Senate Democrats Block Bills To Take Funds Away From “Sanctuary Cities”

city-restaurant-lunch-outsideOn Wednesday July 6th, Senate Democrats blocked a bill that would have taken away federal grant money from “sanctuary cities.” These cities protect undocumented immigrants from being sent to federal agents for deportation. These cities will continue to operate in this way thanks to the Democratic block.


Democrats also blocked an immigration-related bill by Senator Ted Cruz. The bill would have increased prison sentences for any undocumented immigrants who repeatedly enter the US without legal permission to do so. The law was dubbed “Kate’s Law.” Senators voted 55 to 42 to advance that bill, but since 60 votes were needed to advance it, the bill was blocked.


As the Senators were voting, the White House issued veto threats. Both of these bills were very similar to legislation that Democrats blocked last year. Some Democrats claimed that Republicans were just bringing these issues up again to give Republican Senator Pat Toomey an issue to fight for in this challenging re-election fight against Katie McGinty, the Democratic challenger.


Republicans said they were trying to save lives with “Kate’s Law.” In fact, the law was named after Kate Steinle, who was killed by an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. The case led to national outrage as it was discovered that the man charged with Steinle’s murder had been deported five times for a number of felonies and was released from a San Francisco County Jail without being turned over to federal immigration authorities.


San Francisco has policies that prohibit keep undocumented immigrants in custody for federal agents unless the agents in question have a court order or warrant. In cities with large immigrant popular, police say that residents will not trust them enough to report crimes if police are seen as immigration agents who will help in their deportation.


Under Toomey’s bill, local governments with sanctuary policies would not have received community development block grants. These grants go toward providing housing to low-income and moderate-income families, creating jobs, and helping communities recover from natural disasters.


Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said that he felt that Senator Toomey was intentionally using this bill as something to to talk about in his re-election campaign, and maybe even in a speech as the Republican National Convention. Harry Reid, a Democratic Senator Minority Leader, said Republicans’ desire to pass this legislation was an attempt to follow Donald trump’s rhetoric in criminalizing immigrants and Latino families.


Reid felt that Toomey’s bill would take away from the local law enforcement’s ability to police their own communities and maintain public safety. It would also deny millions of dollars in community and economic development funding to any areas that refuse to target immigrant families.


For an undocumented immigrant who re-entered the U.S. after being deported or denied admission, Kate’s Law would have increased the maximum prison term from two years to five years. It would have also created a maximum 10-year term in prison for any immigrant who re-entered the U.S. illegally after having been removed three or more times previously.


Reid also felt that the mandatory-minimum sentences enacted by the bill would cost billions of new dollars, take funding from state and local law enforcement, and increase the prison population. He also felt that it would take away from bipartisan efforts to change the nation’s criminal justice system for the better.


Democrats have blocked the bills, thus allowing sanctuary cities to continue getting funding and preventing the prison population from skyrocketing.


Immigration Raids to Continue in US



In a political climate rife with contentious and emotional immigration debate, with coverage from everyone from NPR, to USA Today, to BuzzFeed covering the presidential election and the centralized issue of immigrating, U.S. Immigration has announced earlier this month that officials plan sweeping raids throughout May and June in an effort to deport immigrant families who have entered the country illegally.


According to statements from the Homeland Department the raids are part of a plan implemented in January of removals and targeting “convicted criminals and others who constitute threats to public safety and national security, as well as recent border crossers.” The department described the recent border crossers as those who were caught at the border after Jan. 1, 2014, “have been ordered removed by an immigration court, and have no pending appeal or pending claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief” under U.S. laws.


They have said that in all but emergency cases the Department of Homeland Security would avoid arresting migrants at “sensitive locations,” such as schools, hospitals, and places of worship. They are removing families that the administration says did not show up for their court appearances or those who have refused to comply with orders to leave the country. They also said that the raids are in response to a surge of undocumented immigrants from Central America. From CBS News: “Apprehensions at the southwest border are up, with 32,117 family units (a child with an adult family member) for fiscal 2016 through March, compared to 13,913 for the same time period in 2015. Similarly, in fiscal 2016 through March, 27,754 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the border, compared with 15,616 last year in the same period.”


