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Rights Groups Decry DOJ Plan to End Immigrant Help Programs

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the temporary end of funding for two programs designed to assist undocumented immigrants in immigration courts and detention centers.

The decision was confirmed on Tuesday by officials from the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrants and implemented the two DOJ-funded programs: The Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and the Immigration Court Helpdesk.

Vera Institute’s program works with 18 nonprofit legal service providers and reached 53,000 immigrants through the programs. The programs received about $8 million annually. The Helpdesk offers tips to immigrants who have not yet been detained, but are facing possible deportation in Chicago, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and San Antonio.

The “LOP is a lifeline for the more than 40,000 immigrants who face complex deportation proceedings from remote detention facilities every day”, Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, which works alongside Vera to administer the programs, said in a statement. The statement added that the programs jointly assist “53,000 immigrants per year”, mostly in immigration courts.


ACLU Lawsuit Challenges Separation of Immigrant Families

A class-action lawsuit accuses President Donald Trump’s administration of illegally detaining immigrants married to U.S. citizens while they pursue lawful immigration status.

The lawsuit was filed late Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts on behalf of immigrants’ subject to removal orders who have been or fear being separated from the U.S.-citizen spouses when they’re detained.

The ACLU says the administration is violating the law by detaining and trying to deport people who are following an established process for obtaining lawful immigration status based on their marriages.


Michigan Immigrant Driver’s License Bill Changed After Complaints

After complaints raised by immigration advocacy groups, Michigan legislators have modified a pair of House bills on driver’s licenses and state IDs for immigrants. On Tuesday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved modified bills, sending them to the House floor.

One part of the original bill said “the license shall be visually marked indicating that it is issued for a term that expires on the date the licensee is no longer considered to be legally present in the United States.” That part has now been removed, immigrant advocates said Tuesday.

In addition, the modified bill now includes a section that makes it clear the bill is for those with “temporary lawful status,” not immigrants who have permanent legal status.


Gov. Brown Will Deploy National Guard, But Not for Immigration Enforcement

Responding to President Donald Trump’s call for deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border, a defiant Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday he will commit 400 troops to the state’s effort to “combat transnational crime.”

Brown said the National Guard troops would be added “statewide,” so it was unclear exactly how many of those 400 troops would actually be sent to the border. He said the state’s transnational-crime effort currently includes 250 personnel statewide, including 55 at the border.

He said the federal government funding of 400 National Guard troops will allow the Guard “to do what it does best: support operations targeting transnational criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers along the border, the coast and throughout the state.”


Sessions Takes Fight On Border Enforcement to New Mexico

As thousands of National Guard troops deploy to the Mexico border, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions brought his tough stance on immigration enforcement to New Mexico on Wednesday, telling border sheriffs that cracking down on illegal crossings and drug smuggling is necessary to build a lawful immigration system. “This is not acceptable. It cannot continue,” Sessions said. “No one can defend the way the system is working today.”

Outside the meeting, dozens of immigrant rights activists protested, once again rejecting Sessions’ previous characterization of the border region as “ground zero” in the Trump administration’s fight against cartels and human traffickers. They chanted in Spanish, saying the region is not a “war zone,” and hoisted signs that protested the proposed border wall and the deployment of National Guard troops to the region.


Virginia Governor Vetoes Bill Banning Sanctuary Cities

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed a bill Monday that would have prohibited the establishment of sanctuary cities, an issue that dominated his race for governor last year. The bill was a single sentence: “No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”

Northam suggested the legislation would require Virginia cities and towns to shoulder the burden of enforcing federal immigration law, either by deputizing local police or by holding undocumented inmates in local lockups. He called the measure “unnecessary and divisive.”


Some 200 Migrants in Mexico Caravan to Seek U.S. Asylum

At least 200 Central American migrants in a “caravan” traveling through Mexico that provoked the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump plan to seek asylum in the United States, organizers said on Monday.

After arriving in Mexico City on Monday, hundreds of migrants poured into the Basilica of Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic shrine, to give thanks, collect themselves or unleash emotions coiled tight during their long journey together from the southern border.

The number looking to claim U.S. asylum was more than double what organizers had anticipated, said Rodrigo Abeja, a coordinator from Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a transnational organization that staged the caravan. Others in the caravan said they would stay in Mexico.


Facebook Would Not “Proactively” Provide Data to Immigration Officials to Help Identify Threats, Zuckerberg Says

Facebook would not “proactively” provide data on new entrants to the United States to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help the organization identify threats, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday. “We would not proactively do that,” Zuckerberg told Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Hirono asked him about handing over data that would help ICE determine a person’s likelihood of committing a crime after arriving in the U.S., part of a Trump administration directive on “extreme vetting.”

He added that Facebook cooperates with law enforcement if they become aware of an “imminent threat of harm,” in which case the company will reach out to law enforcement. Zuckerberg also said Facebook complies with subpoenas and data requests the company deems to be lawful.


GOP Lawmaker Says He Has Enough Support to Force Immigration Votes

Rep. Jeff Denham told The Hill that he has secured support from more than 40 House Republicans on a resolution that would allow debate and votes on four separate immigration proposals.

The four bills that would be considered are the conservative bill authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte; a Democratic measure that would be the Dream Act; a bill offered by Speaker Paul Ryan that would mirror President Trump’s immigration plan; and the bipartisan USA Act, a narrow bill limited to border security measures and protecting the Dreamers.

Denham’s resolution would initiate the “Queen of the Hill” rule, under which the bill that receives the most votes and surpasses the 218-vote threshold would be adopted by the House. If all bills fail to reach 218, they all would be rejected.



New York Courts Act Against Lawyers Protesting Immigration Agents

For the second day in a row, public defenders on Tuesday staged a walkout against the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in a city courthouse, this time in Queens. But the Office of Court Administration called these “impromptu demonstrations,” that it considers disruptive and take lawyers out of the courts.

Public defenders, politicians and some district attorneys have expressed alarm at the presence of ICE in courthouses because they said it frightens undocumented immigrants and could keep them from coming to court. They’ve sought ways to limit ICE from entering, such as being required to have an order signed by a judge.

Still, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has maintained that courts are public buildings and cannot legally keep ICE from entering. Courts are not considered “sensitive locations” by ICE, unlike schools and churches.


ICE Raid Prompts Legislation to Slam Employers Exploiting Illegal Immigration

Last week’s federal immigration raid at an East Tennessee slaughterhouse has prompted a state senator to draft legislation that would create harsher legal and financial punishments for employers who exploit immigrants living in the country illegally. “If we’re going to have [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] coming in and creating orphans in our community, then somebody should have to bear the responsibility for that,” said Sen. Jeff Yarbro.

Yarbro proposed the legislation, which involves “directly or indirectly” employing undocumented immigrants, investigation on laws violated in the workplace and payed restitutions. The legislation comes in the form of an amendment to a controversial bill that would explicitly ban sanctuary cities in Tennessee. Supporters of the bill say it’s necessary to ensure police don’t refuse ICE detainer requests.

“But if we’re actually going to be tough on immigration,” he said, “we should target employers that are exploiting immigrant workers instead of cities that are just trying to ensure public safety.”