WBEZ | National Immigrant Justice Center http://www.wbez.org/tags/national-immigrant-justice-center Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Lawyers fear speedy deportations harm minors http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rocket docket.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lawyers who work with unaccompanied, illegal child migrants in Chicago are raising the alarm over new fast-track deportations, saying the process may result in a denial of due process in court. Referring to the expedited schedulings as the &ldquo;rocket docket,&rdquo; many fear that children may be scheduled for court hearings so quickly that they may not have time to find lawyers, or if they do, their lawyers will not have enough time to craft a defense case. Ultimately, this could result in more children returning to the dangerous environments that they&rsquo;d fled.</p><p>&ldquo;We somehow got notice of hearings that they had been scheduled to attend in Chicago on a Monday, and this was on a Thursday or Friday when they contacted us, &rdquo; said Lisa Koop, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center. &ldquo;We thought it was a fluke or a glitch in the system.&rdquo;</p><p>The NIJC helps thousands of immigrant children that pass through federal shelters in Chicago. Koop said kids who arrived in the Spring originally had seven or eight months between the time the Department of Homeland Security filed a Notice to Appear in Chicago&rsquo;s immigration court, and the &ldquo;master calendar hearing,&rdquo; which signals the opening of removal proceedings against an immigrant. But those hearings have suddenly been moved up several months, to August.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not a lot of time to secure an attorney, begin to develop case theory, start to strategize about how this case ought to be prepared and presented moving forward,&rdquo; said Koop.</p><p>In fact, Koop said scores of children whose master calendar hearings were moved up had not even received notice of the change.</p><p>&ldquo;We very quickly learned a lot of the children weren&rsquo;t aware they had these hearings,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;either because the notices hadn&rsquo;t reached them yet or because the notices had been sent to an incorrect address.&rdquo;</p><p>The address discrepancies were likely because the child had been reunited with family elsewhere in the country shortly after the Notice to Appear had been filed in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve really shifted gears and our whole staff is just calling all of these kids that are on dockets, and trying to figure out where they are, and letting them know they have court,&rdquo; she said. Koop said NIJC attorneys have been getting permission from the children to move to change venue for the children&rsquo;s cases. On one day earlier this month, they filed 200 motions for change of venue on behalf of kids that once, but no longer, were sheltered in Chicago.</p><p>The U.S. is dealing with record numbers of unaccompanied children coming across the Southwest border. In the ten months leading up to August, nearly <a href="http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/SWB%20Family%20and%20UAC%20Apps%20through%20July.pdf">63,000</a> were caught. More than three-quarters come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Koop said nearly 60 percent of the children that the NIJC screens in Chicago shelters are eligible for asylum, or some other form of protection against removal.</p><p>&ldquo;Our concern is that there is a compromise of due process when they&rsquo;re required to press forward with a case before they&rsquo;re able to fully prepare it, before they&rsquo;re able to have any opportunity to recover from whatever trauma or negative experience gave rise to the need for them to flee,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Attorneys who work with unaccompanied minors say trauma, and deep emotional distress, is common among child migrants. Alex, a 17-year old Salvadorian who fled his home two years ago to avoid recruitment to a gang, is one example. Because he fears reprisals against his family, WBEZ is not using his full name.</p><p>&ldquo;I had been jumped on three occasions and I didn&rsquo;t feel safe. I wanted to move... from my home to another place, but I didn&rsquo;t know where to go,&rdquo; said Alex. &ldquo;My country is small and the gangs are everywhere. My dad had also become afraid that they might kill me, or something. He said maybe the best way for me to get away from them would be to come to the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>Alex&rsquo;s father arranged for him to take buses and cars with strangers from El Salvador, through Guatemala, into Mexico, and ultimately across the U.S. border. He made the journey with dozens of others. But after days walking and sleeping in the desert, they were caught by border patrol.</p><p>Alex was taken to a children&rsquo;s shelter in Houston, where lawyers tried to start working on his case. But he fell into a deep depression.</p><p>&ldquo;When I had those problems, I didn&rsquo;t want to talk to anyone,&rdquo; Alex said. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to leave my room. I just stayed in bed.