However, all of this is ignoring the fact that the focus here is undocumented mothers and children. The Department of Homeland Security is is making targets out of women and children who should be protected rather than deported. These mothers and children from Central America are not coming here to work, they are coming here to flee the brutal and violent situation in their home countries. Instead of seeing these Central American immigrants as refugees or asylum seekers, we are currently treating them as undocumented workers smuggling themselves over the border. In fact, there are more and more cases of women walking across the border openly and appealing a case to stay to the Border Patrol agents.
From CNN: “Defending the raids, on Friday White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “If this serves to discourage people from considering to make this journey, that would be a good thing.” Still, nothing can change people’s minds when they are literally fleeing for their lives. The women and children targeted by the Obama administration are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, three countries that regularly rank among the world’s most dangerous nations. In these countries, forced gang conscription, sexual violence and homicides are a fact of daily life; one El Salvadoran dies every hour due to violence.”

Federal Authorities Make a Fake College To Catch Visa Scam

visa-applicationA fake university was recently created order to catch people suspected of running a visa scam. The university was called the University of Northern New Jersey, and while it was not real, it had a very convincing website. It claimed to offer “exceptional” education for students from other countries wishing to study in the U.S.

The federal authorities were behind this project, creating the phony university’s website in order to arrest 21 people on charges of conspiring to assist over 1,000 foreign people in fraudulently keeping or obtaining student or work visas. There is, however, one unexpected twist. The defendants who were arrested knew that the school was phony and so did the foreign people who allegedly pretended to be students at the university in order to remain in the U.S.

What they didn’t know was who was behind the fake school. This university was set up by undercover agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Most of the foreign “students” who benefitted from the visa scam were already in the U.S. on student visas. They have been identified and while they will not be prosecuted, they could face deportation.

The 21 people arrested were considered recruiters, employers, and brokers. These 21 people were charged with “conspiracy to commit visa fraud and to harbor aliens for profit”. The latter of the two charges carries up to 10 years in prison. Most of these defendants are in the U.S. legally, residing in New York, New Jersey and California. One lives in Georgia and another lives in Illinois.

The University of Northern New Jersey’s website was very elaborate, with appealing photos, a message from the “president”, and links to academic programs. The website stated that the “president” was a man named Dr. Steven Brunetti, Ph. D. The site even had a school seal which appeared to have been based on Princeton University’s seal, but the fake institution’s colors were green and bluish-purple instead of Princeton’s orange and black. The university even listed an address. This address was that of a real building about 15 miles outside of New York City in Cranford. The University’s site was taken down on the afternoon of Tuesday April 5, 2016.

You may be wondering how exactly the undercover agents caught the middlemen that are currently under arrest. The 21 people who are now arrested paid the undercover agents who were running the school to create paperwork that made it appear as if the foreign people were enrolled at the University of Northern New Jersey. This way, the students would be able to keep their visa status without going to class. Overall, the middlemen paid the undercover agents thousands of dollars.

This is not the only example of a fake school being created for visa-related purposes. Immigration officials have looked into hundreds of possibly fake schools in recent years. Some of these investigations have already led to charges. Officials at one school in Georgia and two schools in California have received prison sentences due to these investigations. One of these officials even received 16 years in prison for visa fraud in addition to other charges. This case differs from the other cases because the federal authorities created their own phony institution, but it reveals a phenomenon that is occurring throughout the country.

Immigrant Children Representing Themselves in Court

boy wearing tie


Recently, during federal court proceedings, Senior Justice Department official Jack H. Weil, (who, along with other responsibilities, is tasked with training other judges in proper procedure and conduct,) made a statement under oath that he believes three and four year old migrant children can learn immigration law well enough to be able to represent themselves in court, which would in turn save the citizens the costs of assigning taxpayer-funded attorneys to them.

“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds,” Weil said. “It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.”

Obviously, the backlash to this statement from both legal experts, and child psychology experts, was immediate and disparaging. Obviously immigration law is a deep and complex branch of practice, and children of that age are still learning how to cooperate with other children and develop fine motor skills, let alone represent themselves in a court of law.

“I nearly fell off my chair when I read that deposition,” said Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University, who is a witness for the plaintiffs in the Seattle case. “Three- and 4-year-olds do not yet have logical reasoning abilities. It’s preposterous, frankly, to think they could be taught enough about immigration law to be able to represent themselves in court.”

This testimony from Justice Weil came out during a case that is arguing for legal representation for every indigent child who cannot afford a lawyer to represent themselves in court. Immigrant rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union are both demanding that the courts be required to provide this. The Justice Department is contesting suit, and Weil has, in the aftermath of his statement receiving loud and virulent backlash, insisted that the statements that are being attributed to him do not “present an accurate assessment of my views on this topic” and are being “taken out of context.”

