ACLU answers questions on ICE immigration enforcement activities in Oregon

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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Speaks Out

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the executive order on immigration and refugees that the President signed on Friday. It bans Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspends the entire refugee program for 120 days, cuts in half the number of refugees we can admit, and halts all travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.

I felt I had no choice but to speak out against it in the strongest possible terms.

This is a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America’s core values. We have a proud tradition of sheltering those fleeing violence and persecution, and have always been the world leader in refugee resettlement. As a refugee myself who fled the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, I personally benefited from this country’s generosity and its tradition of openness. This order would end that tradition, and discriminate against those fleeing a brutal civil war in Syria.

There is no data to support the idea that refugees pose a threat. This policy is based on fear, not facts. The refugee vetting process is robust and thorough. It already consists of over 20 steps, ensuring that refugees are vetted more intensively than any other category of traveler.

The process typically takes 18-24 months, and is conducted while they are still overseas. I am concerned that this order’s attempts at “extreme vetting” will effectively halt our ability to accept anyone at all. When the administration makes wild claims about Syrian refugees pouring over our borders, they are relying on alternative facts — or as I like to call it, fiction.

The truth is that America can simultaneously protect the security of our borders and our citizens and maintain our country’s long tradition of welcoming those who have nowhere else to turn. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are the obligation of a country built by immigrants.

Refugees should not be viewed as a burden or as potential terrorists. They have already made great contributions to our national life. Syrian refugees are learning English, getting good jobs, buying homes, and starting businesses. In other words, they are doing what other generations of refugees — including my own — did. And I have no doubt that, if given the opportunity, they will become an essential part of our American fabric.

By targeting Muslim-majority countries for immigration bans and by expressing a clear preference for refugees who are religious minorities, there’s no question this order is biased against Muslims. And when one faith is targeted, it puts us all at risk.

I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and seeing the Statue of Liberty when I came here as a child. It proclaims “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty, and today she is weeping.

This executive order does not reflect American values. If you agree, make your voice heard now.


Madeleine Albright
Former Secretary of State

Refugees Detained at U.S. Airports, Prompting Legal Challenges to Trump’s Immigration Order

JAN. 28, 2017


The wife of an Iraqi citizen who was detained at Kennedy Airport. She was at her sister’s home in Houston on Saturday. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect Friday night. Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.

The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqis held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.

Mr. Trump’s order, which suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival.

Mr. Trump’s order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and it bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

It was unclear how many refugees and immigrants were being held nationwide in the aftermath of the executive order. The complaints were filed by a prominent group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, the National Immigration Law Center, Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization and the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

The attorneys said they were not allowed to meet with their clients, and there were tense moments as they tried to reach them.

“Who is the person we need to talk to?” asked one of the lawyers, Mark Doss, supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Mr. President,” said a Customs and Border Protection agent, who declined to identify himself. “Call Mr. Trump.”

The executive order, which Mr. Trump said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.

In the arrivals hall at Terminal 4 of Kennedy Airport, Mr. Doss and two other lawyers fought fatigue as they tried to learn the status of their clients on the other side of the security perimeter.

“We’ve never had an issue once one of our clients was at a port of entry in the United States,” Mr. Doss said. “To see people being detained indefinitely in the country that’s supposed to welcome them is a total shock.”

“These are people with valid visas and legitimate refugee claims who have already been determined by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to be admissible and to be allowed to enter the U.S. and now are being unlawfully detained,” Mr. Doss said.

According to the filing, Hameed Khalid Darweesh was granted a special immigrant visa on Jan. 20, the same day Mr. Trump was sworn in. He worked with the United States in Iraq in a variety of jobs — as an interpreter, engineer and contractor — over the course of roughly a decade.

Mr. Darweesh worked as an interpreter for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad and Mosul starting shortly after the invasion of Iraq on April 1, 2003. The filing said he had been directly targeted twice for working with the American military.

A husband and father of three, he arrived at Kennedy Airport Friday evening with his family. Mr. Darweesh’s wife and children made it through passport control and customs, but agents of Customs and Border Protection stopped and detained him.

Brandon Friedman, who worked with Mr. Darweesh as an infantry lieutenant with the 101st Airborne praised Mr. Darweesh’s work. “This is a guy that this country owes a debt of gratitude to,” Mr. Friedman said. “There are not many Americans who have done as much for this country as he has. He’s put himself on the line. He’s put his family on the line to help U.S. soldiers in combat and it is astonishing to me that this country would suddenly not allow people like that in.”

Mr. Friedman, who is chief executive of the McPherson Square Group, a communications firm in Washington, continued, “We have a moral obligation to protect and repay these people who risked their lives for U.S. troops.”