&rdquo;</p><p>The lawyers couldn&rsquo;t help Alex in that condition, so they transferred him to a mental health treatment center for nine months. Ultimately, Alex recovered and won asylum. He&rsquo;s 17 now, and lives with family in Chicago.</p><p>Without that time to recover, Alex said he wouldn&rsquo;t have been able to help his lawyer understand why returning home would be dangerous. Under the new docket system, he likely would have been sent back. That&rsquo;s what lawyers fear will happen now to other children.</p><p>The Department of Justice&rsquo;s Executive Office for Immigration Review confirmed that it&rsquo;s prioritizing children&rsquo;s removal cases, but denied that it compromises due process. In an email to WBEZ, a spokeperson wrote &ldquo;...the immigration judge ensures that the individual understands the alleged immigration law violations. The judge also provides information on available free or low-cost legal representation resources in the area.&rdquo;</p><p>But lawyers who help migrant children say that&rsquo;s not enough. It often takes several months for children to schedule a legal screening and to secure an attorney who&rsquo;s willing to take the case for free. Experts who work with the children say they hope immigration judges across the country will grant children continuances in their cases, to allow them extra time to find counsel. But even that may not be enough.</p><p>&ldquo;The rubber&rsquo;s really going to meet the road when the children show up after these several weeks of their continuance, and what the judge does if the child does not have an attorney,&rdquo; said Megan McKenna of Kids in Need of Defense, a New York-based nonprofit that helps migrant children find pro bono attorneys across the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re going to be seeing is 70-90 percent of these children will not be represented in their deportation proceedings,&rdquo; McKenna added, &ldquo;and that can mean children being sent back to situations of harm, and this is the harm they fled.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Vocalo&rsquo;s <a href="https://twitter.com/NorthsideLou">Luis Antonio Perez</a> contributed translation for this story.<br />Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau Reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715 Study: Undocumented immigrant youth languish in adult jails http://www.wbez.org/news/study-undocumented-immigrant-youth-languish-adult-jails-107539 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Immigrant children_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Chicago-based immigrant advocacy group has obtained data showing many unaccompanied immigrant youth are held in adult detention facilities longer than federally prescribed.</p><p>The National Immigrant Justice Center, which represents children who pass through federal custody facilities in the Chicago area, received the numbers after a two-year legal battle with the Department of Homeland Security. As part of a settlement, the <a href="http://www.immigrantjustice.org/sites/immigrantjustice.org/files/NIJC%20Fact%20Sheet%20Minors%20in%20ICE%20Custody%202013%2005%2030%20FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">NIJC secured information from 30 of the more than 200 adult immigrant detention facilities across the country</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The government is failing to provide even the most basic protection for children,&rdquo; said Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of NIJC. &ldquo;Our system has designed a place that&rsquo;s age-appropriate for immigrant children, and that&rsquo;s not adult detention facilities that are jails.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the data, more than 1,300 children were kept at adult immigration detention centers for more than three days between 2008 and 2012. Three of those facilities, the Jefferson County Jail, McHenry County Jail, and Tri-County Jail, are in Illinois.</p><p>Under the <a href="http://www.justice.gov/olp/pdf/wilberforce-act.pdf" target="_blank">Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008</a>, unaccompanied immigrant minors are required to be transferred to the federal Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours of apprehension. The law makes an allowance for exceptional circumstances, particularly if the child is thought to pose a threat to national security. But McCarthy says she doubts that accounts for many cases.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s something else behind this number, which is very unclear to me what&rsquo;s driving this,&rdquo; said McCarthy. WBEZ has reported that in the last two years, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/sharp-rise-young-unaccompanied-illegal-immigrants-tests-us-107511" target="_blank">the U.S. has seen a tripling of unaccompanied immigrant minors</a>, largely coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Many of them pass through Chicago while in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, under HHS.