Saturday, October 6, 2012

Disagree with Gabriela Saucedo Mercer and She Will Censor You

Disagree with Gabriela Saucedo Mercer and She Will Censor You

On October 2, 2012, a tragic event occurred near the U.S./Mexico border.  U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie lost his life and another agent was badly wounded.  From what I have read and heard, Ivie was an exceptional CBP agent who once carried a severely wounded pregnant woman 1 1/2 miles to safety through the treacherous Arizona desert.  Agent Ivie was survived by his wife and two daughters.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and colleagues.

Rather than honoring a life lost and just offering condolences, some politicians attempted to capitalize on Nick's death for political gain.  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer immediately released a statement, "Arizonans and Americans will grieve, and they should, but this ought not only be a day of tears. There should be anger, too. Righteous anger -- at the kind of evil that causes sorrow this deep, and at the federal failure and political stalemate that has left our border unsecured and our Border Patrol in harm’s way. Four fallen agents in less than two years is the result."

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, who has for two years made immigration one of the primary focuses of her campaign for U.S. congress in Arizona's Third District, went beyond Brewer's comments.  The day of this tragedy, Mercer recklessly posted on Facebook: "And yet another one of our finest Border Patrol Agent is murdered by illegals and one seriously wounded. And some people don't want me to talk about the wide open borders in Arizona? My heart and prayers go out to the families of the Border Patrol Agents involved in this tragedy." 

Yes, Saucedo Mercer somehow knew that Agent Ivie was “murdered by illegals” without any concrete evidence to back up her claim.  Even more tragically, on October 5, the FBI confirmed that Agent Ivie was killed by friendly fire.  The FBI came to this conclusion through investigative, forensic and analytical tests.   It is interesting to note how Saucedo Mercer gets her political agenda stated first and then sends her thoughts and prayers to the family.  That's all class!

Once this information was released by the FBI, numerous individuals, including myself, went to Saucedo Mercer’s Facebook page and demanded that she retract her reckless and ill-advised earlier comments and publicly apologize.  Saucedo Mercer, who holds herself out to be a defender of the Constitution and individual liberties, reacted in appropriate fashion: She erased the comments from any person who criticized her post and blocked us all.  I guess Saucedo Mercer forgot about the 1st Amendment. 

Ivie’s legacy will live on through his family and other hard-working and well meaning Border Patrol agents.  It was a life lost way too young.  Sadly, however, as of the writing of this blog, Saucedo Mercer continues to leave this misinformation on her Facebook page.  For that reason alone, she should continue to get questioned about her commitment to running an honest campaign. 

We live in an era where anyone can pretty much say anything without any truth, and some uninformed person will believe it.  If that’s the sort of political game Saucedo Mercer wants to play, good luck with that.  However, by censoring detractors and fact checkers, her actions demonstrate that she is undeniably unprepared to be a congresswoman and deal with individuals who disagree with her or protect our constitutional right to free speech.

A DACA Pep Talk

A DACA Pep Talk

The past few months have been both exciting and terrifying for undocumented youth.  Exciting for the opportunity to apply for an employment authorization document and contribute to this country.  Terrifying to not know what is going to happen after the November 6 election.  However, yesterday was another sobering reminder that while we have made some good strides, we have a long way to go.  It was a reminder that while we can rejoice over the Deferred Action policy we must continue to push our elected officials beyond just a DREAM Act.  We need a DREAM Act Plus, also known as Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

So, what happened yesterday?  One of the most prominent faces in the current immigrant rights movement, Jose Antonio Vargas, was arrested and charged with driving without a valid driver’s license. No, this did not happen in Arizona.  It happened in Minneapolis-St. Paul which continues to operate in Secure Communities.

According to the MinnPost, Jose was released approximately 2 ½ hours later.  But, what if the person wasn’t a Pulitzer prize winning journalist?  What if Jose was not released and an ICE hold was placed on him?  Jose is 31 years old and because of his age he does not qualify for the current program called Deferred Action (DACA).  He is a low priority according to the ICE guidelines, but you never know what can happen when an ICE officer has all the discretionary power.

The election is a perfect time to hold all political figures accountable for their past and future decisions. 

