The amount of deaths of immigrant detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody has been on the rise over the past several years. A recent CNN report revealed that 21 people died in ICE custody this year, double the number of deaths in 2019. Immigrant advocates believe that this rise in deaths is due to worsening conditions in detention centers, lack of adequate medical care, as well as mishandling of COVID-19 by ICE.
According to the CNN Report, “More than a third of the people who died in ICE custody this year had tested positive for Covid-19 – including a 56-year-old man from the Marshall Islands, who died in a Louisiana hospital, and a 61-year-old man from Mexico, who died in a Georgia hospital last week.”
When questioned about this rising death count, ICE responded by detailing their efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers and stated that the total number of detainees has decreased during the pandemic.
While there has been an increase in detainee deaths this year, past years have also revealed alarming numbers. BuzzFeed News filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request in 2019, requesting records pertaining to 25 deaths of detainees in ICE Custody. Over 5,000 pages of documents were released, revealing “that ICE’s own investigators raised serious concerns about the agency’s care of the people it detains, with one employee describing the treatment leading up to one death as ‘a bit scary.’”
In addition, “in multiple instances, guards who were supposed to observe detainees placed in solitary confinement for extra monitoring falsified records to hide apparent dereliction of duty. In at least two cases — at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona and Adelanto Detention Facility in California — people died while they were not being watched but should have been.”
Overall, these deaths of detainees in ICE custody reveal disturbing details of inadequate treatment and denial of basic human rights to immigrants. As immigrant advocates continue to speak out, it remains to be seen whether ICE will take the necessary steps to prevent more deaths of detainees in the future.
In President Donald Trump’s continued effort to eliminate immigration to the United States, it was revealed this week that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) plans to hold training sessions for citizens to teach them how to arrest undocumented immigrants. To say that this program (dubbed the “Citizens Academy”) could lead to devastating consequences for immigrants is an understatement.
As reported by Newsweek, “A letter published online by The St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) appears to show ICE Chicago Field Office Director Robert Guadian inviting shareholders to participate in the course, which includes six days of training over a six-week period starting in September.” A copy of this letter can be found here.
According to Field Director Guadian, this program would be the first of its kind and would “serve as a pilot for nationwide implementation.” The planned courses would include “defensive tactics, firearms familiarization and targeted arrests.”
Understandably so, many immigrant advocates and legislators are outraged and appalled by the development of this program, which was never brought to the attention of lawmakers prior to its announcement. Speaking with Newsweek, “Chicago Congressman Jesús ‘Chuy’ García said he was disturbed by the program, which he fears will lead to racial profiling, surveillance and potential violence.”
Sara John, the executive director of the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) also shared her shock with Newsweek, stating, “We are outraged at the launch of yet another immoral initiative used by ICE to criminalize and destroy our families [. . .] The Citizens Academy program will train citizens to perpetuate race-based violence and further normalizes hate crimes that already devastate our neighborhoods.”
The Trump Administration’s strikes on immigration in the United States have been countless over the past three years. New policies continue to harm the lives of immigrants and their families daily. If you are in need of immigration assistance, please contact our office as we continue to advocate for the rights of immigrants throughout the country and the world.
OK, let’s get straight to the point: If you are in the United States without permission, you need to carry proof that you have resided in the United States for at least the most recent two years. Here’s why.
What is “expedited removal”?
On June 25, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that if you are a noncitizen in “expedited removal” proceedings, you don’t have a right to ask a federal judge to review your case.
If you are placed in expedited removal, you could ask for certain forms of relief, including asylum. But you will need to convince an immigration official that you have a valid asylum claim. If the official decides that you don’t have a valid asylum claim, then you can ask for an Immigration Judge to review that decision. If the Immigration Judge agrees that you don’t have a valid claim, then you could be removed from the United States.
“Expedited removal” proceedings are usually very quick – a matter of days.
Which persons may be placed in “expedited removal” proceedings?
