Wednesday, July 29, 2009

National Immigration Law Center Report: Substantial and Pervasive Violations of Minimum Governmental Standards at Detention Centers

The National Immigration Law Center posted a report that was the "first-ever system-wide look at the federal government’s compliance with its own standards regulating immigrant detention facilities, a view based on previously unreleased first-hand reports of monitoring inspections. The results reveal substantial and pervasive violations of the government’s minimum standards for conditions at such facilities." The report cited standard violations with regard to attorney and loved one visitation, telephone access, access to legal materials, administrative and disciplinary segregation, and holding cells. The report recommended that the government improve its accountability within the system, promote uniformity across the various detention centers, increase transparancy within the system and stop the increase of detention and come up with alternatives to detention.

As we mentioned in our May 2008 ISAAC E-Newsletter, deportation and removal proceedings are not criminal proceedings but are civil in nature. In these proceedings, the USCIS must prove that the alien is deportable by "clear and convincing" evidence. This is a lower threshold than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard in criminal proceedings. The civil nature of deportation proceedings is also important because the alien has no right to court-appointed counsel or a jury trial. An immigration judge decides whether the alien is deportable from the country. The judge may order the alien removed from the country or, if circumstances permit, allow him to remain and adjust his status. Another important distinction is that if the alien is detained by the USCIS, the detention is not a punishment for their immigration violations. Rather, it is a statutorily permissible detention to prevent flight risk and facilitate removal of the alien from the country.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Texas Attorney General Opinion: In-state tuition for unauthorized aliens who are Texas residents not in violation of equal protection clause

In the January 2009 ISAAC E-Newsletter, we reported on the issue of in-state tuition and illegal aliens. We also mentioned that Texas State Representative Leo Berman (R., Smith County) asked Attorney General Greg Abbott "whether the State of Texas is in violation of federal law and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, by allowing illegal aliens in Texas the benefit of in-state tuition in state colleges and universities to the exclusion of nonresident United States citizens."

Attorney General Abbott's office issued a lengthy opinion and stated:

Accordingly, a federal or state court in Texas would likely conclude that Education Code sections 54.052(a)(3) and 54.053(3) do not facially violate the federal Equal Protection Clause because the statutory prerequisites for in-state tuition are reasonable requirements that serve Texas's legitimate or substantial interest in assuring that only bona fide residents that graduate from Texas high schools or receive the diploma equivalent from this state are eligible for in-state tuition. However, no court has addressed whether a statute similar to the Texas statutes conforms to the mandates of the Equal Protection Clause. (Emphasis added)
I encourage everyone to read the entire opinion and remember to keep separating the wheat from the chaff.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Program

Photo of medical emergency simulation used under Creative Commons from

The United States Army through authorization from the Department of Defense has implemented a "test that permits the enlistment of certain legal aliens into the U.S. Army. To be eligible for consideration, you must be legally present in the United States, and able to provide a passport, I-94 card, I-797 form, your employment authorization document or other government issued documents proving your legal presence in the United States." You can read more about the program here.

On July 17, 2009, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that it had naturalized the first soldier, Captain Brown*, M.D. Army Medical Corps, under this program. According to the press release, "This ceremony happened in record time because our military liaison team maintained close coordination with the Army and tracked Dr. Brown’s naturalization packet from the time he applied with our Nebraska Service Center until today,” said Debra Rogers, acting Deputy Associate Director of USCIS’ Domestic Operations Directorate and head of USCIS’ Military Liaison team. “The MAVNI program is vital to the national interest, and as such we are very focused on its success.” Captain Brown will serve six years in the Army as part of the program.

Congratulations to Captain Brown and the United States Army!

*The name "Brown" is a pseudonym used at the request of the U.S. Army.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I heard you help ILLEGALS!

Photo used under Creative Commons from Between a Rock

And so opened a telephone conversation I had with a fellow sister in Christ the other day. I have this conversation quite a bit with people who have heard about the ISAAC Project at church or through its website, facebook page or this blog. Let me be clear: The ISAAC Project helps churches minister to all immigrants-not just undocumented ones- within the confines of the law. We do not encourage illegal immigration, "sanctuary" movements, or help people skirt the law. We help immigrants comply with the law, not break it.