He said he feared for America’s military: “This not only endangers troops in the future, it endangers troops who are in combat now in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria wherever. If those interpreters and those fixers hear that the United States is not going to protect them then they don’t have any incentive to work with U.S. troops and there’s no way that we can operate without their support and assistance.”

“He is a brave individual and he cares about Iraq and he cares about the U.S.”

Mr. Alshawi was supposed to be reunited with his wife, who has been living in Texas. The wife, who asked to be identified by her first initial of D. out of concern for her family’s safety, wiped away tears as she sat on a couch in her sister’s house early Saturday morning, in a Houston suburb.

The woman, a 32-year-old who was born in Iraq, met her husband while both were students at a Baghdad college. The couple has one child — a 7-year-old son who is in first grade. The boy was asleep in the house at 3 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, oblivious to the fact that his father was in the United States, but under detention and the possible threat of return to Iraq.

Relatives crowded the living room in their pajamas and slippers, making and receiving phone calls to and from other relatives and the refugee’s lawyers. At times, D. was so emotional she had trouble speaking about her husband’s predicament.

She pulled out her cellphone and flipped through her pictures while seated on the couch. She wanted to show a reporter a picture she took of her son’s letter to Santa Claus. In November, at a Macy’s Santa-letter display at a nearby mall, the boy wrote out his wish: “Dear Santa: Can you bring my Dad from Sweden pls.” He has not seen his father in three years.

“I’m really breaking down, because I don’t know what to do,” she said. “It’s not fair.”

She and her relatives had not told her son that his father was finally coming to Houston and that his wish to Santa was about to come true. “It was a surprise for him,” she said.

Earlier in the day on Friday, she had watched news coverage about Mr. Trump’s executive order. “My husband was already on the airplane,” she said. “He got to the airplane at 11 o’clock in Houston time.” At that point, she grew worried about what impact the order would have on her husband, but she assumed it would not take effect immediately.

D., as well as her brother and her sister, asked that their full names not be used because they were concerned that publicity about the case would lead to harassment.

At about 2:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, Mr. Alshawi called his wife on her cellphone. They spoke for about five minutes. D. put the call on speaker so the rest of the family gathered at the house could hear. It was the first time D. and her husband spoke since he arrived at the airport in New York at about 8:30 p.m. Eastern timeFriday, she said. He flew from Stockholm to JFK Airport, and he was supposed to then fly from New York to Houston.

“He gave his package and his passport to an airport officer, and they didn’t talk to him, they just put him in a room,” she said. “He told me that they forced him to get back to Iraq. He asked for his lawyer and to apply for an asylum case. And they told him you can’t do that, you need to go back to your country.”

She said that the authorities at the airport told him that the president’s signing of the executive order was the reason he could not proceed to Houston.

D.’s brother added of the phone call with his brother-in-law, “He’s very calm but he’s, like, desperate. He said, ‘They are sending me there, they are sending me there,’ ” referring to Iraq.

The wall is the least aggressive part of Trump’s executive actions on immigration

The biggest single-day changes to immigration policy in recent memory.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders that constitute the biggest change to federal immigration policy in a single day in recent memory.

Trump signed an order that directs the Department of Homeland Security to begin construction on a wall between the US and Mexico — while cracking down on people who cross the border now, many of whom are children and families seeking asylum from Central America. A second order, also signed Wednesday, began to loosen restrictions on whom immigration agents can apprehend and deport within the United States — allowing immigration agents to adopt a broader definition of “criminal” to deport more people faster.

It has been widely reported that he will sign executive orders later this week that would pause all refugee admissions to the US for several months, and block all arrivals from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Trump’s actions today answer one question that has circled around him since the earliest days of his campaign: Should we take him literally? His early executive orders, especially these on immigration, suggest that Trump is serious about changing US policy to fulfill the strident immigration commitments at the center of his policy agenda. Already, he has laid out a policy agenda that is aggressive — even hostile — toward many unauthorized immigrants within the US, both those who have crossed the border seeking asylum and those who have lived here for years.

Trump told DHS to start building a wall, and use existing money to pay for it

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised that the US would build a wall on its border with Mexico and Mexico would pay for it.

He’s still working on the second part, but he’s moving ahead on the first. The executive order he signed Wednesday directed the Department of Homeland Security to “identify and, to the extent permitted by law, allocate all Federal funds” that could be used to build the wall.

Border patrol agent on ATVJohn Moore/Getty Images

President Trump has the authority to do this — in fact, he didn’t need to use a formal executive order to do it. (He could have just sent a memo.) The executive branch has the ability to move funds around within existing congressional appropriations; as long as the president isn’t asking an executive branch agency for more than Congress has allocated for a particular budget line, he can send Congress a letter notifying them of the change in plans.

Under a law passed in 2006 called the Secure Fence Act, the US government is responsible for maintaining a physical barrier along at least 650 miles of the US/Mexico border. The original law required a double-layer fence, but Congress later amended it to let the Department of Homeland Security determine what kind of barrier was necessary in any given location.

