On Monday, June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court struck down most parts of Arizona’s immigration law aimed at curbing illegal immigration. However, the court let stand a controversial provision that allows police to check someone’s legal status to stay in this country if they reasonably suspect when enforcing other laws. With a 5-3 split, the court upheld the federal government’s authority to set immigration policies and law. The Supreme Court also found that “The National Government has the significant power to regulate immigration.”
The critics say that leaving the door open to check once legal status to stay in this country violates personal rights and opens the door for racial profiling. The Governor of Arizona said that law will go into effect immediately allowing the provision to check one’s status to stay in this country while enforcing other laws such as traffic violations. The Governor further indicated that law enforcement in Arizona have been adequately trained on the subject.
The Arizona state government enacted the law in April 2010 and has been under legal challenge by the Federal government until the Supreme Court decision. The President indicated that the opening allowed by the recent decision will lead to racial profiling by the police.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department Homeland Security implements the Secure Communities program. This program has been created to quickly identify and deport illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes. To date, 44 States are participating in the program. Under the program fingerprints of anyone arrested by the police are checked against the data bases maintain by the FBI (which is a routine procedure) and the data base maintain by the Department of Homeland Security which holds information of all foreign-born personals living in the U.S.
Under the program, agents are instructed to accelerate deportation of illegals who commit a serious crime. The ICE expects to broaden the program to cover the entire nation by next year.
A recent review of the program by the Inspector General’s office credits the program for rapidly identifying the criminals with a very low cost to states. However, the ICE indicates that the program has led to confusion and resistance by some localities and opting to get out of the program. The Inspector General and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security are working together to clean up some missteps taken by each agency.
The Department of Homeland Security will release a new rule for public comments shortly dealing with immediate family members of a legal citizen who are living in the U.S. illegally. Current regulation requires such family members to leave the country and wait outside the U.S. until their request for permanent residency paperwork processed that takes a longer time. The proposal will allow the family members to remain in U.S. and shorten the processing time. They will still be required to briefly leave the country and reenter after obtaining permanent visa. The new rule will affect one million of the 11 million illegals estimated to be living in the U.S. The current administration is using its executive power to change the procedure rather than changing the law to address the time and location of family members.
The administration’s previous failed attempt, the Dream Act, would have created a path for citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who attend college.
The current procedures restrict those who overstayed their visa for over six months entering the country again for three years and those who over stayed more than a year will not be allowed to enter the country for ten years.
Another senseless and unprovoked killing by an illegal immigrant of a woman, 31-year old Kate Steinle who was walking with her father on a busy pier during daylight in San Francisco bring the illegal immigration issue to the forefront one more time. The killer used only one bullet. Officials in San Francisco state that it is a random act of violence.
The suspect, 45-year old Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez is an undocumented from Mexico and has been deported five times prior to the incident. He has been released by local authorities in San Francisco few months earlier. He was attracted to the San Francisco City because of its Sanctuary City policies where violators of the law suspected to be in the country illegally are not reported to Federal authorities regardless of any requirements under the Federal law.
In the center of the controversy is a battle between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the City. ICE handed over the suspect to the local agency in March to face a felony charge and failed to forward a warrant to handover the suspect after release from local agency custody. The incident is sure to bring the illegal immigration and especially deportation of those with criminal history to the forefront and on to the upcoming Presidential election campaign.
Some cities in the United States and Canada are called “Sanctuary City” when it comes to illegal immigrants. They follow practices that can be helpful to illegal immigrants by law or practice. The sanctuary cities in the United States do not allow their municipal funds or resources to be used for enforcement of the Federal immigration laws. This is why some cities do not ask questions about the legal status of those they apprehend.
Sanctuary policies began in 1979 with the City of Los Angeles and it prevented its police asking questions about the immigration status of arrestees. In Los Angeles, this policy is known as Special Order 40. More than 30 other cities including New York City, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami, and Denver have since adopted similar policies. Some even go beyond these policies and adopted city ordinances making it a law of the particular city. They mainly ban their police officers and employees asking questions about individual’s immigration status.
However, the Illegal Immigration and Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, deal with the Federal and local government policies and make minor crimes such as shoplifting a deportable offense.
A judge in a District Court in Texas in February 2015 ordered a temporary halt to certain actions of President Obama’s controversial immigration measures. The order came as a result of a review of a lawsuit jointly filed by 26 states. Republicans were overjoyed by the judge’s decision and Obama Administration is sure to appeal the decision.
A public poll immediately after the decision by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that 73 percent of Americans wants the Congress to take the immigration issue up for discussion and action. They support a comprehensive immigration bill rather than trying to undo President’s Executive Orders including the ability to get work permits for nearly five million illegals living in the United States already and providing legal safety from deportation.
No matter what, illegal immigration is sure to dominate the 2016 Presidential elections. Some candidates are already aligning with the opposition to President Obama’s Executive Orders and calling for Congressional actions to counter them. It will be a battle since many Black and Hispanics and majority of whites support President’s actions mainly due to lack of action by the Congress on the immigration issues.
President Obama signed an executive order in November 2014 giving more than five million illegal immigrants protection against deportation. A new State of California law, AB 60 went into effect on January 2, 2015 allowing illegal immigrants to obtain California driver’s license. The Presidential executive order has been challenged in Texas courts and a judge has issued an order temporarily blocking the implementation of it.
Prospective applicants for a driver’s license in California still need to pass the written test as well as the road driving test. New law in California may provide a sense of relief for many who drove in the past without proper documentations. Many argue that driving privileges will allow illegals with better paying jobs, an opportunity to educate their kids, and promote less stressful life style for them. Lawmakers expect more than 1.6 million to apply for driver’s license under the program and as of early February 2015, more than 76,000 such driver’s licenses have been issued by the Department Motor Vehicles. Majority of Californians expect to see reduction in number of hit and run accidents and some even think that the charge that they pay for uninsured motorist accident coverage may go down in the future.
According to new statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) number of illegal immigrants crossing the border is up and the number of deportations down in 2014.
Apprehensions at the border is a barometer which indicates the illegal border crossing activity and numbers show that they are up 16 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. On the other hand number of deportations indicates how vigorous the government actions are in enforcing the law and that number indicates 24 percent decrease in 2014 compared to the prior year. For both numbers the period covered is from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014.
Recently announced Presidential temporary stay orders will contribute to decrease deportations even further in 2015. Most of the recent illegal immigrants from Central America and deportation of those captured are contributing to lower deportation numbers. Deporting these illegal immigrants require flight and travel documents and funds which are contributing factors for the delay. “Sanctuary City” programs are also contributing to the delay in capturing and deporting illegals. Even though funding is available to deport 400,000 illegal immigrants a year, the government is behind its target due to these and other reasons.
President Obama’s recent immigration executive order is expected to help about five million illegal immigrants from deportations and help them to stay in the United States. Seventeen states including Texas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Alabama, Maine, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Utah and Mississippi are suing the Obama Administration for failure to enforce current immigration laws. This is their way of contesting and fighting the recent executive order. They argue that the new executive order will encourage more illegal immigration burdening the already cash strapped states. On the other hand cities such as Tucson, Arizona are no longer checking the immigration status of people they stop disobeying the state law and only enforcing the Federal law.
The new Congress, both House and Senate, that will be sworn in January 2015 is controlled by the Republicans. However, they do not have the veto proof majority unless some Democrats sides with them on immigration issues. Rumblings from Senate and House majority leaders that indicate they will be working on their own immigration proposals can be heard over the airways. President Obama argues that his recent executive order is well within his rights and power.