immigration

HB 319 would create needed tuition equity for immigrant youth

While many are celebrating graduation this time of the year, the future isn’t as bright for some graduates of North Carolina high schools because of a challenging landscape of immigration policy.

A recent study from the Migration Policy Institute reports roughly 100,000 undocumented youth will graduate from high schools across the country.  North Carolina ranks 5th, tied with Georgia, for the number of graduates from our states’ high schools who do not have documented immigration status. Those 3,000 young people represent in North Carolina roughly 3 percent of the total undocumented youth graduating each year nationwide. As the state considers how to attain critical targets in post-secondary attainment statewide, these graduates from N.C. high schools should be engaged in the conversation.

That is why proposals like House Bill 319, which would grant in-state tuition to immigrant youth if they attend any of the colleges within the University of North Carolina system or a North Carolina community college, are so important. To qualify for these benefits, eligible applicants must have graduated from a high school in North Carolina, attended at least two years of high school here, and apply for legal status as soon as they are eligible to do so.

Twenty-one states across the country have embraced this proposal for tuition equity. In so doing, states are building on their existing educational investment in K-12 and ensuring the greatest possibility for all young people’s success in the economic and civic life in our country.

The research is clear: Post-secondary education means better employment opportunities and higher wages, which translate into higher tax contributions. But post-secondary education is often out of reach due to high costs and the challenges of trying to complete it while balancing work and study that many young people without documents and from low-income families face.

Adopting this legislation would allow for young immigrants to fully realize their human and economic potential.

Find out more about the work to support educational attainment in the immigrant and Latinx community at https://juntos.dasa.ncsu.edu/ and www.adelantenc.org.

Commentary, immigration

Trump immigration policies hit new low with proposal targeting asylum seekers

Image: Adobe Stock

In an attempt to discourage asylum claims and reshape asylum law, President Trump released a memorandum earlier this week ordering Attorney General William P. Barr, and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to place new restrictions on asylum-seekers.  This memo calls for authorities to adjudicate asylum claims in Immigration Court proceedings within 180 days of filing. Among other new proposed policies, asylum-seekers would also be required to pay a filing fee to apply for asylum and their initial employment authorization applications, and immigrants who entered or attempted to enter the country unlawfully would be barred from receiving lawful permission to work before any relief is granted. The memo seeks to have these new policies in place within 90 days.

These proposed measures are another egregious attempt by the administration to deter asylum seekers from exercising their right to apply for this type of relief. Asylum seekers are generally ineligible to receive any form of federal or state aid, and they depend on receiving an employment authorization to pay for living expenses as they await the decision on their asylum claims.

The Trump proposals would do nothing more than obstruct their right to seek asylum and keep them from working legally in the country so that they can support themselves and their families while they wait for their immigration cases to be adjudicated in a notoriously clogged system. The current average wait time for someone applying for asylum is almost two years.

Moreover, it is particularly cruel to take money from those who have come to the United States hoping to reach safety and security. The vast majority of people seeking asylum escaped their countries’ oppressive and dangerous conditions, and often endured perilous journeys to come to the U.S., leaving everything behind and arriving to this country with little more than the clothing on their backs. Charging a fee to apply for this protection is counter to our values as a nation.

The bottom line: These proposed anti-immigrant policies harm and prey upon those who come to the U.S. in search of safety and protection. Seeking asylum and protection should be a human right that should come at no financial cost.

Juan Calderon is a paralegal in the North Carolina Justice Center’s Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project.

immigration, NC Budget and Tax Center

Report: Immigration enforcement by local governments in NC is costing taxpayers millions

North Carolina taxpayers are bearing the cost of federal immigration enforcement by local governments. A recent report estimates the statewide financial cost of honoring immigration detainers and holding immigrants in local jails is $7.4 million annually, resulting in a cumulative cost of roughly $80 million over the past decade.