Since Jim Lehrer neglected to address immigration as a domestic policy in the first debate, I suppose we’ll hear about it in one of the upcoming debates.  Both presidential candidates should provide their plans for reform and define their differences and similarities.

We need to know whether Governor Mitt Romney will deport a person like Jose?  If elected president, will he deport Jose’s parents?  Will he deport someone who is not as decorated as Jose?  Will he continue to support state-based immigration laws like SB-1070?  Will he continue to flip back-and-forth on immigration or show some backbone and stick with a position?  These questions should be directly asked of him and he should give us straight answers. 

We need to know what are President Obama’s exact plans for passing comprehensive immigration reform.  Does he really believe that he can get reform passed if re-elected?   Does he truly believe that congress will work with him and why?  Why is ICE still detaining low priority individuals and deporting them when there is a policy that they are not supposed to be doing this?  We need a plan, not lip service.

Moral of the story: this is not a time to let your guard down.  If you have applied for DACA and you already have your biometrics appointment or your work permit this is a time to celebrate, but don’t forget the others who are currently left out in the cold.  If you have not been involved with local advocacy, get involved.  If you are involved, keep it up!  Hold your local elected officials and candidates accountable.  Volunteer for candidates that support immigrant-friendly policies. Share your stories. Blog. Write Op-eds.  Make sure that like-minded U.S. citizens register to vote.  Get your brothers, sisters, parents and friends involved in the movement.

Advocates that have pushed for DACA should be proud of the results of their hard work.  But, we must continue to push for a broader reform that can benefit the entire undocumented community and make for a more rational path to this country for future flows of immigrants. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Most Intriguing Story You'll Ever Read About...Handball?

What does the sport of handball mean to you?   Probably not much. 

It meant something to President Abraham Lincoln, who played handball as he awaited the results of the presidential nominating convention in Chicago in May 1860.

Over the past couple years I found out what handball means to Luis Moreno.  It is a gateway to fulfilling his dreams in the United States. 

Envision this timeline of events:

·         Luis last entered the United States in 1997, when he was only nine years old, but had lived in the U.S. since he was two.

·         A graduate of Tucson's Sunnyside High School, Luis lived much of 22 years in the United States without documentation.

·         Last week Luis became a lawful permanent resident based on his extraordinary abilities as a handball player.

·         Next week Luis will represent the United States, the only country he has ever known, in the World Handball Championships in Ireland.  He is a favorite to win it all.

Luis is yet another example of how complicated it is to navigate through the draconian U.S. immigration system. Luis was 20 years old when he was arrested by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Tucson airport, while attempting to travel to a handball tournament.  He was not married, had no children and had little hope in fighting his removal case.  Fortunately, there was a long forgotten document that Luis did not realize would ultimately save him.

In 2000, Luis was introduced to the Yes-2-Kids organization which provides mentoring to children in at-risk neighborhoods in Tucson.  He was introduced to the sport of handball and quickly became enamored with it.  By 2003 he began to compete in major tournaments and rapidly shot up the national junior rankings.  Eventually he reached number one on the World Pro Handball Tour.  

Gloria Goldman met with Luis and immediately realized that he was an individual who embodied extraordinary ability in athletics.  He was undoubtedly at the top of his field.  After discussing his family’s immigration history, she also realized that if she filed an I-140 petition as an individual with extraordinary ability and got an approval, Luis would benefit from that aforementioned document: An I-130 petition filed by his grandmother on behalf of his father on September 7, 1994.  Luis would be the beneficiary of INA §245(i) as a minor derivative of a “grandfathered alien” from that petition.  Without 245(i) he would have no other options to straighten out his immigration status and remain in the U.S. permanently.

            To be considered “extraordinary” under the immigration law, the applicant must be “one of that small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.”  Luis was number one in the world.  You would probably guess that number one is rising to the top of the field.  Not according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which denied his petition on September 16, 2011.

            Not to be deterred, Gloria and Luis regrouped and re-filed the petition on June 1, 2012.  Fortunately, this time around, the USCIS officer granted the petition.  Luis was one step closer to becoming a resident.  One final step remained: With only a few months until the World Championships Luis was able to get his removal case terminated and September 27, 2012, adjust his status to lawful permanent residency.