Until very recently, the only persons who could be placed in “expedited removal” proceedings were those persons who were encountered within 14 days of entry to the United States and within 100 miles of the U.S. border.
The Trump Administration has decided to apply expedited removal to all undocumented persons encountered anywhere in the United States who have resided in the United States for less than two years. A federal district court had temporarily blocked that expanded use of expedited removal procedures. But on June 23, 2020, a federal appeals court ended that temporary ban. The decision of the appeals court means that, for now at least, any persons who are not able to show that they are permitted to be in the United States, and who are not able to show that they have been physically present in the United States for at least the most recent two years, could be subject to expedited removal.
Why should I carry proof of two years of U.S. residence at all times?
If you are encountered by immigration officials and you are able to show that you have been in the United States for at least the most recent two years, then you should not be placed in “expedited removal” proceedings. At the very least, you would have some more options moving forward in the immigration system.
Which documents will help me?
Documents that show your identity, such as a valid passport or other valid ID, will help to show who you are. Documents to show your time in the United States could include pay receipts, bills, leases, monthly bank statements, monthly mortgage statements, or any other documents that contain three important things:
- your name
- an address in the United States
- a date
By carrying these documents at all times, you should have an opportunity to avoid the “expedited removal” process.
BuzzFeed News recently obtained a Homeland Security memo describing allegations of inadequate medical care for immigrants in detention centers.
According to information BuzzFeed obtained from the memo, “Immigrants held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails around the U.S. received medical care so bad it resulted in two preventable surgeries, including an 8-year-old boy who had to have part of his forehead removed, and contributed to four deaths.”
The BuzzFeed report also stated that “three people had died in ICE lockup after receiving inadequate medical treatment or oversight, and said official reports on a fourth person’s death were ‘very misleading.’ One man died from meningitis following ‘grossly negligent’ care. Another killed himself after saying he would do exactly that months earlier.”
The whistleblower’s allegations were sent to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general in April of 2018 and were then forwarded to the DHS officer for Civil Rights and Liberties as well as top Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) leadership in July of 2018 for further investigation.
Recently, the House Oversight and Reform Committee opened up an investigation into the medical care of immigrants in detention centers. The congressional committee issued letters demanding documents from DHS and ICE by January 10, 2020. A spokesperson for DHS recently stated that the Department has already provided the committee with more than 5,000 pages of documents relating to the medical care of immigrant detainees.
A report from USA Today has also highlighted the poor medical care provided in such facilities. In one instance, “Thomas, a diabetic, said he’s lost 20 pounds in ICE custody because of a combination of medical errors and questionable food preparation. He said he’s gone up to two weeks without receiving his diabetes medication and was fed a diet not suited for an unmedicated diabetic.”
In another incident, a female detainee “said she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a chronic mental health condition, four years ago. But after she was jailed in 2018, she asked for her medication for weeks to no avail.”
DHS asserts that they “are dedicated to providing timely and comprehensive medical care to immigrants in their custody, noting that they have access to a daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”
The current House investigation into the inadequate treatment of immigrant detainees will likely shed more information on the urgent situation at hand.
Every year, many students from all around the world seek student visas in order to enter and study in the United States for a designated period of time.
In an effort to lure foreign students who they “believed were trying to stay in the country illegally,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set up a fake university in Michigan called the University of Farmington.
The fake university admitted students and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, in tuition but never held actual classes. In order to maintain valid student status and keep their visas, foreign students must remain enrolled in their programs while in the United States.
ICE recruited hundreds of these students to their fake university in Michigan and then arrested them for being enrolled in a fake university.
According to the Detroit Free Press, “About 600 students, mostly from India, were enrolled at the university in Farmington Hills, a majority of them in master’s degree programs in engineering or computer-related fields. The students had arrived in the U.S. legally through approved student visas and didn’t have criminal records.”