These direct financial costs would continue and could increase as a result of House bill 370, which would require local law enforcement to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or face financial penalties of up to $25,5000 a day. The bill does not provide for any financial resources to cover the costs that local governments would incur, meaning that dollars would have to be taken from elsewhere or taxes would need to be raised.

ICE does not compensate local agencies for the additional costs associated in cooperating with immigration agents. This leaves local jurisdictions to cover the expenses of trainings required to participate in programs, personnel salaries, and transportation costs.

Across the country, states have documented the costs of such an unfunded shift in responsibility to local governments for enforcing federal immigration law. In Texas, the state’s corrections department reported ICE detainers cost local jails roughly $71 million statewide in 2017. Recent reports suggest ICE detainers have an average annual cost of $9 million in Georgia and $13 million in Colorado.

Partnering with ICE also has a track record of hurting community relations. As described in the report, the social costs of cooperating with immigration agents translates into community members mistrusting law enforcement and public institutions. It also has significant impacts on community cohesion, civic engagement, and the overall well-being of immigrants and citizens alike.

HB 370 has now been sent to the North Carolina Senate and it sits in the Rules Committee, where it could move at any time. For the stability of communities, safe delivery of policing services and overall community success, senators would do well to leave the proposal in committee for the rest of the 2019 session.

Lissette Guerrero is an intern with the Budget & Tax Center and Immigrant & Refugee Rights projects of the NC Justice Center.

Commentary, immigration, News, Trump Administration

After Trump administration rule change, immigration visa denials soar

New data released by the U.S. Department of State show a significant uptick in the number of visa denials on grounds of public charge compared to data from prior years.

These data, in addition to the public charge rule change proposed late last year, demonstrate the Trump administration’s commitment to restricting immigration, particularly for families accessing critical resources.

While the public charge rule has existed in some form for more than 100 years, its current definition took effect in 1999 and is based on the likelihood that someone will become a “public charge” by using certain public benefits for which they are eligible.

Experts agree that the departure from previous data on visa denials is likely due to a revision made in early 2018 to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), which instructs U.S. consular officials on granting visas to immigrants and non-immigrants who are abroad and seeking to enter the U.S.

The new manual language imposes stricter rules about use of public benefits, income levels, and proof of financial support from family. This change came as part of a response to a 2017 White House Memorandum prompting increased vetting of visa applicants and others seeking entry into the United States.  While the FAM governs persons who are abroad and seeking to enter the U.S., the proposed public charge rule that is currently being reviewed at the federal level impacts those who are already inside the U.S. and are seeking to obtain a visa or green card.  The increase in denials based on public charge for visa applicants outside the U.S. could be a bellwether of what would happen if the proposed public charge regulation were to go into effect for applicants inside the U.S.

News about this dramatic increase in visa denials, along with confusion and fear about the current proposed rule,  could have a chilling effect on families accessing the programs they need to make ends meet.  It can also thwart our country’s vision of ensuring people in need can live in a country that respects and supports their well-being.

Suzy Khachaturyan is a Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, immigration, News

ICE admits ramping up NC immigration enforcement in response to urban areas not working with them

The historic Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids this week were not a fluke — they were a direct result of refusals in urban North Carolina counties, like Mecklenburg, Wake, Orange and Durham counties, to work with the federal agency.

ICE Atlanta field office Director Sean Gallagher told reporters Friday morning that the more than 200 people arrested this week across the state is “the new normal.” He said specifically that the decisions in Mecklenburg, Wake and Durham counties to end their 287g programs — a voluntary partnership to help ICE with immigration enforcement — led to agents having to actively seek undocumented immigrants there.

“This is politics over public safety at its worst,” he said at the press conference, which was reported on by several media outlets across the state, including the Charlotte Observer.

Durham Sheriff Clarence Birkhead and Wake Sheriff Gerald Baker could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said ending 287g, which he did on the first day he took office, was not political for him. He’s passionate about fighting for the people who can’t fight for themselves.

“The problem with ICE is they want to make it seem like I don’t want to prosecute crimes,” he said, explaining how his law enforcement background contradicts that (he worked homicide cases for 22 years).