</p><p>A <a href="http://womensrefugeecommission.org/forced-from-home-press-kit">2012 survey</a> by the Women&rsquo;s Refugee Commission found similar stories among roughly 150 children who immigrated illegally to the U.S. without adults. It found that many children reported being detained in overcrowded, low-temperature holding cells at adult detention facilities, at times denied blankets, adequate food, and showers. Most important, said McCarthy, is that children there are denied access to legal counsel.</p><p>In a written response to the NIJC report, ICE stated:</p><p>&ldquo;ICE takes the responsibility of caring for Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) seriously and as of 2008, unaccompanied minors are not permitted to be detained by ICE for any longer than is necessary for Health and Human Services (HHS) to take custody of the minor. &nbsp;It is against ICE policy to detain an unaccompanied minor for more than 72 hours and in no instance will an unaccompanied minor be housed in an ICE detention facility while awaiting transfer to HHS. Unaccompanied minors are carefully kept in staging facilities away from the general population and minors are only held in ICE custody when accompanied by their parents in a facility designed to house families.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a>&nbsp;and at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZOutLoud" target="_blank">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Jun 2013 08:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/study-undocumented-immigrant-youth-languish-adult-jails-107539 Sharp rise in young, unaccompanied illegal immigrants tests U.S. http://www.wbez.org/news/sharp-rise-young-unaccompanied-illegal-immigrants-tests-us-107511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Immigrant children.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An often-forgotten fact in the immigration debate is that lately, <a href="http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2011.pdf">illegal border crossings to the U.S. have stagnated</a>. Except that&rsquo;s not the case for one category of immigrants: unaccompanied children.&nbsp; In just the last couple of years, the number of minors apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol has nearly tripled. Many of these kids come through Chicago, where agencies are scrambling to handle the load.</p><p>&ldquo;My brother, he called me and was telling me about the risk, but I just didn&rsquo;t listen to that,&rdquo; said Juan Cordoba, a young 17-year old whose real name WBEZ is withholding because he is an undocumented minor. &ldquo;I just thought that I wanted to be here, that I wanted to help my family.&rdquo;</p><p>With his attorney providing translation, Cordoba tells of how he was finishing high school in Honduras, living with his mother, stepfather and sisters, when he decided there was no point staying there.</p><p>&ldquo;As we all know, Honduras has a lot of corruption problems, there&rsquo;s a lot of violence, there&rsquo;s not a lot of opportunities,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and so as young people, we graduate and then you have no options, there&rsquo;s no jobs available, there&rsquo;s nothing.&rdquo; Cordoba said he believed there would be job opportunities in the U.S., so he decided to leave his family for what he hoped would be a better future.</p><p>It took Juan two months to cross Honduras and Mexico by bus and on foot. He ended up in McAllen, Texas, near the border. But then things fell apart. Juan fell into the hands of U.S. Border Security officials, who threw him into a federal detention facility.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really bad. They don&rsquo;t treat you nice,&rdquo; he remembered. &ldquo;They don&rsquo;t treat you like a human, they treat you like an animal. It was just not good.&rdquo;</p><p>Juan has two brothers in Chicago, so immigration enforcement transferred him to a child center here, in the custody of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement under the federal Department of Health and Human Services.* He was released after a few weeks to stay with his brothers as his immigration case proceeds.</p><p>Most unaccompanied youth are detained near the border, but many, like Juan, end up in Chicago -- one of the largest off-the-border hubs for unaccompanied minors in the U.S. In the last two years, the number of children brought to federal detention facilities here has exploded, from fewer than 400 in 2011 to nearly 1,300 a year later. The Chicago area used to have just one child detention facility; today, it has seven, in undisclosed locations.</p><p>The spike in Chicago mirrors a national trend. The Office of Refugee Resettlement expects to handle more than 23,000 children this year, triple what it saw two years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of them are just fleeing violence or fleeing some sort of bad situation,&rdquo; said Ellen Miller, an attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center, which represents all unaccompanied children in federal custody in Chicago. Miller said most of the increase is coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of them are coming to reunite with their family members who are already here,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Some of them, yes, we do have suspicion that there is other motivations in making them come here,&rdquo; she added, alluding to common cases in which children are trafficked to the U.S. for sex against their will. She said this is a particularly big problem with children who arrive from India and China.