After I explained this to the caller, her response was, "So you admit, you are helping churches help ILLEGALS!"

"Under extremely limited circumstances," I replied, "an illegal immigrant can adjust or change their status from 'illegal' to 'legal'." I stressed the exceptionally limited nature of this relief and gave an example of the Ruth Project in Waco, Texas (affiliated with ISAAC). The Ruth Project was able to help an undocumented and underaged rape victim. Through their efforts, she was allowed to stay in the country and testify against her attacker. Thanks to her help, this predator is now behind bars. The prosecution then submitted documents on the victim's behalf and the Ruth Project was able to help her become a lawful permanent resident.

Unfortunately, the conversation was downhill from there. She began yelling at me and accused me of "making a mockery of the law!"

"But I do support the law," I retorted, "everything we do is within the confines of the law. If the law allows someone to go from 'illegal' to 'legal', then why shouldn't we help them?" I continued, "We can't pick and choose what parts of the law we like and then disregard the parts we don't like. The law allows some people to stay under very limited circumstances and others it does not allow to stay. If you don't like the fact that ISAAC can help certain undocumented immigrants within the current law, perhaps it is the law you have a quarrel with and not ISAAC."

She then hung up on me.

I don't mind people disagreeing with ISAAC's ministry or vision. Indeed, I have said many times that I don't know what the long term immigration solution will be. I do hope, however, that if someone does disagree with this ministry that they will do so only after they have fully informed themselves of the facts.

Friday, July 17, 2009

So much for strict construction of the Constitution.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Thorne Enterprises.

The Council on Foreign Relations issued Independent Task Force Report No. 63, U.S. Immigration Policy. I recommend that you purchase and read it as it has many well developed ideas and proposals for fixing the current system. On page 115, Task Force Member Robert C. Bonner, submitted an additional view where he states, "I believe as a policy matter the United States should not extend citizenship to children born in our country to parents who are here illegally. The current practice invites illegal immigration, promotes public cynicism, and is often the only basis for the cry of family separation when parents are deported." Mr. Bonner goes on to say that this "practice could probably be changed by Congress (I would not make it retroactive) without a constitutional amendment, but I would favor such an amendment if absolutely necessary."

I must disagree with Mr. Bonner. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states in part, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." (emphasis added). The Supreme Court since at least 1898 has held that this language means that children born in the United States are citizens irrespective of their parents' nationality. Other cases have also held that children born to diplomats are not "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" and thus not citizens. The 111 year -old interpretation of the United States Constitution is not a "practice." It is the Supreme Law of the Land. Any changes to it, therefore, need to be in the form of a constitutional amendment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another misleading email: Joe Legal v. Jose Illegal

Photo used under Creative Commons from stuartpilbrow.

With a simple click of a mouse, another false email has started to infiltrate its way into inboxes across the country. This one is called Joe Legal v. Joe Illegal. It is addressed below:

Here is an example of why hiring illegal aliens is not economically productive for the State of California ...You have 2 families..."Joe Legal" and "Jose Illegal". Both families have 2 parents, 2 children and live in California.

1. "Joe Legal" works in construction, has a Social Security Number, and makes $25.00 per hour with payroll taxes deducted.... "Jose Illegal" also works in construction, has "NO" Social Security Number, and gets paid $15.00 cash "under the table".

Response: The email begins with the fallacy that illegal aliens are being paid off the books. According to the 2005 Economic Report of the President, more than “half of undocumented immigrants are believed to be working ‘on the books,’ so they contribute to the tax rolls but are ineligible for almost all Federal public assistance programs and most major joint Federal-state programs.” You can view the report here.

2. Joe Legal...$25.00 per hour x 40 hours $1000.00 per week, $52,000 per year Now take 30% away for state federal tax. Joe Legal now has $31,231.00. Jose Illegal...$15.00 per hour x 40 hours $600.00 per week, $31,200.00 per year. Jose Illegal pays no taxes... Jose Illegal now has $31,200.00.

