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Pat McCrory 4There is a lot of lousy stuff happening the world of immigration these days and, lord knows, the Obama administration deserves its share of the blame — mostly for its unfortunate kowtowing to the xenophobic right and its aggressive deportation of thousands of good people who pose no threat to our country.

That said, there can be no doubt that the lion’s share of the blame for the current disastrous situation lies with those who stubbornly oppose comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for “DREAM’ers” and millions who are here to stay while dramatically increasing the opportunities for legal immigration for Central Americans fleeing broken societies.

Given this factual backdrop, this week’s award for most ridiculous, self-serving and utterly irrelevant “contribution” to the discussion has to be this letter to the President from a group of six conservative Republican governors that includes North Carolina’s own Pat McCrory. In it, the six (which includes far right “humanitarians” like Scott Walker and Sam Brownback) call for a “plan” that will deal with the current crisis in which thousands of children have crossed the border in a “humanitarian and practical way.”

But, of course, the not-so-thinly-veiled undercurrent of the letter is plain: the Guvs want Obama to make these kids go away ASAP.

“More importantly, we are concerned that the failure to return the unaccompanied children will send a message that will encourage a much larger movement towards our southern border.”

And naturally, the letter provides zero in the way of specifics as to how to do this — much less an endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform that is the only hope for making a dent.

The bottom line: Gov. McCrory has more than enough policy crises of his own making to deal with in North Carolina. The last thing he needs to be doing is trying to tell President Obama what to do about an intractable issue like immigration reform when he can’t even control Art Pope, Phil Berger or Thom Tillis.

The good people at the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte posted the following story on the organization’s blog today:

Rausel AristaRausel is a great guy and he needs your help

Rausel Arista– father to 2 young boys, a community leader, and an organizer here at the Latin American Coalition since 2012– was detained and put into deportation proceedings this morning at the Buffalo, NY airport on his way home to Charlotte. He is currently being held in a Buffalo area detention center, hundreds of miles away from home and his family.

Please take a few moments to help Rausel by taking one or more of the following actions: Read More

As we reported last week, many of the children crossing the border into the United States wind up in court defending themselves — a situation that presumably does not end well for them.

The American Civil Liberties Union describes the plight of such children in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle against Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking an order requiring that counsel be appointed for children in immigration court:

 Plaintiffs are eight immigrant children, ranging in age from ten to seventeen. The Government has begun proceedings to deport each of them; they will soon be called to appear before an Immigration Judge. In court, the Department of Homeland Security will be represented by a trained lawyer who will argue for the child’s deportation. But no lawyer will stand with the child. Each will be required to respond to the charges against him or her, and, in theory, will be afforded an opportunity to make legal arguments and present evidence on his or her own behalf. But in reality those rights will be meaningless because children are not competent to exercise them. Each child has attempted to find representation through pro bono legal service providers, but none of them have found anyone with the resources to take on their cases. Absent this Court’s intervention, these children will be forced to defend themselves pro se under the immigration laws – a legal regime that, as the courts have recognized, rivals the Internal Revenue Code in its complexity.

Numbers released yesterday by  the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University show as expected that represented children fare much better.

Among the conclusions in that report:

Children were not represented about half of the time (48%) they appeared in Immigration Court, although there is wide variation by state and hearing location.

Outcome if attorney present. In almost half (47%) of the cases in which the child was represented, the court allowed the child to remain in the United States. The child was ordered removed in slightly more than one in four (28%) of these cases. And in the remaining quarter (26%) the judge entered a “voluntary departure” (VD) order. (While with a VD order the child is required to leave the country, the child avoids many of the more severe legal consequences of a removal order.)

Outcome if no attorney. Where the child appeared alone without representation, nine out of ten children were ordered deported — 77 percent through the entry of a removal order, and 13 percent with a VD order. One in ten (10%) were allowed to remain in the country.

 

May_Day_Immigration_March_LA37There’s plenty to read about the heartbreaking crisis at the border and what should be done about it. Here’s a few of today’s highlights.

Money talks:  Three billionaires who don’t often find themselves on the same side of issues – Bill Gates, Sheldon Adelson and Warren Buffett – take on the do-nothing Congress in this must-read New York Times editorial, opening with this:

American citizens are paying 535 people to take care of the legislative needs of the country. We are getting shortchanged.

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The three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us. We hope that fact holds a lesson: You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement. It’s time that this brand of thinking finds its way to Washington.

Growing backlogs in immigration courts:  According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, the number of pending immigration cases reached an all time high of 375,503 at the end of June — an increase of more than 50,000 since the start of FY 2013.

California has the largest backlog (77,400 cases), followed by Texas (62,143) and then New York (55,010).

Wait times are also longer: the average time a pending case has been waiting in immigration court is now 587 days.

And the number of cases involving juveniles has climbed to 41,640. Those coming from Guatemala make up the largest group, with 12,841 cases, followed by Honduras (12,696) and El Salvador (12,162).

The immigration court in Charlotte, which handles cases for those in North and South Carolina, has a much lower backlog, with 3,386  cases and an average pending time of 258 days. Most of those involve immigrants from Honduras (1100 cases), followed by Mexico (997), Guatemala (480) and El Salvador (406).

Defending immigrant children:  Many of those immigrant children who’ve traveled alone to get here find themselves alone again in a courtroom, facing deportation without any assistance of counsel. Rebecca Leber reports in the New Republic on a recent lawsuit filed by the ACLU to remedy that situation.

This week, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, and other immigration advocacy groups filed a class-action lawsuitagainst the Attorney General’s office, arguing that this setup is unconstitutional. The court system works differently for immigrants than it does for citizens. Undocumented children are treated as “adults in miniature.” And unlike citizens who have a right to a public defender if they cannot afford a lawyer, undocumented adults have no such right. The lawsuit argues undocumented children deserve to be represented by a lawyer in a legal system that “rivals the Internal Revenue Code in its complexity.”

The Greenville Daily Reflector reprinted an editorial this morning that first ran in a town with a lot of up-close-and-personal experience in the nation’s ongoing immigration crisis on the southern border. According to the editors of the Corpus Christi Times:

To hear Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi tell it, Congress is willing help solve the immigration crisis if only President Barack Obama would “get off the belief that we have to do comprehensive immigration reform.”

This resistance to comprehensive reform, rampant throughout Congress, puzzles us because all the signs point to comprehensive reform as being urgent.

Consider that 52,000 undocumented immigrant children are known to have crossed the southern border unaccompanied so far this year as of mid-June, fleeing violence and poverty in their homelands. The trend is expected to continue.

There are an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, 1.7 million of whom are what’s known as DREAMers — young people brought here as children, who would be eligible to stay under legislation known as the DREAM Act if only it were to pass. The DREAM Act would be one humanitarian step in the direction of comprehensive immigration reform. It offers legal residency to people who can’t be blamed for having come here illegally, in exchange for attaining higher education or serving in the military.

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