</p><p>The sudden influx has highlighted problems with how the U.S. handles these children. Lawyers like Miller represent them while they&rsquo;re here in federal detention centers.<br />But often that only lasts a few weeks, until they&rsquo;re placed in the custody of someone else, usually a family member. When that happens, the children are often flown out of Chicago, and the relationships with their attorneys ends. But their immigration cases must continue in the place they now live.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now kids are expected to find their own attorneys,&rdquo; said Maria Woltjen, Director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children&rsquo;s Rights at the University of Chicago. Woltjen said non-government agencies try to find pro-bono attorneys for these kids, but sometimes they can&rsquo;t.</p><p>&ldquo;We expect these kids to walk into that federal building, to find the courtroom, to go into that courtroom and figure out what to do,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And there&rsquo;s nobody there to receive them, there&rsquo;s no one there to greet them.&rdquo; According to Miller, some children that come to Chicago are as young as five years old, too short even to see above the bench in a courtroom.</p><p>Woltjen thinks there should be other changes, as well. She believes there should be a separate court system for immigrant minors, kind of like juvenile criminal court. Right now, kids are often on the same docket as adults.</p><p>&ldquo;We actually were accompanying a released child to court,&rdquo; recalled Woltjen, &ldquo;she was about 16 years old, and the judge, who was a very good judge...(hears an) adult case, adult case, adult case, and then this child&rsquo;s case, and the judge called her &lsquo;ma&rsquo;am.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Woltjen said judges and immigration officials are struggling with the increase in numbers, too. Without lawyers for the kids, they&rsquo;re often unsure if deportation is safe or in the kids&rsquo; best interest.</p><p>But Woltjen said the stress on the system may end up being a good thing.</p><p>&ldquo;It is putting more attention on this population of children,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So I think it&rsquo;s not only the NGO advocates who are pushing for changes in the system, but right now we think also the government agencies would like to see a change in the system.&rdquo;</p><p>Woltjen is particularly optimistic about changes that could come about through immigration reform. Woltjen credited U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) with including measures to help unaccompanied children in the so-called Gang of Eight bill. It would allow judges to appoint free legal counsel to unaccompanied minors. But there&rsquo;s no guarantee it will be kept in the final bill.</p><p>As for Cordoba, he says he&rsquo;s lucky to have a lawyer, and to live with his brothers while his immigration case unfolds. But he is still struggling with the memories of how he got to this country. Cordoba stressed the dangers crossing from Mexico into the U.S., but stopped short of describing how he got caught. His attorneys say before Cordoba was detained he was the victim of a crime. Cordoba&rsquo;s trying to forget it, and said to some extent, he regrets coming to the U.S.</p><p>&lsquo;&ldquo;But now that I&rsquo;m here, and I have this opportunity, I want to make the best of it and be able to stay here,&rdquo; he said. Cordoba said he&rsquo;s eager to get out of immigration court limbo and to to start working. Ultimately he hopes to go back to school and pursue a profession where he can help people.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;d like to become a doctor, or an immigration attorney.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZOutLoud">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p><p><em>*Correction: This article originally stated that the Office of Refugee Resettlement falls under the U.S. State Department. It is actually under the federal Department of Health and Human Services.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 01:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/sharp-rise-young-unaccompanied-illegal-immigrants-tests-us-107511 Immigration enforcement program faces novel suit http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration-enforcement-program-faces-novel-suit-100646 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ColoradoFingerprinting.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 214px; height: 250px; " title="A sheriff’s deputy in Centennial, Colo., prepares to fingerprint a suspect as part of booking into the Arapahoe County Justice Center. Secure Communities runs the fingerprints of everyone booked into jail against immigration records. (AP File/Chris Schneider)" />We&rsquo;ve been hearing a lot about how immigration enforcement intersects with local law enforcement. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Arizona requirement that police officers check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons. Now we&rsquo;ll hear from our West Side bureau about a suburban Chicago man who got tangled up with immigration enforcement after a drug arrest. He has filed a suit that offers a novel challenge to one of President Obama&rsquo;s key immigration-enforcement programs.