Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Immigrant succeeds on civil rights claim

A Nashville woman will receive a substantial settlement after being shackled to her hospital bed while giving birth.

Nobody likes a traffic ticket.
Photo credit @woodleywonderworks on Flickr; used under Creative Commons license.
Ms. Juana Villegas was taken into custody during a 2008 traffic stop. As part of an agreement between Tennessee law enforcement officials and federal immigration enforcement, local police had the power to detain people whose immigration status was in question. At the time, Ms. Villegas was nine months pregnant. She went into labor during her six-day stay in immigration detention. While she gave birth, she was kept in handcuffs and leg chains. After she delivered her child, she was denied the use of a breast pump, which caused an infection.

Ms. Villegas filed suit to protest this treatment. A federal judge ruled in 2011 that the jail officials had shown "deliberate indifference" to Ms. Villegas' medical needs. In an unusual step, the judge also recommended that Ms. Villegas be given immigration status, under a visa type for crime victims. Appeals ensued, but the city settled with Ms. Villegas to avoid further litigation.

Ms. Villegas' case has clarified rights for immigration detainees, and also opened a new possible route to legal status for people whose civil rights have been violated.

If someone you know is in immigration detention, or if you have questions about which visas you might be eligible for, please contact us to see if we are able to help.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Quotas aren't just for traffic tickets

It's a full house... by law.
Photo credit @ChodHound, Flickr; used under CC License.
A Congressional quota requires that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) keep roughly 34,000 detainees in custody per day -- whether ICE wants to detain that many people, or not. This policy dates from 2006, when some legislators wanted to make sure that the federal government didn't get lazy on enforcing the immigration laws.

Years ago, ICE filled those spots easily, with the huge number of people it caught at border crossings. Now there are fewer people coming over the border, and ICE cannot meet its quota. So the government searches for legally present immigrants who have criminal records, and also focuses on undocumented immigrants taken into custody during traffic stops by local police.

A large number of these people --as many as half of them --will appear before immigration judges and eventually be approved to stay in the United States. In the meantime, however, they have to spend months in costly federal custody. This also feeds the pockets of private prison companies, such as the GEO Group and CCA. These companies, in turn, spend money lobbying Congress on immigration issues.

Immigration advocates point out that other, less costly forms of supervision are available, such as GPS ankle bracelet monitoring. The alternatives cost less than one-tenth of the price of keeping a person in detention, and research shows there is nearly full compliance with them.

While a quota, in theory, may seem like a way to ensure that immigration laws are enforced, in practice it just means that people are locked up unnecessarily.

Read more at the Washington Post.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Iraqi Visa Program Temporarily Renewed Despite Government Shutdown

The Special Immigrant Visa Program (SIV Program) was created as part of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Public Law 110-181, which was signed into law on January 28, 2008.  The legislation authorized 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas per year for Iraqis who provided valuable service to the U.S. government while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, for not less than one year after March 20, 2003, and who have experienced or are experiencing ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment.  Many translators fall into this category. 

The program would have expired on September 30, 2013, but fortunately, Congress approved a three-month extension of the program.  This short-term solution was seen as a significant accomplishment in the midst of the tumultuous government shutdown.

Unfortunately, the bill does not resolve the substantial backlog that currently exists with this visa program.  Thousands of applicants are still waiting for adjudication of their applications.

For more information on this subject, check out this recent article in the New York Times, this wonderful podcast from This American Life, and this website The List Project

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall has come to Faneuil Hall

Beautiful fall colors can be seen around Faneuil Hall!  This picture was taken from our new location at 1 South Market Building, 4th floor, Boston, MA.