The ACLU officials are nonplused by this recant. “This is the person in charge of training immigration judges about how to treat children? And this is the witness the government puts forward to present their views as to how this is supposed to happen?” said ACLU deputy legal director of Southern California Ahilan Arulanantham, the attorney who questioned Weil under oath. “That is horrifying.”

According to statistics that were collected by the Justice Department, more than twenty thousand unaccompanied children that were involved in deportation proceedings that took place over the course of 18 months from July 2014, a whopping 42% of those children had no attorney. In many cases the children facing these charges do not speak English, and are relying on government-provided interpreters to understand what is happening to them, let alone to understand how to argue for themselves in court. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democrats recently introduced legislation stipulating that government-appointed counsel be afforded to all children in immigration court who had crossed the border alone or are victims of other duress such as abuse, torture or violence.


Obama Fights For Immigration Reform

Despite the fact that our country was founded by immigrants, America has always had a complex and tumultuous relationship with its newcomers. Yes, Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus,” and its famous promise to take in the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” may be engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, but the truth is, over the past few hundred years, we’ve consistently taken measures to ensure that we are doing the exact opposite. These measures have made it very difficult for people who were not born in the USA to become naturalized citizens. From the Act of 1875, which banned convicts and prostitutes from entering the country, to a multitude of federal laws that have prevented various races and nationalities from obtaining American citizenship over the past few hundred years, the messaging of America’s personal brand has always been directly at odds with the actions of our federal government when it has come to taking in people from other countries who want to become naturalized Americans.

Unfortunately, we are still experiencing this phenomenon today. Even though President Obama unveiled his proposal for immigration reform – a proposal that sought to protect the rights and interests of the over 5 million law-abiding immigrants who reside in the US – 14 months ago, we are still awaiting the Supreme Court’s verdict on whether or not it will be put into practice. Thankfully, it was announced this week that the Supreme Court is finally ready to discuss President Obama’s plans for reform, and that the future of his proposal will be decided upon this term. The anticipated timeline of this decision is that it will be reached by summer of 2016, and, if the Court decides to move forward with Obama’s policy, then it will be implemented before he leaves office next year.

One component of the proposal, Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), would allow included residents – most commonly the parents of naturalized citizens who do not have American citizenship themselves – to apply for, and receive, “temporary residency,” which would come with the ability to apply for work authorization and some benefits. The other component would be an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which protects children and teenagers who were born outside of America but raised within its limits.

Since the President’s initial announcement, his proposal has been widely challenged by House Republicans and vocal opponents, who believe that with this suggestion for reform, President Obama has behaved unconstitutionally and with blatant disregard for the governmental checks and balances meant to limit a sitting President’s regulatory power. Still,  the Supreme Court’s announcement about bringing this immigration reform proposal to the floor and giving it the due diligence it should receive is good news for the millions of hardworking, honest residents of the US who contribute to America’s economy and well-being but are not being adequately recognized or compensated for their contributions today.

Texas Denying Birth Certificates to U.S. Born Children

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Based on a federal judge’s ruling earlier this month, Texas can continue denying undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain birth certificates for their children born in the United States. There is no immediate relief while the legal issue is sorted out. In a complex case, the District Judge behind this current decision has gone on to explain the tough predicament he found himself in.

The US District Judge Robert Pitman did not give a preliminary injunction for the civil rights lawsuit which was filed back in May against the state of Texas. The suit began when the state decided to not adhere with the 14th Amendment which grants citizenship to anyone who is born on U.S soil irrespective of their parentage.

Citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants was raised as an issue during the primary debates and primary campaigns in November 2016, where the Republican candidate Donald Trump questioned how citizenship can be automatically granted and Jeb Bush was criticized heavily on his comments about the matter.

Two non-profit organizations, the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 6 children & their parents who were immigrants. They were denied birth certificates because the parents did not have what the state considered proper identification. In some cases, parents attempted to present an official ID card, a matricula, which is issued through Mexican consulates as well as Mexican passport. But the lack of a U.S. visa makes it so that the state refuses to accept those forms of ID.

The groups which filed the lawsuit argued that the entitlement for birth certificates was one of the constitutional rights, which was being violated in Texas. In this case, Judge Pitman had to weigh whether or not to force the state to accept those forms of identification.

While the legal procedure is taking its course in the court, the group had asked the judge to give a preliminary injunction that will make the state take two forms of identification that the mother can easily provide to issue birth certificate to her children.