</p><p>MITCHELL: There&rsquo;s no doubt James Makowski of Clarendan Hills did something illegal. In 2010 police caught him with heroin and he pleaded guilty to that. A judge approved him for a state-run boot camp. But that&rsquo;s not where Makowski ended up.</p><p>MAKOWSKI: I thought I would be home in 120 days but -- then after I get a note back from a counselor, after I&rsquo;d asked about when I&rsquo;d be shipping to boot camp -- she said that I was ineligible for boot camp due to an immigration detainer.</p><p>MITCHELL: That&rsquo;s basically a flag in his file from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency known as ICE. So . . .</p><p>MAKOWSKI: I got sent to the maximum-security penitentiary in Pontiac.</p><p>MITCHELL: And he stayed for about two months. How did this happen? It comes down to an ICE program called Secure Communities. In that program, FBI fingerprint data about people booked at local jails get run against immigration data. If a check yields a match, ICE can issue one of its detainers. The point is to catch people in the criminal justice system who are not authorized to be in the U.S. and eventually deport them. The thing is, Makowski had every right to be in the country.</p><p>MAKOWSKI: I feel like I got punished twice for what I did in my past.</p><p>MITCHELL: Makowski&rsquo;s detention was based on faulty information. He was born in India and adopted by a U.S. family. When he was 1, the government granted him citizenship. But &mdash; at age 22, when he got picked up on the heroin charge &mdash; the feds didn&rsquo;t have their records right. So, Makowski stayed in that maximum-security pen before authorities straightened things out and let him into the boot camp. On Tuesday, Makowski filed a federal suit over all this. Defendants include top officials at the FBI, ICE and their parent departments. Makowski claims that when the FBI shared data with ICE &mdash; and when ICE didn&rsquo;t keep track of his citizenship status &mdash; they violated his rights under the U.S. Privacy Act. Legal experts say the suit appears to be the first challenge to Secure Communities under that law. Makowski&rsquo;s attorneys include Mark Fleming of the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center.</p><p>FLEMING: There [are] simple ways in which both the FBI and ICE could be in compliance with the Privacy Act.</p><p>MITCHELL: Fleming says ICE could, for example, interview suspected immigration violators before slapping detainers on them.</p><p>FLEMING: Unfortunately, the system does not provide those basic checks right now and, so, there are many more U.S. citizens that are getting wrapped up into this.</p><p>MITCHELL: Officials at ICE and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security did not answer our questions about the suit Tuesday (see&nbsp;<a href="#note">UPDATE</a>). An FBI spokesman said his agency does not comment about pending litigation outside the courtroom. But a supporter of tougher immigration controls doubts that the Privacy Act protects U.S. citizens from what Makowski endured. Jessica Vaughan directs policy studies for a Washington group called the Center for Immigration Studies. Vaughan says the FBI and ICE share the fingerprint information for legitimate law-enforcement purposes.</p><p>VAUGHAN: Mistakes can be made. But that is not necessarily a reason to throw out the whole system.</p><p>MITCHELL: Vaughan says it&rsquo;s important to keep something else in mind.</p><p><a name="note"></a></p><p>VAUGHAN: The individual who&rsquo;s filing this suit would not have had anything to worry about had he not been convicted of a serious crime to begin with. He was convicted of a drug crime.</p><p>MITCHELL: Convicted he was. But Makowski says no one should have to serve extra time behind bars because of errors in immigration records.</p><p><em>After a deadline for Tuesday&rsquo;s broadcast of this story, ICE provided this statement: &ldquo;The information-sharing partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI serves as the cornerstone of Secure Communities, and fulfills a mandate required by federal law. This information sharing does not violate the Privacy Act. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is evaluating the allegations contained in the lawsuit; however, we do not comment on pending litigation.&rdquo;</em></p><p><em>The ICE statement continues: &ldquo;In December ICE announced a new detainer form and the launch of a toll-free hotline &mdash; (855) 448-6903 &mdash; that detained individuals can call if they believe they may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by ICE personnel at the Law Enforcement Support Center. Translation services are available in several languages from 7 a.m. until midnight (Eastern), seven days a week. ICE personnel collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office for immediate action.