            In the matter of a month, Luis Moreno has gone from being undocumented and facing some grim uncertainty about his future to now representing a country that he loves in the highest level of competition.  Whatever the results from his competition in Ireland, he knows that he will be welcomed back to the United States.  He’s another example of what individual perseverance and wise immigration policy can lead to.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Open Letter to Gov. Jan Brewer (uncensored version)

September 26, 2012

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Governor Brewer:

            Just like you, I’m also an overachiever.  I would imagine that very few expected that you would ever become the Governor of the great state of Arizona.  Similarly, against all odds, I graduated from law school and I am now a licensed attorney in Arizona.  But this letter is not about either of us.  In fact, this letter is about a group of achievers who want to have the opportunity to better society.  Yes, I’m talking about your favorite group of achievers: DREAMers.    

            On August 15, 2012, you issued an Executive Order which barred those individuals eligible for Deferred Action (DACA) from obtaining driver’s licenses or other state benefits.  After a fiscal analysis, I can only conclude that this decision was based upon your personal vendetta against President Barack Obama.  Besides having no basis in federal or state law to issue this executive order, your policy will cost the state and businesses millions of dollars.

            Had you, or your advisers, conducted an unbiased cost-benefit analysis, you would have likely concluded that this program will have a profoundly positive impact on a number of industries in our state, along with making our streets safer and saving Arizona resident’s money.  Before I go any further, I must confess that I am no economist and my calculations may be considered rudimentary to some, but it will definitely make sense to you.

            Let’s start from the basics: There is an estimated 50,000-80,000 individuals in Arizona who will qualify for DACA.  A driver’s license for applicants age 16-39 is $25.00.  Using the low-end estimate of individuals, which would mean the state is bound to earn $1.25 million in driver license fees.  Let me add that these individuals will only get work permission from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for two years and then have to apply for renewals.  That means the state will collect $1.25 million, or more, every two years!

            In order to qualify for work permission under DACA, all applicants will have to undergo a strict vetting process by DHS.  Candidates who will qualify must undergo background checks, been physically present in the United States for at least five years, and provide clear evidence that they have either completed high school or are currently in school.  Many have already taken college courses or completed their post-secondary schooling.  Therefore, we are talking about a class of individuals that are educated and will provide a benefit to the lagging Arizona economy.  Rather than taking jobs from U.S. citizens, they will help expand the growth of businesses and spend their hard-earned money in the state.

            Who else is bound to gain from the issuance of drivers licenses to DACA grantees?  Insurances companies, car dealers, gas stations, automotive service stations, car washes, and pretty much any business that is not near a bus stop.  Arizona is not exactly known for its excellent public transportation systems.  Therefore, getting from point A to point B can be difficult without an automobile.  According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), one in eight Arizona drivers are uninsured.  According to IRC, Arizona has the fifth highest percentage of uninsured motorists at 22% of the population.  Insurance companies are bound to gain more customers and benefit their businesses when new drivers can either lease or purchase cars.  There will be a trickle-down benefit to gas stations, tire and brake repair, and many other related industries.

            The economic benefits to this program are considerable and I have attached a report from the Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council, which provides raw data of these benefits.  This includes tax benefits, expansion of investments, more spending and an increased incentive to fulfill educational goals.  Nobody loses from this program and the state is missing a golden opportunity.  This program only helps a narrow group of persons and, contrary to what you believe, will not be a magnet for others to enter the country without documentation.

            Assuming you have made it to this point in my letter and your eyes are not completely glazed over, I want to make a final legal point.  There is no doubt that the state is bound to lose money in litigation costs, and ultimately will lose in the courts, as the policy conflicts with state law and the federal REAL ID Act.  More wasted money on behalf of taxpayers, more image problems and less tourism. 

Just like you, I am stubborn.  However, I recognize that in order to function in society we must compromise, and sometimes make decisions that are against our core beliefs.  I believe that your advisors are misleading you on the issue of immigration and particularly in the benefits of this DACA program.   The benefits of this program to our state far outweigh the costs that we will incur if your executive order remains in place.  Therefore, with the utmost respect, I ask that you lift this executive order and allow the economic boon that this program will bring to our state to become a reality. 