DHS argues that the students it lured had an objective of committing immigration fraud and that students should have realized no classes were actually held. The problem with this argument is that many students were apprehensive and tried to contact the university and figure out what was happening. They, however, were not told the truth by the school administrators, who were in fact undercover government agents.
As of November 2019, about 250 students have been arrested for immigration violations by ICE. Many of these students were placed in removal proceedings and granted voluntary departure.
To date, we are not aware of any lawsuits filed against the U.S. government for collecting the money or entrapping the students.
On October 22, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would amend regulations to require DNA sampling from hundreds of thousands of noncitizens. Specifically, this rule would require DNA collection from “individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted, and from non-United States persons who are detained under the authority of the United States.”
Legal permanent residents and other immigrants entering the country legally will not be subject to this rule. Attorney General William Barr issued the rule “with the expectation that federal authorities will gather DNA information on about 748,000 immigrants annually, including asylum-seekers presenting themselves at legal ports of entries.”
Immigrant advocates fear that this rule will have implications for U.S. family members of individuals whose fingerprints are taken. Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the ACLU, said that DNA collection is “the most intimate information that you can take from someone. It is information you can use to find their family members, to know their histories. And we’re going to be taking it from people against their will.”
The Justice Department hopes to send the DNA collected from noncitizens to an FBI database that contains the DNA of individuals who have been convicted of crimes in an attempt to lead to more crimes being solved. This goal has been denounced by immigrant advocates who point to studies demonstrating that the increased flow of undocumented immigrants to the United States does not lead to a spike in crime.
This rule is subject to a 20-day comment period that is likely to see rebuke from immigrant advocates. The Trump Administration’s efforts to harm immigrants is as active as ever, and this rule is just one of the many examples of this onslaught.
USCIS recently announced that it will stop handling requests for non-military “deferred action.” Deferred action is a form of temporary relief from deportation for immigrants facing special and often life-threatening circumstances.
It is reported that deferred action was granted for 20,000 immigrants from 2012 to 2016. Deferred action does not confer lawful status on an immigrant and does not lead to permanent residence. But those with deferred action will not have removal proceedings initiated against them and will be considered lawfully present in the country. A grant of deferred action also does not excuse any past periods of unlawful presence. Deferred action requests are handled on a case-by-case basis and can be renewed and terminated at any time.
USCIS did not give advance public notice for this change in policy. Instead, people who have long relied on this form of immigration relief or had recently filed requests for deferred action received denial letters in the mail from USCIS, stating that the agency is no longer processing such requests. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) will now assume responsibility of these deferred action requests even though the denial letters sent by USCIS did not state this fact. Moreover, ICE is an enforcement agency that detains and deports countless immigrants each day. People without lawful status in the United States will understandably be hesitant to request deferred action from the same agency that could detain and deport them.
It is important to note that this policy does not affect deferred action related to military members or DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Nevertheless, this policy will negatively affect a vulnerable population of immigrants who are unlikely to have any other form of immigration relief available to them, including children facing serious medical conditions like cancer, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, and HIV and who cannot return to their home countries safely. These individuals will now be at risk of facing deportation.
This sudden shift in policy is yet another targeted attack by the Trump Administration on legal immigration. Policy changes like this continue to place vulnerable immigrants, including persons with life-threatening illnesses, at risk of deportation. Only time will tell the lengths that this administration will go in order to unjustly limit the avenues of relief for immigrants in the United States.
The Trump Administration recently announced a new policy regarding “expedited removal,” effective immediately, that allows U.S. immigration officials to remove people from the United States, without any hearing and without any review, unless they can prove that they have been physically present in the United States for at least two years.
It is virtually certain that lawsuits will be filed by noncitizens attempting to block this new policy, but the outcome of those lawsuits is unknown.
It is crucially important that all persons in the United States without authorization carry with them proof that they have been in the United States for at least two years. Some examples of documents to prove physical presence include tax returns, paystubs, medical bills, utility bills, leases, or any other documents that have your name, a date, and an address in the United States.