&rdquo;</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 04 Jul 2012 10:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration-enforcement-program-faces-novel-suit-100646 ICE nabs 29 in Chicago-area sweep for gang members http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-nabs-29-chicago-area-sweep-gang-members-98557 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ICE_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is talking up 29 Chicago-area arrests that were part of a national operation targeting transnational gangs.</p><p>Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of ICE’s Chicago-area Homeland Security Investigations, said the operation began April 9 and lasted three days. He said police in Wheeling, Waukegan, Joliet and Elgin took part.</p><p>“I don’t have the time and resources to just go round up everybody who happens to be in the country illegally,” Hartwig said. “Our job is to focus our resources on criminal gangs and criminal organizations — in this case, transnational gangs — who are operating in our communities and making our streets unsafe.”</p><p>As a result of the Chicago-area arrests, ICE says, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen and two foreign nationals face criminal charges. Officials say the other 26 detainees are in deportation proceedings.</p><p>An ICE statement says the operation, dubbed Project Nefarious, led to more than 600 arrrests nationwide. The statement says the operation spanned 150 U.S. cities and reached Honduras. The operation’s impetus, the agency adds, was a 2011 federal report that identified gangs tied to human smuggling and trafficking.</p><p>The victims of those crimes include foreign nationals in the United States, but some immigrant advocates are withholding praise for the operation.</p><p>“We support ICE’s efforts to target criminal enterprises rather than immigrants whose only crime is working to support their families,” said Chuck Roth, litigation director of the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center. “But past ICE actions have usually turned out to involve more arrests of bystanders and family members than of individuals actively engaged in wrongdoing.”</p></p> Wed, 25 Apr 2012 09:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-nabs-29-chicago-area-sweep-gang-members-98557 Cook County Board could vote on freeing inmates wanted by immigration authorities http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-commissioners-could-vote-next-week-releasing-some-jailed-immigrants-91496 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-03/Toni Preckwinkle.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County commissioners on Wednesday could take center stage in the nation’s immigration debate if they enact a proposal that would begin freeing some jail inmates wanted by federal authorities.</p><p>The measure requires the sheriff to decline Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests known as detainers “unless there is a written agreement with the federal government by which all costs incurred” by the county are reimbursed.</p><p>County Board Commissioner Jesús García, D-Chicago, introduced a similar proposal in July but quickly withdrew it, saying it needed rethinking. García has refined the measure and picked up nine other sponsors, including Board President Toni Preckwinkle.</p><p>The inmates remain in the county’s massive jail up to 48 hours beyond what their criminal cases require. ICE detainers enabled the federal agency to take custody of 1,665 of the jail’s inmates in 2010, according to Sheriff Tom Dart.</p><p>Dart’s office says complying with the detainers last year cost roughly $250,000.</p><p>An ICE statement calls the detainers “critical” for deporting “criminal aliens and others who have no legal right to remain in the United States.”</p><p>But García says the holds enable ICE to sweep up too many immigrants who pose little or no risk to public safety. “These people have been cleared of charges or have posted bond,” he says.</p><p>García says the detainers also cost taxpayers too much and spread fear of local police — claims disputed by pro-enforcement groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform.</p><p>ICE didn’t immediately comment on the revamped proposal but sent a statement warning that “jurisdictions that ignore detainers bear the risk of possible public safety risks.”</p><p>The federal government does not reimburse any local jurisdiction in the country for costs associated with the immigration detainers, according to ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro.</p><p>Commissioners could approve the proposal at their meeting Wednesday morning. It would take effect “immediately upon adoption,” the measure says.</p><p>“As far as I know, Cook County would be the first local jurisdiction in the country to quit complying with ICE detainer requests,” says Chris Newman, legal director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a group that leads opposition to the holds.</p><p>The proposal comes as a class-action suit in federal court challenges use of the detainers. Filed by the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, the suit charges that asking local police to detain immigrants when there is no evidence of illegal activity is unconstitutional.<br> &nbsp;</p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated what Sheriff Tom Dart’s office estimates that its ICE detainer compliance costs the county. A sheriff’s spokesman says the cost last year was roughly $250,000.