Response: It is simply false to say illegal aliens do not pay taxes. The IRS collects income tax from all aliens- irrespective of their legal status- who earn income in the United States. Taxes are generally collected through payroll withholdings and submitted tax returns. Some aliens, including undocumented aliens, are not eligible to receive a social security number for work purposes. Nevertheless, if they work, they will accrue federal income tax liability under the IRS code. To facilitate compliance with income tax law, the IRS developed the ITIN. You can read more about ITINs here. As of June 2006, the IRS had issued more than 7 million ITINs. Read more here. The IRS states that the tax return filing compliance rate for ITIN holders is about 75% . Here at page 52. Illegal aliens also pay taxes through payroll withholding with false, fraudulent, or stolen Social Security Numbers. This money is kept by the government in a “suspense file” and not returned to the illegal alien. The Social Security Administration states that these files represented $56.1 billion in earnings and $7 billion in social security payroll taxes. See here:

3. Joe Legal pays Medical and Dental Insurance with limited coverage $1000.00 per month [$12,000.00 per year]. Joe Legal now has $19,231.00. Jose Illegal has full Medical and Dental coverage through the state and local clinics at a cost of $0.00 per year. Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Response: Ostensibly, the author of this email is referencing Medi-Cal. According to its official government website, “Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program. This is a public health insurance program which provides needed health care services for low-income individuals including families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities, foster care, pregnant women, and low income people with specific diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer or HIV/AIDS. Medi-Cal is financed equally by the State and federal government.” Eligibility for this program is based upon income. According to the guidance letter for the California Department of Human Services all aliens (legal or otherwise) must go through a verification process and only aliens lawfully residing in California may receive full benefits. Illegal aliens can only obtain emergency service and some child delivery services. Interestingly, it is quite possible that neither Joe nor Jose could qualify for Medi-Cal because of their income.

4. Joe Legal makes too much money is not eligible for Food Stamps or welfare. Joe Legal pays for food. $1,000.00 per month [$12,000.00 per year]. Joe Legal now has $ 7,231.00. Jose Illegal has no documented income and is eligible for Food Stamps and Welfare. Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Response: Illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal entitlement welfare programs like Food Stamps. Indeed, even legal immigrants are barred from all federal means-tested public benefits for five years by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105 (Aug. 22, 1996) (codified as 8 USC §§1601 et seq.).

5. Joe Legal pays rent. $1,000.00 per month [$12,000.00 per year]. Joe Legal is now in the hole minus (-) $4,769.00. Jose Illegal receives a $500 per month Federal rent subsidy. Jose Illegal pays rent. $500.00 per month (section 8 housing). $6,000.00 per year. Jose Illegal still has $25,200.00.

Response: Unfortunately, this bears repeating. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Federal welfare benefits like Section 8.

6. Joe Legal now works overtime on Saturdays or gets a part time job after work. Jose Illegal has nights and weekends off to enjoy with his family (and eat out!).

Response: This is an unsupported allegation and is simply made up by the author of this email.

7. Joe Legal's and Jose Illegal's children both attend the same school. Joe Legal pays for his children's lunches while Jose Illegal's children get a government sponsored breakfast & lunch, and they also qualify to be "bused to school" at tax payer expense.

Response: According to the USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals, these types of school lunches are available for children that are: 1) members of a household that gets welfare; 2) enrolled in Head Start because of low income; 3) homeless, 4) migrants; or 5) runaways. We know nothing about Jose’s children given the fact pattern. Assuming however, they were born in the United States, they are U.S. Citizens and, provided they meet the guidelines, they are eligible for such programs. But according to the fact pattern given, neither Joe nor Jose would be eligible for free or reduced school lunches under the latest guidelines. Also, since this fact pattern is in California, it is very likely that any bus services are going to be sharply curtailed because of budget cuts.

8. Jose Illegal's children have an after school ESL program. Joe Legal's children have to find a way to get to school and go home after school as, "latch-key kids" with no adult supervision.

Response: The voters of California approved all types of after-school programs for all children.

9. Joe Legal and Jose Illegal both enjoy the same Police and Fire Services, but Joe paid for them and Jose did not pay.

Response: This is false. Joe and Jose paid for these local services through their property, sales, and income taxes. Also, the fact pattern tells us that both Jose and Joe are renters (See No. 5), thus their landlord factored in property taxes into their rent.