Thank you and God bless America.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Defining a DREAMer

Defining a DREAMer

            Tonight I started thinking about the hundreds of times I’ve said, typed and dreamt the term “Dreamer” over the past couple years.  Not to mention the dozens of times I’ve watched the movie “Dinner with Schmucks” where the term Dreamer is used repeatedly (no one has ever accused me of being an intellect).  There is a scene in the movie where Barry, played by Steve Carrell, speaks about the “Tower of Dreamers.”  At the end of the monologue, Barry so movingly states:

            Dare to dream. Dream your wildest dreams.
You can climb the highest mountain.
You can drown in a teacup, if you find a big enough teacup.
And if somebody tells you that you can't do something, you say, 
"Yes, I can. 'Cause I'm doing it right now!"

We should all take a lesson from Barry and follow his direction!  After listening to the participants at the Democratic National Convention say “DREAMer” so many times that the term may have actually jumped the shark, I figured it might be fun to look up the definitions of the term.  I went on and found three definitions:

Dream·er [dree-mer] noun
1.  a person who dreams.
2.  a person who lives in a world of fantasy; one who is impractical and unrealistic.
3. a person whose ideas or projects are considered audacious or highly speculative; visionary.

A person who dreams: Well, duh.  This is exactly what I think of when I use the term DREAMer, in the immigration context.

A person who lives in a world of fantasy; one who is impractical and unrealistic: The GOP could be called DREAMers too?  Good luck with that self-deportation platform, Mr. Romney and Mr. Kobach.

A person whose ideas or projects are considered audacious or highly speculative; visionary: This might be a good definition for our President on immigration.  It would be nice to see wider use of his executive powers in order to stop the removal of individuals from the United States.  Lest we forget the record number of deportations on his watch, but with the recent announcement of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) perhaps it’s the first step to making good on his overdue promise for comprehensive immigration reform from four years ago.

Thinking back to the 2008 presidential election, I remember telling others about young people who were DREAM-Act eligible.  Always having to explain what it all meant.  Eventually I started using the term “DREAMer” on a regular basis, but I still had to explain what I meant by that expression.  Now the terminology has become part of the everyday vernacular.  There have been some incredible strides made in this movement during the past year.  Anyone who has been involved in this movement has a right to celebrate these achievements.  But, before we all start high-fiving one another or liking each other’s Facebook statuses, let’s remember that we still have a long, long way to go in this struggle.

We must continue to hold our politicians, on both sides of the aisle, accountable for their lack of leadership in getting Comprehensive Immigration Reform passed.  We cannot become complacent.  Do not forget about all those other “DREAMers” who may not meet the definition under DACA.  The 35-year-old DREAMer, the 40-year-old DREAMer, and the 50+ DREAMer’s.  Keep up the great work everyone and don’t forget to tell those people who try to dissuade you from speaking out:

"Yes, I can. ‘Cause I'm doing it right now!"

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Executive Disorder

Executive Disorder

Re-Affirming Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s Ignorance and 
Botched “Gotcha” Moment Against the Federal Government

WHEREAS, a bully is defined as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker; and

WHEREAS, Jan Brewer is an ignorant bully, an embarrassment to humanity and, most likely, does not even know the meaning of “whereas”; and

WHEREAS, Jan Brewer continues to instill unnecessary fear into the minds of Arizona residents based on misinformation and lies; and

WHEREAS, the latest attempt to oppress undocumented immigrants will fail in the courts; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute 1-502(A)(7) an employment authorization document (EAD) is one of the many listed documents to demonstrate lawful presence in the United States to be eligible for state or local benefits; and

WHEREAS, Russell Pearce, another ignorant bully and embarrassment to humanity, wrote ARS 1-502(A)(7).  Therefore, according to Mr. Pearce and the state of Arizona anyone with this form of identification has lawful presence in the United States and can qualify for a driver’s license; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has clearly stated that a person with deferred status will not accrue unlawful presence in the United States.  Therefore, they have lawful presence by directive of the DHS Secretary; and

WHEREAS, Arizona Revised Statute 28-3153(D) states “Notwithstanding any other law, the department shall not issue to or renew a driver license or nonoperating identification license for a person who does not submit proof satisfactory to the department that the applicant's presence in the United States is authorized under federal law; and

WHEREAS, Jan Brewer’s mean spirited order will not only damage beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but many others including victims of domestic violence who benefit under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); and 

WHEREAS, Jan Brewer has again embarrassed the state of Arizona through her arbitrary, capricious and abusive attempt at rulemaking.