</em></p></p> Fri, 02 Sep 2011 23:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-commissioners-could-vote-next-week-releasing-some-jailed-immigrants-91496 Quinn hits back against immigration checks http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-hits-back-against-immigration-checks-91065 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-26/deportation protest_flickr_presenteorg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is trying to throw another wrench into a key immigration-enforcement program of President Obama’s administration, saying it ensnares too many people and erodes trust in local police.<br> <br> An <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Quinn_office_to_Morton.pdf">August 18 letter</a> from the governor’s office to John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hints about a possible legal challenge and asks the federal agency to contact all 26 Illinois counties that have agreed to participate in the program, called Secure Communities, to confirm they still want to take part.<br> <br> “This is the least that ICE can do,” says the letter, signed by John Schomberg, Quinn’s general counsel. “These counties signed up, along with the state, for a Secure Communities that is far different from the program” ICE first presented.</p><p>The Obama administration says the program helps focus immigration enforcement on repeat immigration violators and dangerous criminals, such as murderers and kidnappers.</p><p>ICE reports that Secure Communities has led to the deportation of more than 86,000 convicted criminals. Data from the agency show that about half of those immigrants were convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies.<br> <br> The program has led to the deportation of another 34,000 people not convicted of any crime. Voicing concerns about them, Quinn withdrew Illinois from Secure Communities in May. New York and Massachusetts followed with similar steps.<br> <br> But an August 5 letter from Morton to governors says states no longer have any choice and that Secure Communities will extend to all local law-enforcement jurisdictions in the United States by 2013. An addendum to the letter describes changes in the program. Those include the elimination of a state role in conveying data for the fingerprints.</p><div><hr style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; "><blockquote><p><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><span style="font-size: 26px; "><em>"These counties signed up, along with the state, for a Secure Communities that is far different from the program"&nbsp;</em></span></span></p></blockquote><p><em>--John Schomberg, Quinn’s general counsel</em></p><hr style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; "><p>Mark Fleming, an attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, says ICE could end up in court if Secure Communities lacks the consent of the local jurisdictions. “The governor’s office may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge,” Fleming says.</p></div><p>Fleming points to 1990s rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that the 10th Amendment bars Congress from compelling state and local governments to administer federal regulations.<br> <br> Asked whether Illinois officials are cooking up a lawsuit, a Quinn spokeswoman refers to Schomberg’s letter, which says the governor’s office “will continue to monitor and evaluate” Secure Communities and “consider all of the state’s options.”<br> <br> ICE representatives did not respond to WBEZ requests for comment on whether Secure Communities violates the 10th Amendment.<br> <br> The Obama administration lately has downplayed agreements through which it first brought state and local governments into the federal initiative. “We wanted to work with the locals and let them know about the program,” says Jon Gurule, an ICE official who helped set up Secure Communities.<br> <br> “But, from the operational side, it’s federal information sharing between two federal agencies,” Gurule adds, referring to ICE and the FBI. “And it’s congressionally mandated.”<br> <br> If ICE checks in with the Illinois counties, as the Illinois letter asks, the federal agency would find some with second thoughts about joining Secure Communities. “If they honor the governor’s request, I would not want to partake in it,” says Patrick Perez, sheriff of west suburban Kane County, part of the program since 2009.<br> <br> “The program has not turned out to be what it was supposed to be,” Perez says, pointing to the deportation of non-criminals. “People in the Hispanic community have become very reticent to contact police if they’re victims of crime because they’re fearful that . . . they will be deported.”<br> <br> The federal initiative also has defenders. “My life has been destroyed by all of this cheap, foreign scab labor,” says a 56-year-old network engineer in Chicago, blaming immigrants for his unemployment and asking that his name not be published because he’s job hunting. “Whether it’s illegal aliens or foreign legal workers, they’re hurting American citizens.”<br> <br> “Secure Communities removes the criminals,” he says, “and that’s a start.”</p></p> Thu, 25 Aug 2011 22:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-hits-back-against-immigration-checks-91065