McFadden said he believes ICE’s actions this week have been in response to his agency sending them new policies and procedures in the wake of ending their 287g agreement.

“People are still being arrested for crimes,” he said. “I just choose not to come and work with you.”

ICE agents are still welcome in Mecklenburg’s detention center, and they still have access to the information local law enforcement has access to, but McFadden said he’s not going to have his employees do the federal agencies job for them by housing undocumented immigrants who are otherwise supposed to be released.

He pointed out that he doesn’t have anything to do with releasing someone from a facility — bail is set by judges, magistrates and prosecutors.

Sheriff Garry McFadden

ICE held the press conference in McFadden’s county while he was attending a conference in Washington D.C. He said it was meant to get people into an uproar, but he will continue to stand firm.

“They’re scared for somebody to stand up who knows the law and knows their job,” he said of ICE. “I have something they want, and they’re trying to make me play in their sandbox, and I don’t want to play.”

His office also implemented a policy requesting ICE notify them when they show up at the county courthouse so that deputies could monitor their actions. That was done after some ICE agents came into the courthouse, hid their badges and pulled hoodies over their head and mingled in a hallway until a defendant they were looking for came out of a courtroom. The defendant was wearing a suit and tie and was bombarded by the agents, who didn’t identify themselves until they were asked several times who they were.

McFadden said he has no qualms with helping ICE when they are protecting all communities from violent crimes at all levels without targeting just one demographic. He’s focused on reform, and he will continue to stand for change for future generations regardless of ICE’s apparent retaliation.

“In order to be different, in order to bring justice, in order to bring awareness – and it’s something all great leaders have done – you have to stand firm, you have to take the beatings,” he said.

And there could be more ‘beatings’ to come. Gallagher said ICE will continue their enforcement efforts and won’t turn a blind eye to other undocumented family members or friends in the wrong place at the wrong time during targeted operations. He said they conduct operations at courthouses, during traffic stops and at the homes of people they believed to be undocumented immigrants.

Until the press conference Friday, ICE officials had refused to give any specific information about the raids being reported across the state. The raids, according to Gallagher, were unrelated to the undocumented individuals arrested at a gun manufacturing plant Tuesday in Sanford.

Of at least 200 of the other immigrants ICE arrested this week, nearly one-third taken into custody are what the agency calls “collateral:” immigrants who are living here illegally but lack any kind of criminal conviction or pending charges, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Gallagher said 50 of those 200 taken into custody had prior criminal convictions — though he did not say for what types of crimes — and 40 had pending criminal charges. Another 50, he added, had re-entered the country illegally after a prior deportation. About 60 were individuals who weren’t targeted but who were in the vicinity during raids.

Another urban area he criticized in the press conference was Orange county, although Sheriff Charles Blackwood doesn’t really understand why — they never participated in a 287g program. He said ICE is going to do their job, and the only thing Orange County won’t do is honor their detainers, because they don’t have the authority to enforce federal law.

Detainers are documents that essentially ask local sheriffs and jails to hold on to undocumented immigrants for ICE even if they’re supposed to be released on the local level. The documents aren’t orders and they’re not signed by judges — they are requests from ICE.

Blackwood said ICE is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country and have plenty of people to do their work without asking sheriff’s and counties do their jobs for them.

McFadden said there are still a number of ways in which his agency works with ICE, including sharing fingerprints, honoring criminal warrants signed by judicial officials, verifying individuals’ legal status for felonies and impaired driving offenses and notifying the federal agency about criminal ICE warrants.

Gallagher’s insinuation, he said in a release, that dangerous people were walking out of jails because of the end of 287g programs is engaging in cynical fear mongering. In a phone interview, he compared ICE’s press conference to a gnat, and said he would still go about doing his job the way it needed to be done without being bothered by it.

“I’m still going to eat, but every now and then you have to shoo a gnat away,” he said. He added later, “This fight is not for everybody but I’m here to stay.”