10. Jose Illegal can send most of his money back home to build a new home for retirement, and have money to buy a new truck (and still have Medi-Cal benefits while living in a foreign country; until someone turns him in to authorities....if they ever find out!!) Joe will be lucky if he has any money for retirement, a new vehicle, medical/dental benefits, or a place to live.

Response: According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 21% of unauthorized aliens in the United States are poor. Thus, it does not appear that while Jose is working construction and supporting a wife and two kids that he is building a “retirement home.” Also, as noted above Jose Illegal would not be eligible for full Medi-Cal benefits.

11. I have done the math, all you have to do is to look at it yourself. Don't hire illegal aliens.....Don't vote for any politician that supports illegal aliens.....And most important of all, write your politicians and let them know how you feel.

Response: It is unlawful to hire someone who is not authorized to work in the United States and it is important to let your elected representatives know how you feel. But please, form your opinions on truth and facts and not on deliberate distortions and false emails.

12. PS: You forgot, Jose illegal's wife claims "single, no head of Household" and collects additional benefits that Joe legal's wife cannot claim. No wonder our country is in trouble!! Think about it!

Response: The fact pattern begins to fall apart with its own distortions. First it claims that Jose does not pay taxes (No. 2), then it claims that “Jose illegal’s [sic] wife” files taxes as “single, no head of Household.” There is no such category. According to the IRS, there are five filing statuses: 1) single, 2) married filing jointly, 3) married filing separately, 4) Head of household; and 5) Qualifying widow(er) with Dependant Child. The Head of Household status usually grants a lower tax rate and higher standard deduction than the single or married filing separately status. Jose’s wife could file as Head of Household- or Joe’s wife for that matter- if they were: 1) unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year; 2) paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year; and a 3) “qualifying person” lived with them. If she met the eligibility, then she is lawfully claiming the status. If not, then she would be filing a fraudulent tax return and committing a crime.

Please keep separating the "wheat from the chaff" and consider your sources of information as you form your opinions about immigration issues.

Monday, July 13, 2009

DHS Chief Administration to support E-Verify Regulation for Government Contractors; Scraps No-Match Rule

Photo used under Creative Commons by Egan.

The Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Janet Napolitano announced "the Administration’s support for a regulation that will award federal contracts only to employers who use E-Verify to check employee work authorization. The declaration came as Secretary Napolitano announced the Department's intention to rescind the Social Security No-Match Rule, which has never been implemented and has been blocked by court order, in favor of the more modern and effective E-Verify system." The press release states "E-Verify, which compares information from the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) against federal government databases to verify workers’ employment eligibility, is a free web-based system operated by DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The system facilitates compliance with federal immigration laws and helps to deter unauthorized individuals from attempting to work and also helps employers avoid employing unauthorized aliens."

The system is not with out its problems. Indeed, National Public Radio (NPR) reported last year that some citizens were having problems getting "verified" and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also had misgivings about the program because of the approximately 18 million Social Security records with errors in them. The majority of these records were of U.S. citizens.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Most Arizona HS Students probably wouldn't pass the Citizenship Exam

Photo used under Creative Commons from The Master Shake Signal.

A recent survey by the Goldwater Institute indicates that it "gave each student 10 items from the USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Service] item bank. We grouped results according to the type of school students attend—public, charter, or private. Questions included (1) Who was the first president of the United States? (2) Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? and (3) What ocean is located on the East Coast of the United States? All three groups of Arizona high school students scored alarmingly low on the test. Only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students attending public schools passed the citizenship test. The passing rate for charter school students was about twice as high [about 7%] as for public school students. Private school students passed at a rate almost four times higher [about 14%] than public school students."

The USCIS has many free materials online to help immigrants study for the exam. Perhaps, we should direct some of our high school students to them as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ICE now focusing on employers: I-9 Audits and the Krispy Kreme Settlement

Photo used under Creative Commons from brewbooks.

The US Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) announced on July 7, 2009 that it had reached "a $40,000 fine settlement" with the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation "for violations of immigration laws." According to an ICE press release, it began a strategy of focusing on employers of illegal aliens in April 2008 and began notifying businesses of its intent to audit form I-9. "Employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This form requires employers to review and record the individuals identity document(s) and determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the individual."

