Monday, June 29, 2009

ACLU and State Department to settle dispute over U.S. citizen passport refusals

Photo used under Creative Commons from swimparallel.

In our June 15, 2009 post, we discussed how some U.S. citizens were being denied passports by the State Department. The State Department routinely refused to issue passports for U.S. citizens, mostly Mexican-Americans, born along the border with the aid of a midwife. The ACLU on behalf of several U.S. citizens brought a lawsuit against the State Department to stop the practice. The ACLU announced on June 26, 2009 that "The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has agreed to implement new procedures designed to ensure the fair and prompt review of U.S. passport applications by Mexican Americans whose births in Texas were attended by midwives. Under the agreement, no eligible applicant should be denied a passport."

If the settlement is approved by the court, the DOS will implement new training for its staff on how to properly evaluate these passport applications and all denials will be reviewed by a three-member panel. Importantly, "anyone birthed by a midwife who has filed an application for a passport between April 2003 and September 15, 2008 and, with a few exceptions, whose application was not expressly 'denied,' can re-apply for free. DOS will be setting up mobile units across the border on specific dates to assist those reapplying. " You can read the full press release here.

You can say what you want about the ACLU, but they were instrumental in stopping this discriminatory practice by the U.S. government.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fixing a broken system

Photo used under Creative Commons from Choubitstar.

President Obama spoke to the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference on June 19, 2009. You can see the White House's blog here. If you search around the White House website, you can see their guiding principles on immigration reform. As I have blogged before, I don't know or claim to know what the political resolution will be. I do hope, however, that we as a nation can address our broken immigration system and get people to come out of the shadows and reduce the incentives, whether economic or political, that cause illegal immigration. I pray that the Lord give wisdom to those decision makers that will be tackling this tough issue.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

USCIS has processing delays with new LPR cards

Photo used under Creative Commons from Garrett Allbright.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that some Lawful Permanent Residents ("LPRs") "may experience up to an eight week delay in the delivery of their permanent resident card." The delays were caused by the upgrade of USCIS processing equipment. The USCIS also stated:

USCIS Field Offices will be issuing temporary evidence of permanent residence in the form of an I-551 stamp to applicants approved for permanent residence at the time of their interview. You will need to take your passport to your appointment. If you do not have a passport, you must bring a passport style photo and government issued photo identification to receive temporary evidence of permanent residence.
You can read the full press release here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

U.S. Soldiers become U.S. Citizens in overseas ceremony

Photo used under Creative Commons from DVIDSHUB

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that two U.S. soldiers, one from the Marshall Islands and another from Mexico, became citizens in a ceremony held at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa Honduras. According to the press release, it was the first U.S. Citizenship cermony held in Honduras. You can read the full article here. There is also a helpful link for military families related to immigration information here.

Many soldiers have benefitted from Presidental Executive Order 13269 signed by former President Bush. The Executive Order states that "persons serving honorably in active-duty status in the Armed Forces of the United States, during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and terminating on the date to be so designated, are eligible for naturalization in accordance with the statutory exception to the naturalization requirements, as provided in section 329 of the Act."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Minuteman American Defense leader arrested in home invasion/murder investigation

Photo used under Creative Commons from blakeemry

Shawna Forde, the leader of Minuteman American Defense (MAD), has been arrested with two others in connection with the home invasion and murder of a father and his nine-year old daughter in Arizona. The sheriff investigating the case has been quoted as saying the group committed the crime to "fund the operations" of their border watch group. The group has denied any involvement.

This horrible crime is tragic and our prayers go out to the murdered family. It is also disturbing to note that Ms. Forde was a public advocate for immigration restriction. The video here shows Ms. Forde at an immigration debate claiming not only to be a member of MAD but also the national group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Aside from her unsupported claims, there is no indication that she was actually or officially affilated with FAIR, but it is incredible that she was someone that the mainstream media would turn to for an opinion on immigration reform.

As I have noted before, it is difficult to talk about immigration because it brings out raw emotions. I am also disturbed that this person would be considered a mainstream voice for immigration restriction. This case reminds us that we must remain vigilant and "separate the wheat from the chaff" when it comes to our sources of immigration information.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Press 1 for English otherwise have your credit card ready...

Photo used under Creative Commons from bixentro

MSNBC has a story describing how English "only" (if you prefer "official") language initiatives are spreading across the country during these tough economic times. It also describes in the second page of the story how some of the national initiatves are tied to anti-immigration groups. In January 2009, the City of Nashville, Tenn. put the issue before the voters. The initiative lost 57% to 43% and was opposed by an interfaith coalition. According to the MSNBC newstory "[Eric] Crafton, the sponsor of the Nashville initiative, said he eventually wants the city to charge a fee of $1 a minute to people who call 911 and need an interpreter, his measure did include an exemption for emergency services, a common provision of nearly all federal and state laws and proposals." Given other issues, the failed proposal probably won't be revived by Crafton anytime soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

U.S. Citizens having trouble getting passports

Photo used under Creative Commons from HJL.

According to federal regulations, a U.S. citizen or national is entitled to apply for a passport directly with the passport office without having to first obtain a certificate of citizenship. A passport is a very important document not just because it allows one to travel but because it is also conclusive proof of U.S. Citizenship. See 22 U.S.C. Sec. 2705(1982). All persons born in the United States are U.S. citizens. U.S. Constitution, 14th Amend. The constitution does not require that someone be born in a hospital.