NOW THEREFORE, it must be concluded that:

1.      Jan enjoys bullying undocumented immigrants and students who want to better themselves and the United States;

2.      Jan loves getting sued and wasting Arizona taxpayers dollars on defending lawsuits, rather than making more money for Arizona residents and taxpayers by issuing drivers licenses, benefitting the auto, insurance, education industries, amongst others;

3.      Jan does not know the definition of whereas, arbitrary, capricious or lawful presence;

4.      Jan will again lose this battle and, as a diversion, claim that there are headless bodies hiding somewhere at the Motor Vehicles Division office because of DREAMers.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Deferring Action: The Benefits of Legal Counsel

Deferring Action: The Benefits of Legal Counsel

Immigration attorneys hear it time and time again:

Do I need to meet with a qualified lawyer to review my situation? 

Do I need to hire a lawyer to assist me with this application or process?

Well, in the case of the recently announced Deferred Action initiative for certain undocumented youth, known by many as DREAMers, perhaps we should ask Chris Crane these questions.  In case you didn’t already know, Chris Crane is a top official for the union representing some Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and over the past couple years  he’s disagreed with just about every policy directed towards his agents from his superiors in Washington, D.C. 

Mr. Crane is now claiming that ICE agents have been told to “blindly” and without credible evidence release DREAMers who they come in contact with. As a lawyer who has dealt with ICE and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regarding the release of DREAMers since June 15, 2012, my experience has been that they have always requested verifiable evidence prior to release.  With Mr. Crane’s unsubstantiated pronouncements, it is obvious that there are people within the rank-and-file of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that are not happy with this initiative. 

Mr. Crane’s statements come on the heels of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s defense of the initiative before the House Judiciary Committee where she was grilled by numerous congressional representatives regarding this announcement.  Secretary Napolitano testified that our immigration laws are not designed to be “blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case.”

What does all this mean to DREAMers who may qualify?  In the coming weeks and months they will make some critical decisions that could considerably impact their lives for the near future.  Decisions that could lead to the opportunity to land a work permit, drivers license and possibly gainful employment.  On the other hand, this is a decision that could land a person in hot water and potentially exile from the United States.  For some, it will be best not to file due to the inherent risks.  Many unanswered questions still exist (can anyone out there tell me what a “significant misdemeanor” is?). 

We know that this initiative will be closely scrutinized by the few who disagree with the entire concept of DREAM.  There will be officers and politicians who will want to find any indicia of fraud to try and derail this program and any similar programs or legislation in the future.

We also know that, as of today, DHS has stated there will be no appeals of denied requests.  We know that there is the possibility of applicants having to attend a face-to-face interview with officers at DHS.  Therefore, with the risks, applicants have a lot to lose if they do not consider, at the very least, a one-on-one consultation with a licensed immigration attorney.  Furthermore, while the actual process is not yet in place, it is advisable to start getting credible documentation assembled.  Once final guidance has been set, and possibly filing deadlines, there will be a flood of applications.

So, if you are thinking about requesting deferred action, ask these questions:

Do I need to meet with a qualified lawyer to review my situation? You would be well served to seek the counsel of a reputable immigration attorney or a representative of a non-profit organization certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals to provide assistance in immigration matters.  A qualified provider is your ally in this process and could help you navigate through a process that could be laden with some unforeseen landmines.

Important Note: An attorney should provide an honest assessment of your case and advise you not to apply if it is not recommended under your particular circumstances.  You can always get a second opinion, but this is a good sign that the attorney you consulted with has your best interests in mind.

Do I need to hire a lawyer to assist me with this application or process?  That is a matter of personal preference.  However, if you do decide on hiring an attorney you should do your own due diligence.  Remember that attorneys are bound by ethical provisions and are required to provide competent legal representation to their clients. 

Finally, you must understand that while your case may look perfect on paper there are absolutely no guarantees when you are dealing with the government.  Therefore, be wary of anyone who makes blanket guarantees about the processing, time-frames or likelihood of success.