Currently, most of those 650 miles are covered by a single-layer fence. Trump’s instruction to start on a wall is a use of the Secure Fence Act in the other direction — to push for a thicker barrier than Congress originally ordered.

This is just the start. No one expects DHS Secretary John Kelly to find enough money to complete a wall across the whole US-Mexico border. President Trump is expected to ask Congress to appropriate additional funds for the wall when they pass a DHS funding bill in May (something congressional Democrats are likely to resist). The executive order is more of a down payment — or a demonstration to Congress that the Trump administration is dead serious about the wall, and they should be too.

The executive order attempts to clear away some of the other obstacles associated with building a massive structure across hundreds of miles of border; for example, it allows federal agents to access border land for security reasons, which could make it harder to sue the Trump administration for violating environmental regulations by building on protected land.

But Trump can’t clear away all the obstacles with an executive order. He’ll still have to deal with Mexico.

A wall on the US/Mexico border would be a symbolic slap in the face to Mexico, and would likely disrupt the goods and people that legally flow across the border every day. (To stop at least some of the wall from being constructed, the Mexican government could leverage a 1970 treaty that prevents the US from building anything that would disrupt the flow of the rivers that define the border along part of Texas.)

Then there’s the question of how Trump could make Mexico pay for it: He has insisted he’ll force Mexico to reimburse the US for the cost of construction, and indicated that he could use taxes and fees on Mexicans and Mexican Americans (such as a tax on remittances) to pressure Mexico to pony up the funds.

The Mexican government is extremely unpopular right now, and very much needs a good relationship with the US to help stabilize its flailing currency. The newly appointed foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, was named partly because of his good relationship with Trump and his advisers. (Videgaray helped arrange Trump’s visit to Mexico as a candidate last year.)

But Trump needs Mexico too. The purpose of the executive order is to reduce the number of people entering the US who don’t already have papers — but the only way the US has found to seriously drive down the number of Central American asylum seekers is for Mexico to help in apprehending them en route (and sometimes granting them asylum in Mexico).

family border patrol

The executive order requires DHS to detail all aid it’s giving to Mexico. That could be a forerunner to presenting Mexico with a bill for the wall. But if DHS interprets the executive order to mean it should send as little money as possible to Mexico — even to support efforts to keep Central Americans from coming to the US — that might undermine other Trump goals.

Videgaray is coming to Washington on Wednesday to help plan for a meeting between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto later in January. He’ll arrive to news that President Trump has ordered construction to start on the wall his country very much does not want to see built.

Everyone caught crossing the border — including families seeking asylum — will be detained

As a candidate, Trump (like many immigration hawks before him) promised to end “catch and release” of immigrants caught by Border Patrol agents. In a particularly dramatic fashion, he’s made good on his word. This afternoon, he signed an executive order requiring Customs and Border Protection to detain every unauthorized immigrant they catch crossing the border.

Prior to Trump’s order, CBP had several options once they caught an immigrant on the border without papers. They could deport her immediately — if she meets certain criteria, like having been deported before. They could release her if they trust she’ll show up to her asylum interview or court date (this makes sense for asylum seekers, who have every reason to do what’s required to actually get asylum). They could use an ankle bracelet or other monitoring system to keep track of her before her court date. Or they could keep her in detention.

President Trump just eliminated all but the first and last options. And he added another option: Immigrants can be returned to Mexico even while they’re waiting for an immigration court to process their case.

The order might seem reasonable; after all, the only way to make 100 percent sure an immigrant doesn’t abscond into the US without papers is to keep her in custody. But in practice, it’s hugely problematic because of who’s coming over the border right now.

According to Customs and Border Protection, nearly half of all unauthorized immigrants apprehended crossing the border in the fall of 2016 (from October to December) were either unaccompanied minors or families traveling together. In most cases, these children and families came from Central America; in many cases, they were seeking asylum from violence there.

Immigrants in detention have a much harder time getting a fair hearing, a lawyer, or time to make their case. This means the government is more likely to send a person who should have qualified for asylum back to her home country, putting her in mortal danger. (It’s a violation of international law for countries to return people to places where they’re unsafe.)

immigrant detention centerJohn Moore/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the government isn’t allowed to keep children in immigration detention indefinitely. The Obama administration’s attempts to expand family detention after the border crisis of 2014 ran into difficulties in state and federal court; hundreds of families got released at once in December, after a Texas judge found that the government was violating state law. The executive order instructs DHS to detain people “to the extent permitted by law” — in the case of children and families, that extent isn’t that great.