Judge Pitman acknowledged that the evidence that has been raised points to extremely grave concerns on how children who were born in the United States to immigrant parents are treated. But he also said that a preliminary injunction is a very extreme relief and he could not issue it without further exploring the case. Furthermore, the Judge has upheld that the State does have a right to ensure that the forms of identification that it accepts are reliable and valid.

2016 Presidential Election: Immigration Policy and Reform

This summer, candidates from both sides of the political spectrum, vying for their party’s support for the 2016 Presidential Election, have been vocal with their proposed policies on immigration. While the issue remains a hotly contested topic of conversation in the United States, for voters, the differing views of each candidate can make them difficult to decipher. With that in mind, here are the top Republican and Democratic candidates’ stances on immigration reform:


Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Clinton has remained largely liberal on immigration issues, and called for a “path to full and equal citizenship” during a Nevada rally. She also campaigned for the parents of undocumented immigrants that entered the U.S. as children to be legally allowed to remain in the country.

US Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders

Sanders believes America is a “nation of immigrants,” and stands against the removal of undocumented people based on the traditional concept of the American Dream, supports allowing individuals to come to the States and seek better lives, and opposes the building of a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico.

Former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley

Candidate O’Malley prioritized shifting undocumented immigrants from the dark and into mainstream society, and signed an act into law that granted in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants in Maryland during his time as Governor.

Former US Virginia Senator Jim Webb

Webb believes in securing the border first, and supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country later. He voted in favor of the DREAM Act in 2010, which aimed to provide legal residency to undocumented individuals brought into the country as children.


Businessman Donald Trump

Trump is campaigning for the building of a border fence between Mexico and the U.S., and his policy outlines that it should be paid for by the southern side. He proposes an immigration plan that supports employment, security and wages for American citizens, and wants to triple the number of Immigration and Customs Officers. Needless to say, his views on immigration policy have been the most controversial throughout the past months.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Bush has sympathized with those who have entered the U.S. illegally in search of a better life, and believes in securing the border and providing a path for citizenship that is controlled, where undocumented immigrants work for their status, and are liable for fines for breaking the law.

US Senator Ted Cruz

Cruz also wants to enhance border security, while also opening up opportunities for skilled workers to come to the U.S., green card chances and preventing those with undocumented status from obtaining welfare support.

Businesswoman Carly Fiorina

Fiorina believes in awarding citizenship to immigrants that have “earned” it through legal entry and abiding by American laws, and wants to secure the border in order to begin mending current immigration problems in the U.S.

Tracking the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform

Back in May, Francisco Lopez-Flores, a UCLA alumni, pitched the project “DACAMENT ME” to potential investors. The goal of DACAMENT ME is to track the economic benefits of immigration reform following 2012’s Executive Order by President Obama to implement DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). While DACAMENT ME has been gaining attention from beneficiaries of DACA as well as investors, one potential investor chalked Lopez-Flores’ project to a mere hobby telling him and his team to not waste their time with it.

However, for many students and young adults like Francisco, DACAMENT ME is far from a mere hobby. It is very personal. The executive order allows those individuals to acquire important documentation to obtain jobs, bank accounts and licenses in certain states. Needless to say, it was and still is met with heavy opposition and that is where DACAMENT ME hopes to help. A new member of the DACAMENT ME team, Kayleen Ports, explained the goal and use case of the project very well when she said that while activists have already attempted to make the emotional argument for immigration reform, a data driven argument is also needed.

The idea for DACAMENT ME came to Lopez-Flores when he noticed that after the implementation of DACA, his own wages increased since he no longer had to be paid under the table and was able to apply for steadier, higher paying jobs. After surveying over 200 students who benefited from DACA, Lopez-Flores and fellow UCLA students Stephanie Ramirez and Rudy Morales traveled to the White House where they presented their findings and analysis of DACA’s economic impact to key policymakers. By expanding their initial project for their Chicana/o studies class, Lopez-Flores and his team are hoping to use DACAMENT ME as a way to survey and track DACA recipients over a long period of time to show the positive effects that the policy has on the U.S. economy. Part of their findings demonstrated how recipients of DACA saw an average wage increase of nearly 100%. The research also showed that if the trend continues, it would add nearly $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy.

Currently, DACAMENT ME is growing their team and working on a platform to turn DACAMENT ME into an official program at UCLA so that future students can continue participating. In May, apart from presenting the project to potential investors, the team won first place at the Latin@ Coder Summit hosted by Stanford University. The $1,000 price is being used to acquire the tools necessary to build the DACAMENT ME computer platform over the summer.