Allegedly because of concerns about fraud, the State Department has routinely denied passport applications from U.S. Citizens who were born outside of a hospital with the aid of a midwife. This has led to a class action lawsuit by U.S. Citizens who were denied a passport. A copy of the most recent complaint is here. Despite introduced legislation to halt the State Department's actions, the practice continues unabated.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

U.S. temporarily stops deportation of widows of US citizens

Photo of Weeping Widow statue used under Creative Commons from TenThirtyNine.

A U.S. Citizen can petition for his/her alien spouse to come to the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident ("LPR" aka "Green Card holder"). Generally, if they have been married less than two years, the spouse is allowed to come to the United States "conditionally." The couple must then, within 90 days of the second anniversary of granting of conditional status status, file a petition to removed the conditional status and present evidence that the marriage remains valid. In those sad situations where the U.S. Citizen spouse died before the second anniversary, the conditional LPR widow(er) could face deportation because they no longer met the eligibility requirements. Today, the Department of Homeland Security temporarily stopped this practice. In a press release, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said:

“Smart immigration policy balances strong enforcement practices with common-sense, practical solutions to complicated issues... Granting deferred action to the widows and widowers of U.S. citizens who otherwise would have been denied the right to remain in the United States allows these individuals and their children an opportunity to stay in the country that has become their home while their legal status is resolved.”

This decision makes sense. The decision is only temporary, however. Indeed, today's Wall Street Journal goes into the issue in more detail.

Monday, June 8, 2009

New poll shows support for immigration reform but also tighter restrictions

Photo of The Immigrants (1973) by Luis Sanguino near the entrance to Castle Clinton, Battery Park, New York City under Creative Commons from melanzane1013.

A recent poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press shows an upswing in support for immigration reform. Sixty-three percent (63%) were in favor of "providing a way for illegal immigrants currently in the country to gain legal citizenship if they passbackground checks, pay fines and have jobs?" Interestingly, the same poll showed that 73% of respondents wanted the United States Government to "restrict and control people coming to live in our country more than we do now." You can read the full report here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

U.S. Attorney General Holder vacates Compean order

Photo used under Creative Commons from nyghtowl.

United States Attorney General Eric Holder reversed former Attorney General Michael Mukasey's opinion in the Matter of Compean, 24 I & N Dec. 710 (A.G. 2009). In January, shortly before he left office, Mukasey issued an opinion that immigrants in detention proceedings had no right to complain or seek redress for ineffective assistance of counsel. On Wednesday, however, Attorney General Holder stated that the department of justice will issue new rules to deal with the issue. He stated in a press release that the "integrity of immigration proceedings depends in part on the ability to assert claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, and the Department of Justice’s rulemaking in this area will be fair, it will be transparent, and it will be guided by our commitment to the rule of law."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Discussing immigration- it's hard sometimes.

Photo used under Creative Commons by gpwarlow

Rationally discussing immigration policy and reform is difficult because the subject raises many strong emotions and feelings. People who oppose immigration reform or want to limit or halt immigration are called "nativist" or "racist." Those that are in favor of immigration reform are labeled the "open borders" crowd or accused of wanting "destroy the American culture." As Christians, we are not compelled to agree on the political resolution of the current immigration situation. We are, however, called to be the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth." That means we need to mind our tone and temper our words, but not our passions, and do what we feel the Lord is leading us to do in this area. I'm not sure what the political solution is but I hope we can lead by example and show our leaders and politicians that we can engage the immigration issue without drifting into name calling and attacks.

With this in mind, I turn to the bizarre story of Marcus Epstein. He is the Executive Director for the Team America PAC. Mr. Epstein, pled guilty to "karate chopping" a black woman in the head while calling her a "N#@ger." According to it's founder, Tom Tancredo, "Team America PAC exists for one and only one reason: to support the election to Congress of candidates who share our commitment to supporting full border security, and opposing all amnesty measures for illegal aliens (whether they call it amnesty or not). " The online newspaper, the Washington Independent, has the story here and here.

As we struggle to rationally discuss immigration reform, I will note that racially tinged assault cases involving the executive director of a major immigration restrictionist organization do not help.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cuba agrees to talks with U.S. about immigration policy

Photo of memorial to Cuban refugees who died attempting to get to the United States used under Creative Commons from Bmigulski.

The Washington Post cites an anonymous U.S. State Department official as stating that the Cuban government has "formally accepted the U.S. offer to restart talks on legal immigration that were halted in 2003 by the Bush administration." The article goes on to state:

The talks are not expected to change significantly the number of Cubans who legally immigrate each year to the United States -- about 20,000, the official said. But they will be the highest-level contacts between the two governments, and they could lead to dialogue on other topics. The Obama administration is interested in the discussions in part because of the growing problem of Cubans trying to enter illegally, the official said.

Currently the U.S. policy toward undocumented Cubans who enter without inspection (EWI) by boat is known as "wet foot/dry foot." This allows the Coast Guard to intercept Cubans in U.S. territorial waters and return them to Cuba. If the undocumented Cubans set foot on any part of U.S. dry land, however, they will be considered asylees and most likely be allowed to stay in the United States.