be widely successful, with 93% of participants showing up to their scheduled hearings on their own accord.

Bond determinations are made based on an assessment of an immigrant’s potential danger to the community and the risk that they will not attend their removal proceedings, but instead going into hiding. In many of these cases, women and children have come to this country seeking protection and have turned themselves in at the border. They have very few resources. The chance that they will post a bond and not attend future court hearings is highly unlikely. A denial of bond, or a very high bond, should be reserved for individuals with a criminal history who have already proven that they pose a danger to society, or that they are likely to not show up for a scheduled hearing.

Expense and risk are not the only issues that cause concern to many; detention in these remote facilities means less access to paid or pro bono legal services. Although detainees at the Artesia center are provided a list of pro bono services, the services listed are hours away and the detainees often have no means of contacting them. If they elect to hire private counsel, they will have to look elsewhere as well, as the nearest immigration attorney is approximately an hour away from the facility. Volunteer attorneys who have traveled to Artesia to offer pro bono services note that there is not even a business center in the town of Artesia where an attorney can make photocopies or send faxes.

In response to the proposed development of the Dilley facility, several prominent Democratic senators recently wrote a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security. In that letter, found at http://www.leahy.senate.gov/download/101614-to-johnson-re-dilley-detention-center, the senators wrote:

“The administration’s practice of opposing bond in all of these cases, even those cases in which credible fear has been established and where there is no evidence of danger to the community or risk of flight, furthers the injustice for those families detained and unnecessarily increases the demand for bed space. Concerns over flight risk can be ameliorated through Alternatives to Detention (ATD), which help ensure the appearance of asylum seekers in immigration proceedings and are more cost effective.”

From the outside, it certainly seems that inexpensive and humane alternatives are low on the administration’s priority list, and one can’t help but wonder why – or wonder what priorities are more important. Several Democratic senators, at least, are left wondering.

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