How Canada’s Immigration Policy Differs From the United States’

Abogado Aly Canada's Immigration PolicyThe new immigration policy of the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II caused there to be a dramatic decrease in immigration to Canada and the United States. After World War II, legislation allowed refugees and displaced persons from the war to immigrate to the United States and Canada. Both countries’ ideologies began to shift more towards egalitarian ideas such as welfare state and multiculturalism which implemented more tolerance towards people of different races and lead the charge against racial discrimination.[1] During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement lead to an increasing interest group for racial acceptance which fostered the new immigration policies implemented by the United States and Canada. (Talk about Great Society coalition of Jews, Catholics and Liberals as described in Mills) It was with these policies in which Canada decided to take a different route than that of the United States’.

Whereas Canada’s immigration policy of today is geared towards a completely economical public policy stand point, the United States’ policy makers adhered to a more humanitarian approach. According to Borjas with regards to Canada, “According to Borjas, “the point system attempts to match immigrant skills with labor market needs and reduces the fiscal burden that immigration would place on Canada’s generous system of public assistance”[1]. This is then a clear cut way that Canada is trying to economically find a solution to the immigration debate. According to Borjas with regards to the United States, “At some point in the debate over any social policy, the facts have to be let out of their moral vacuum. And the facts have to be interpreted in the context of a set of beliefs, values, and a vision of what the United States is about”[2]. When talking about the immigration policy in the United States, Borjas describes the U.S. immigration policy as not just done for the quantitative, numeric, economic gains and losses, but there is also a moral context in which the policy adheres to. The United States is known as the land of opportunity and a country of immigrants. The United States is one of the most wealthy countries in our nation, so helping people who are less fortunate than them has become part of the moral fabric in the United States’ immigration debate. According to an article in the Economist, “in the United States, you rarely hear somebody advocate for immigration on the grounds that it adds to the social fabric of the country. When the normative argument arises here, it has a humanitarian dimension. I would posit that in the United States, identity is a right, not a value”[3]. This is the clear distinction between the way in which policy makers in the United States look at immigration and how policy makers in Canada look at immigration. The United States sees immigration to their country as a right to the immigrant whereas Canada looks at immigration as a value to their own country. According to Borjas the United States’ main immigration objective is to maximize the economic well-being of the native-born population[4].  If the United States really wanted to increase the economic efficiency of their immigration policy, wouldn’t they just follow Canada’s point system?  Borjas mentioned in an earlier talk about the immigration of “high-skilled” labor from Russian mathematicians in 1992 that lead to basically a replacement of high skilled US mathematicians for only about 400 Russian mathematicians that ended up comprising of about 10% of the mathematics papers written in the United States at this time. However, Borjas’ conclusion, using a future regression model, was that if the Russians had not come at all, we would have had about the same amount of mathematics papers as we do today. So with the influx of low skilled labor and high skilled labor, these immigrations really have not done much for the economy at this point.


Immigration Policy in the 1920s

Abogado Aly Immigration 1920Immigration policy rose in national importance in the 1920s for a couple of reasons. “Economic concerns, nationalism brought about by World War I, and a tilt toward a smaller percentage of new immigrants with English as their native language contributed to moving public sentiment towards restricting immigration”. The emergence of “Eugenics” as a public policy tool in policy circles and Western philosophy also played a role. “Eugenics is the belief in improving the qualities of the human race by preventing the reproduction of people deemed to have genetic defects or undesirable characteristics and/or encouraging increased reproduction by those with supposed desirable inheritable characteristics.” According to Anderson, this widespread belief in eugenics was a decisive factor in creating the restrictive immigration laws in the 1920s. Natives in Canada and the United States were in favor of the status quo of their countries, so they did not want a large amount of immigrants they deemed as “undesirable” tainting their countries national structure.

This word “undesirables” is funny in this context because the factors in which made a person undesirable were two different types of people: criminals and people of different races. Racism, therefore, was a major aspect in creating the immigration policy of the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan started in 1915 to “control minority groups which it identified with moral and political nonconformity”. There was strong support for anti-Jewish sentiments. A quote from U.S. consuls abroad said that “by barring legislative action the United States would face an onslaught of Jews who were “abnormally twisted,” “inassimilable,” “Filthy, un-American, and often dangerous in their habits”.  These were times of tense national identity, or, as we like to call it in the progressive era, racism, so of course the immigration policies of the 1920s for both Canada and the United States were to keep their national identity and therefore their morals, values, traditions, and most importantly there so called “intellectual level”.