It’s also not clear where the federal government is going to put all the people being detained. Customs and Border Protection has already had to create “tent cities” in Texas to accommodate new arrivals, and that’s when it had options in addition to detaining them. Furthermore, detaining immigrants isn’t CBP’s job; within 72 hours, they’re supposed to send them elsewhere. Those who get detained are sent to detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But ICE doesn’t have the detention capacity to take on tens of thousands more immigrants, and it’s going to take time — and the approval of Congress — to build up that capacity.

Trump is expanding the definition of what makes an immigrant a “criminal” and therefore a priority for deportation

By the end of the Obama administration, unauthorized immigrants living in the US who hadn’t been convicted of crimes were at pretty low risk of being deported. But that was a fairly recent development. In the last years of George W. Bush’s presidency, and the first several years of Obama’s, aggressive enforcement in the interior of the US — from high-profile workplace raids under Bush to widespread cooperation with local law enforcement under Obama — led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the United States each year, many of them people who hadn’t committed a crime while living here.

Trump and his administration have made two promises: They’re going to go after criminals first, and they’re going to restore “power and responsibility” to immigration agents to determine which immigrants to deport. These two promises are in conflict: The Obama administration’s efforts to target convicted criminals were exactly what led immigration agents to feel that they weren’t being allowed to do their jobs.

The executive order resolves the conflict. It makes it easier for immigration agents to consider unauthorized immigrants as criminals — and easier to deport them.

ICE raid arrest

For one thing, the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to keep raising awareness of unauthorized immigrants who commit crimes as a way to advocate for harsher enforcement: The executive order creates an office to advocate for victims of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants. But it goes way beyond symbolism.

Instead of focusing on deporting convicted criminals, the executive order tells ICE agents to focus on immigrants who’ve been convicted, charged, or “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” Those “offenses” include immigration crimes (illegal entry and reentry are both criminal offenses) and things that are part and parcel of living in the US as an unauthorized immigrant, like driving without a license. (Indeed, the order prioritizes people who have engaged in “fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter,” which could apply to anyone who applies for a job and pays taxes under a fake Social Security number.) Furthermore, the executive order tells immigration agents to prioritize anyone they feel is a “risk to public safety or national security” even if they haven’t done any of those things — which is to say, anyone immigration agents want to deport.

And ICE will have more resources to carry this out. The executive order triples the number of agents in ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations office. Those agents will be able to resume use of the tool that made it easiest for them to pick up immigrants involved in the criminal justice system. Trump is resurrecting the Obama-era Secure Communities program, which automatically checked immigration databases to identify people checked into local jails, then allowed ICE agents to ask local officials to hand over any immigrant they wanted to deport.

Secure Communities was initially touted by the Obama administration as a way to identify and deport “criminal aliens,” but as it expanded it became clear that it was also being used to deport immigrants who hadn’t done anything more serious than commit a traffic offense (or hadn’t done anything at all). So the Obama administration replaced Secure Communities with the Priority Enforcement Program in 2014, which limited when ICE agents got notified about an immigrant in a jail and when they could request to take him into custody.

Trump’s decision to go back to the broader Secure Communities program does two things. It gives ICE agents a broader pool of immigrants to draw from for potential detention and deportation. And it signals that any immigrant caught up in the criminal justice system — whether or not they’re ultimately convicted of a crime — will be considered a “criminal” by this administration. If President Trump is going to find and deport 2 to 3 million criminal unauthorized immigrants, when nowhere near that number are actually convicted criminals, this is how he’d do it.

Sanctuary cities aren’t getting defunded just yet

Bill de Blasio sneering
Bill de Blasio.

Andy Katz via Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty

One of the Trump administration’s most celebrated promises — defunding “sanctuary cities” that limit local cooperation with the federal government — makes an appearance in the executive order. But it doesn’t actually defund anything just yet. Instead, it tells the secretary of homeland security and the attorney general to make sure that no jurisdiction getting federal grants is getting in the way of law enforcement, and lets the attorney general pursue enforcement actions against jurisdictions that do.

There’s a reason for the relative timidity: It’s unconstitutional for the federal government to force local governments to enforce federal law. The federal government can’t use grants to coerce state and local governments into doing whatever the president wants. This is why the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion was struck down: It tried to force states to expand Medicaid eligibility as a condition to getting federal Medicaid funds. So the executive action leaves it up to the attorney general and DHS to figure out how it can defund sanctuary cities without being coercive.

While there’s no bright line for when a condition counts as coercive, there are some standards. The condition has to be relevant to the purpose of the grant. And it’s more likely to be found unconstitutional if it puts new conditions on existing funds.

The Trump administration might try to get around these obstacles by claiming that it’s illegal for cities in violation of federal law to get federal grants. But to do that, it will have to limit defunding to cities that actively prevent information from getting shared with the federal government — not just cities that don’t always notify federal immigration agents whenever police pick up an unauthorized immigrant.

Watch: The racist history of US immigration policy

Updated by Jan 25, 2017, 3:40pm EST