Commentary, immigration, News

Senate committees vote to move ICE bill forward despite serious concerns from lawmakers, residents

The Senate Rules committee voted Thursday to move House Bill 370 forward.

The controversial bill would require sheriffs to comply with detainer requests made by the federal Department of Homeland Security, as well as notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if any person arrested for any criminal charge is not a citizen.

The bill targets 7 newly-elected Democratic sheriffs

Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Buncombe) has touted the bill as necessary for “national security and public safety” and as a common sense measure that the majority of sheriffs are already implementing, but Sheriff Garry McFadden of Mecklenburg County pushed back against that idea at a press conference Wednesday held by Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) before the committee meeting.

“HB 370 is not about community safety,” said McFadden. “It’s about stopping sheriffs.” Read more

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.