National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Immigration Policy Update for October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Congress will remain on recess until November 13, after the election. In this issue are a number of updates to issues we’ve been following.

Update: Immigration and the Fiscal Cliff

On October 9, Representative Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter to his colleagues in the House with estimates of some of the impacts to agencies should Congress fail to compromise on a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit by the time automatic cuts are triggered on January 3. In the Department of Homeland Security, Dicks estimates that a total of 24,500 jobs may be cut due to the 8.2% budget reduction the agency will experience. Cuts include a reduction of 3,400 Border Patrol agents, dropping the total number of Border Patrol agents from 21,370 to 17,970. This decrease would conflict with Congressional requirements to maintain 21,370 agents on duty. Another 3,400 Customs and Border Protection agents could be cut. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would see a reduction of 932 Special Agents and 802 Enforcement and Removal Operations positions. The letter reiterates the warning previously issued by the Office of Management and Budget when it attempted to estimate the amount of funding that would be lost agency by agency [and briefly reported here]: “No amount of planning can mitigate the effect of these cuts.”

Update on DACA Numbers

The Administration has made available updated statistics for the processing of requests for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). As of October 10, there had been nearly 180,000 requests accepted for processing. The number of cases approved by that date was 4,591. We are still in the very early stages of the program, but as more potential beneficiaries complete their biometric services appointments, have their background checks completed, and have their paperwork reviewed, the number of case completions should jump up. Profiles of successful DACA applicants continue to make headlines.

Update: California TRUST Act Vetoed

As reported in this policy update, the California legislature passed a law, AB 1081 (the TRUST Act), which would have limited the ability of state and local governments to hold immigrants based on ICE immigration detainers. On September 30, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. While the Governor missed an opportunity to rein in the Secure Communities program and have it focus on immigrants with violent criminal convictions, he did pledge to work with California legislators to correct what he believes are flaws in the bill he was asked to sign. In his veto statement, Governor Brown said that “Until we have immigration reform, federal agents shouldn’t try to coerce local law enforcement officers into detaining people who have been picked up for minor offenses….” However, the bill as written, he said, omits certain serious offenses and therefore prohibits officers from honoring detainers for these immigrants. Such flaws, the Governor said, “can be fixed.”

The Governor did sign other immigration-related legislation. SB 1064 prohibits a family member's immigration status from being considered when deciding where to place children whose parents have been detained or deported. AB 2015 would require an arresting officer to determine whether a person taken into custody is responsible for a minor child and, if so, to provide the person with the opportunity to make two additional phone calls to arrange for the care of the minor child. AB 2189 pertains to immigrant youth eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allowing them to apply for drivers’ licenses.

Refugee Numbers Set for FY 2013

On October 10, the Executive Office of the President published a notice in the Federal Register setting refugee admission levels for the government’s fiscal year 2013. The total number of refugees proposed to be admitted will be 70,000, and the number will be allocated as follows: 12,000 from Africa; 17,000 from East Asia (most of these will be Burmese refugees being resettled from camps in Thailand and Malaysia); 2,000 from Central Asia (mainly religious minorities processed under the Lautenberg Amendment from countries of the former Soviet Union); 5,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean (mainly Cubans processed through an in-country resettlement program); 31,000 from the Near East and South Asia (from Iraq, Bhutan, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, among other countries). The admission ceiling for FY 2013 includes an unallocated reserve of 3,000.

The number of admissions proposed for FY 2013 is 6,000 below the number set for FY 2012, though the actual number of refugees admitted in 2012 fell short of the proposed level. For details and rationale for admission levels and priority groups of concern for the U.S., see this report from the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

Update: Haitian TPS

In our last policy update, we noted that the Department of Homeland Security had decided to extend Temporary Protected Status for certain Haitians as a result of the continued difficult conditions in Haiti, which is still recovering from a major earthquake in January 2010. On October 1, DHS published the official notice in the Federal Register, containing information on eligibility and the application process. In a related development, DHS published a notice (also on October 1) announcing it was suspending certain requirements governing employment for certain students from Haiti with F-1 visas.

Prosecutorial Discretion May Apply to Same Sex Partners

On October 5, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued guidance clarifying one of the criteria for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. In June 2011, the agency issued guidelines to carry out its priority focus on the removal of public safety and national security threats. Persons who are not a priority for removal, and who have “ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships,” may be offered administrative closure of their removal case. The October 5 memo makes clear that “family relationship” may include same-sex partners under certain circumstances. For more detail, you can read the memo here.

287(g) Agreements Extended while Under Review

According to the Houston Chronicle, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently sent a notice to the 62 law enforcement agencies participating in the 287(g) program informing them that their agreements will be extended through the end of the calendar year. The agency is currently reviewing these agreements, and says that the programs deemed “least productive” will be eliminated. Under the 287(g) program, state or local enforcement agencies enter into an agreement with ICE, receive training, and are delegated authority to enforce immigration law within their jurisdiction. The program has generated controversy as some enforcement agencies have used their authority granted by the program in a discriminatory manner. There are two types of 287(g) agreements, “task force” and “jail model” agreements. In July ICE Director John Morton told a Congressional committee that ICE would not renew task force agreements, out of concern that the program was not an efficient use of ICE resources.

Supreme Court Hears Immigration Deportation Case

On October 10, the Supreme Court heard the case of a Jamaican man who was a long-term permanent resident of the U.S. yet was deported after being convicted under Georgia law for possession of a small amount of marijuana. The case dealt with the intersection of state and federal criminal law and immigration law according to which a non-citizen can be classified as an “aggravated felon” even if the crime committed was minor. A summary of the arguments in this technical case appeared on SCOTUS Blog here.

On October 10, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments about an Arizona law that requires persons to prove they are American citizens before registering to vote. The 2004 Arizona law was blocked by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that federal law, allowing individuals to mail in voter registration cards and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury, trumps Arizona law, which adds the additional requirement of proving citizenship.

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