Interestingly, the press release stated, "ICE conducted an I-9 inspection of Krispy Kreme after receiving information from the Butler County Sheriff's Office which revealed the company had employed dozens of illegal aliens at one of their doughnut factories in Cincinnati." The Butler County, Ohio Sheriff, Richard K. Jones, has a blog where he told his readers that he sent a letter to President Obama where he stated, "[t]he drugs coming from Mexico to the United States is out of control and it appears we have no policy to control any of these serious problems. I believe they need to be addressed by the new President." You can read the rest of his blog here. The Butler County Sheriff's Department entered into a 287(g) agreement with ICE in 2008.

There is no indication that ICE actually found any illegal workers on the premises but it did apparently find "violations of immigration law" related to the I-9. I think focusing on the employers is a better long term strategy of enforcement. When ICE simply raids and deports the factory workers, the employer rarely is the focus. Instead, as we saw in Postville, Iowa, the workers are charged, convicted and deported. The families and community are then left to pick up the pieces. In those cases, sanctions against the employer are generally secondary. When ICE leaves, the employer still has an incentive to hire persons not authorized to work in the United States. This new strategy, however, will make the employer the focal point. Perhaps this new emphasis will prove more effective.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Urban police chiefs weigh in on immigration reform- and the Long Term view

Photo of City of Miami Police Station used under Creative Commons from whitneynmatt.

The July 1, 2009 online edition of the New York Times has an article about city police chiefs from large urban areas, like Austin and Miami, calling for "an overhaul that would integrate immigrants into the legal system, possibly with driver’s licenses, and separate the local police from immigration enforcement." The article went on to state that the police chiefs were critical of attempts by federal authorities to put immigration enforcement in the hands of local law enforcement. They argued that such practices hurt criminal investigations because witnesses were reluctant to come forward for fear of deportation. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said, "When you remove the emotion from the debate, no one can argue that it is in the best interest of public safety to keep these people living in the shadows.”

Ah, "when you remove emotion from the debate," that is the hard part isn't it? I'm not sure why this topic generates so much emotion even among Christians. Is it genuine fear that this country's values are allegedly being harmed by illegal immigrants? Is it fear of the changing demographics of this nation? Or is it something else? Whatever it is, I ask you to read Hebrews 11:13-16 (ISV):

All these people died having faith. They did not receive the things that were promised, yet they saw them in the distant future and welcomed them, acknowledging that they were strangers and foreigners on earth. For people who say such things make it clear that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking about what they had left behind, they would have had an opportunity to go back. Instead, they were longing for a better country, that is, a heavenly one. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, because he has prepared a city for them.

Let's not forget that as Christians we are all merely strangers and foreigners looking for a better country- a heavenly one. That kind of long term outlook puts all earthly problems in context, doesn't it?

Friday, July 3, 2009

USCIS to allow current I-9 Form to be used beyond June 30, 2009

Photo used under Creative Commons from sanberdoo.

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), "[a]ll U.S. employers must complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. On the form, the employer must examine the employment eligibility and identity document(s) an employee presents to determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the individual and record the document information on the Form I-9."

The USCIS updated Form I-9 in February 2009 and reminded employers in April 2009 of the specific changes and revisions. The current form (Rev. 2/2/09) was to expire on June 30, 2009. Because a new form has yet to be developed and approved, the USCIS asked the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve to continued use of version Rev. 2/2/09 beyond the June 30, 2009 expiration date. The USCIS announced that employers may continue to use the Rev. 2/2/09 version of the I-9 form until further notice. You can read the full announcement here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

ISAAC and Affiliated Ministries at Convencion in Dallas

Photo of Carlos Charco, Tihara Vargas, and Viviana Triana Charco from the Ruth Project at Convencion 2009

The 2009 Convencion Bautista Hispana de Texas was held June 28-30, 2009 at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas. It was well attended and ISAAC was there as well. Additionally, some affilated recognized agencies such as the Ruth Project in Waco and Primera Iglesia Plano along with Literacy ConneXus were also there to share their ministry vision.

Please pray for the ISAAC Project and all the affiliated ministries. They need your support and prayers. If you would like your church or organization to become a recognized organization so it can assist immigrants or if you would like to start an ESL class, please do not hesitate to contact us.