For more information and updates on the Deferred Action Program, check the American Immigration Lawyers Association Resources page.  You can also find a lawyer who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association in your area at the website.  Additionally, here is a list of recognized organizations and accredited representatives from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Department of Justice.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Walking the Walk...Talking the Talk: Campaign for an American Dream

Walking the Walk…

Over the past century, a handful of people have walked across the United States for a variety of different causes.  The struggle for comprehensive immigration reform has finally spawned a walk that will take four individuals on a journey across the United States beginning on March 10, 2012.  At high noon, Jonatan Martinez, Lucas Da Silva, Nico Gonzalez and Raymi Gutierrez will embark on a 3,000-mile walk from the Golden Gate Bridge to Washington D.C.  The Campaign for an American Dream (CAD) was developed as a means of creating “dialogue around the passage of the DREAM Act and immigration reform with the values of equality, unity, and diversity.”  I call on everyone who believes in the need for immigration reform to sign-on to support this cause, to contribute to it and to follow the walkers along their journey.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform has been a long time coming and, as the days and years pass us by, the struggle to live a normal life becomes more difficult.  This is especially noticeable with the passage of xenophobic state-based restrictions.  In spite of the struggles, many are coming up with creative and courageous ways to bring the need for immigration reform to the forefront.  Over two years ago, a group of brave students (Carlos Roa, Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, and Juan Rodriguez) walked from Miami to Washington D.C. in their Trail of Dreams.  Across the U.S., numerous undocumented persons are risking their own freedoms as a means of drawing attention to their plight.  They are becoming more and more outspoken against state anti-immigrant policies and the need for congress to act now.

…Talking the Talk

The CAD walk will also spread valuable dialogue amongst many communities across the U.S.  The walkers intend to dispel myths about immigrants and why we need CIR.  The kick-off event will feature a speech by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and advocate Jose Antonio Vargas.  Other thought-provoking discussions are planned along the way.  This is not only about the symbolic walk across the country but also to bring the conversation to many communities.

On the CAD 2012 website, you can read about each of the walkers and hear their personal stories.  Lucas Da Silva explains why he is putting himself out there for this cause:

I stand with confidence of a better future today because I have chosen
to shed my fear and take up arms for the families and youth that live in
fear and hide in the shadows. I cannot sit idly by as we are oppressed by
the current immigration laws that are separating our families and destroying
the hopes of our youth. Tired of lying, hiding, running, and crying, I choose
to fight for the people that suffer.

Along with the website, you can also track the CAD on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Living a Nightmare

Living a Nightmare

Desperate and hopeless Joaquin Luna Jr. took his own life.  He dreamed of someday becoming either an engineer or an architect.  Joaquin will never live that dream.  Yanelli Hernandez was deported to Mexico yesterday.  Like Joaquin, she also had dreams, but she suffered from depression and a serious mental illness that resulted in her attempting to commit suicide while facing imminent removal from the United States.  ICE denied an emergency stay of removal citing lack of evidence of her mental illness.  The response from ICE begs the question of how many undocumented persons suffer from mental illness or depression but are not receiving much needed treatment or medication.  

 The memorandum by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens (aka the Prosecutorial Discretion memo), listed 19 factors to that an ICE agent may consider when weighing whether he should exercise prosecutorial discretion and, in some cases, grant a stay of removal.  The list is not exhaustive and no one factor is determinative.  One of the factors listed is if the person suffers from a severe mental illness.  While I’m not a doctor or psychologist, I would venture to guess that many people with depression keep their emotions pent up.  The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 9.5% of the adult American population suffers from depressive disorder.  That statistic doesn’t consider people like Joaquin or Yanelli.

So, imagine if you are in a country where you have an uncertain future.  You want to achieve and make a better life for yourself and your parents, but you are not sure if you can even go to college or join the military.  You cannot leave the U.S. because there is a high risk of facing long-term or permanent separation from family and friends.  For many undocumented persons, they came to the U.S. at a young age and know only this country (“DREAMers”). Finally, to compound your problems, you can’t even trust the two largest political parties in this country.  Note to Republican and Democratic parties: we know that all you care about is wooing future potential voters, but perhaps you could be a bit more discreet and attempt to show some compassion for humans rather than your own political future.

