Immigration Update – February 7, 2016

Hearing on Border Crossings

Last Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee tackled the issue of last year’s migrant surge of women and children across our nation’s southern border.  In 2014, a record number of minors – 68,000 – entered the U.S. without legal permission to do so.

The majority of these children came from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – very dangerous countries indeed.

Hardline Republicans blame President Obama for the surge and claim that lax immigration policies of DHS amounted to an open invitation to come.  Committee Democrats argued that mothers and children who sought asylum had the legal right do just that.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) blamed Congress itself for the problem.  “What we should do is we should create a system that allows people to come … not through drug smugglers, not through human-trafficking, but with a plane ticket with a visa … A legal way to the come the U.S. so we could have an organized fashion in which we have our immigration policy set forth.”

Immigration News

A 32 year old undocumented mother of 3 U.S. citizens, who was granted a temporary reprieve from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was deported to Mexico after she tried to reenter the U.S. legally last week.  Under DACA, an undocumented person can receive advance parole – permission – to travel overseas.  Lesly Sophia Cortez-Martinez received that advance parole, but when she tried to pass through Customs in Chicago, CBP detained her and eventually deported her pursuant to a 2004 deportation order.

This incident highlights several things.  First, it puts to bed the argument that “anchor babies” keep government officials from deporting undocumented people.  Second, even with advance parole being granted, an undocumented immigrant faces potential exclusion or deportation when trying to return.  Third, you have to be extremely careful in making the decision to travel abroad and should obtain a complete copy of your immigration file so as to identify “missing” deportation orders.  Big problems for sure.  Fourth, again it shows that despite President Obama’s claims that he is focusing deportations on criminals, mothers and fathers with no criminal record at all are still being deported.

Our deportation courts around the country depend on hard-working interpreters to allow the wheels of justice to grind on (ever so slowly).  Hundreds of these interpreters now claim that they have gone months without being paid by the Department of Justice’s government contractor – SOS International.  Last July, the Justice Department switched contractors, awarding a $12 million dollar annual contract to SOS.  Time to pay the bills, people!

Immigration comes up often at Republican and Democratic Presidential debates.  Last Saturday, Senator Marco Rubio faced fire from the other GOP nominees for his prior support to the so-called Gang of Eight bill.  This bill would have created an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  Rubio was an early sponsor of the legislation, which eventually died in the House when Republican leaders refused to put the bill to a vote.  Now, as a candidate for President, Rubio is trying to dance his way around the issue with Republican stalwarts who tend to take a more conservative view of the immigration issue.