It is also crucially important to carry, at all times, a valid form of identification, such as a valid passport, driver license, state ID card, or some other form of valid identification issued by a government office.
Please remember that if you are encountered by U.S. immigration officials, you have the right to remain silent. Immigration officials, however, using this new policy, could conclude that you have not established your identity and that you have not established that you have been physically present in the United States.
If you choose to speak to U.S. immigration officials, you should tell the truth. If you are able to establish your identity, and if you are able to establish by documentation that you have been physically present in the United States for at least two years, then you should not be subject to expedited removal. You still could be subject to arrest, but you would have the right to have a hearing in Immigration Court.
UPDATE: On June 22, 2019, President Trump announced that he will “hold off” on the massive deportations for two weeks.
President Trump has promised “massive” ICE raids beginning June 23, 2019, apparently focused on persons who have final orders of removal. It generally happens, however, that whenever ICE officers go into a community searching for specific persons, ICE often arrests other persons who they find.
Here are some things to keep in mind to prepare for an ICE raid:
- You have the right to remain silent, if you wish
- Record details of your encounter with ICE
- Record names of officers, if you are able to
- Do NOT run away from ICE officers
- Do NOT sign any document that you do not understand and that you do not wish to sign
- Tell the ICE officer that you want to speak to an attorney
- If you do speak to ICE, tell the truth.
If ICE comes to the door of your home:
- Do NOT open the door
- ICE is ONLY allowed to enter if they have a valid search or arrest warrant with the correct name and address, signed by a judge
- Ask the ICE officer to slip the warrant under the door or to hold it up to a window so that you can read it.
- If ICE shows you a warrant of deportation or removal, and if that document is NOT signed by a judge, then you do NOT need to open the door.
- If ICE does not show you a warrant signed by a judge, then politely tell ICE that you are not required to open the door.
If ICE enters your home:
- Remain calm
- Call an attorney immediately
- You do not need to say anything. Instead you can say that you have the right to remain silent
- Do NOT sign any document that you do not understand and that you do not wish to sign.
Attorney General William Barr recently issued a decision that overturns a policy that is at least 14 years old, and which threatens to keep many asylum applicants in jail while their cases are pending for months or years.
In Matter of M-S-, issued on April 16, 2019, the Attorney General decided that for persons who enter the United States without permission and who are encountered by U.S. immigration officials shortly after their entry, and who seek asylum, these persons are not eligible for bonds to be released from detention. The only options for these persons are to remain in detention until the completion of their cases in Immigration Court (which could last for months or years), or to be released from jail on parole from U.S. immigration officials.
The Attorney General’s decision overturns a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals from 2005.
Because the Attorney General’s decision has the potential to require the detention of so many persons, the Department of Homeland Security requested that the Attorney General delay the effective date of the decision. The Attorney General agreed, and has delayed the effective date of the decision for 90 days, so that U.S. immigration officials may acquire more facilities to detain asylum applicants. It appears that the new policy will go into effect on or around July 15, 2019.
The Attorney General’s decision appears to be yet another policy shift by the Trump Administration to try to discourage persons from applying for asylum and to make it as difficult as possible for those asylum applicants to navigate the legal system. Winning asylum in the United States is difficult even under the most favorable conditions. Those persons seeking asylum while in jail face many more obstacles. It is much more difficult to meet with attorneys and others who wish to help the persons prepare their cases. There is much less time to prepare cases, because detained persons are typically on court schedules that progress much more quickly that those who are not in jail. It is much more difficult for jailed persons to communicate with family and friends to help to prepare the case and obtain documents in their home countries to help prove their asylum claims.
The Trump Administration will also further burden U.S. taxpayers by spending more money on detaining asylum applicants for months or years at a time.
As with other new policies, the Attorney General’s decision in Matter of M-S- will very likely be appealed in court. The final outcome of the new policy is uncertain.