This dilemma is as much a mental health problem as it is an immigration problem.  Every time a politician, on either side of the aisle, makes a promise or a proposal to work on the immigration problem they are toying with the emotions of millions.  Some of the most vulnerable are those DREAMers who have spent most of their lives in the U.S. and consider this their country.  The constant tug of war by politicians, combined with the normal stresses of daily life, is a recipe for more mental troubles. 

My father always told me that you can make lemonade out of lemons, and this is another situation where that can be done.  One positive that we can take away from the plight of Joaquin and Yanelli is that it has further galvanized the DREAMer population and placed a spotlight on the often unaddressed problem of mental illness.  In fact, on Monday, Cindy Padilla from the U.S. Health and Human Services, stated that she will be taking this issue back to D.C. and further explore it.  There is even a great online resource available for those individuals who want more information or need help:

It is unnerving that many (including stars like Oprah Winfrey) in this country ignore the pink elephant in the room when it comes to the plight of undocumented immigrants, and especially DREAMers.  With more consideration as to the benefits of legalizing undocumented immigrants and less overall negativity, perhaps we can help many who suffer from mental illness and depression.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Immigration 101 in Nursery Rhyme

Immigration 101 in Nursery Rhyme

Watching the Florida Republican Primary Debates this week again demonstrated that these final four candidates simply refuse to understand the dynamics of our draconian immigration system.  Perhaps they just don’t understand the complexity of it and the numerous roadblocks that serve as a barrier to those who want to legally immigrate to the United States.  Three of the remaining candidates contend that we must deport anyone who is not legally present in the country.  The other candidate thinks it would be wise to set up some sort of citizen review panel, which sounds more like a bad game show.  Since this seems to be so difficult to comprehend, allow me to demonstrate why their ideas are shameful composed through a format that they might relate to and understand: Nursery rhymes (Note: the following rhymes are based on true stories)

Jack and Jill Meet the Ten Year Bar

Jack and Jill came to Chapel Hill,
To make a new life for themselves.
Undocumented for more than a year,
Now they live in fear.

Jack was pulled over by the police,
He was forced to his knees.
Jack was deported back to Chile,
A ten year bar left Jill lonely.

INA §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) bars a person for three years if they remain in the U.S. without proper documentation (unlawfully present) for more than 6 months.  INA §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II) bars a person for ten years if they remain in the U.S. without proper documentation for more than a year.  Therefore, this law provides a disincentive for a person to self-deport as suggested by Governor Romney.  There are limited waivers available for these bars, but most people are too fearful to leave the U.S. and face these harsh penalties.  Attrition through enforcement only makes sense if people actually leave, eliminating state benefits is not going to force people out.  Plus, it is inhumane.

Humpty Dumpty Waited and Waited…

Humpty Dumpty sponsored his son for a green card,
Humpty Dumpty didn’t realize that the process would be this hard,
One year became two years became five years,
Twenty years passed by and his son was still waiting in tears.

We welcome anyone to take an hour (or a week) and try to make sense out of what is known as the Visa Bulletin.  This is published by the U.S. Department of State on a monthly basis.  Processing times can vary from one category to the next, but most family-based sponsored immigration can take a decade or longer.  Conservative economists consistently decry the current system that does nothing more than separate families and hurt the U.S. in competing for the best and brightest foreign workers.  Making the argument that undocumented immigrants should leave and get in the back of the line is completely illogical since the “line” has no end in sight.

Little Boy Blue and Needs Hope

Little Boy Blue, he missed his dreams.
A waste of talent, he often screams.
Where is the boy who picks your grapes?
He’s sweating his ass off and can’t escape.
Will you help him?  Santorum says no.
He hopes that Little Boy Blue self deports.

DREAM Act anyone? Comprehensive Immigration Reform?  Newt Gingrich talks about the plight of grandparents who are in this country without legal status.  What about the rest of the family?  What about the children of immigrants who came to this country when they were minors and have grown up in the United States?  To deny these individuals, many of whom are no longer minors, an opportunity to go to college and join the military and someday become a U.S. citizen is un-American.  The government should give these young people an opportunity to thrive and use the skills they developed in our system.  For that matter, it is high time that Congress passes a reasonable comprehensive bill to provide a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants in the United States.