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Immigration Consultants Sentenced for Filing Bogus Asylum Applications

LOS ANGELES – The efforts of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) helped lead to the successful sentencing of a San Gabriel immigration consulting business and one of his employees for participating in a long-running scheme to prepare and file fraudulent asylum applications that made phony claims of religious persecution on behalf of hundreds of Chinese nationals. Haoren Ma, 50, of San

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Gabriel, the owner of New Arrival Immigration Service, was sentenced April 28 to 4½ years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy, immigration document fraud and aggravated identity theft. Ma’s employee, Minghan Dong, 49, of San Gabriel, was sentenced on Monday, May 5 to one year and one day in prison for conspiracy to commit immigration document fraud.

USCIS learned about activity in January 2009 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted a package containing a stuffed animal that contained five fraudulent Chinese passports. The package was being shipped to an address used as a mail drop by New Arrival Immigration Service. This package tipped the USCIS Los Angeles Asylum

Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to further investigate filings by the New Arrival Immigration

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Service. Officers from the L.A. Asylum Office worked with HSI agents to bring the case to prosecution.

Many of the asylum applications prepared by the defendants contained nearly identical accounts of purported persecution, including descriptions of underground church meetings that led to arrests and torture by Chinese authorities. As part of the scheme, Ma and Dong provided their clients with detailed written materials and audio tapes on Christianity to help them prepare for their asylum interviews.

“We are very pleased with this outcome,” said David Radel, Acting L.A. Asylum Office Director with USCIS. “It is an excellent example of federal

agencies working together to combat fraud and maintain the integrity of our immigration system. USCIS is committed to identifying those who may have illegally obtained asylum through this fraudulent scheme and providing this information to our investigative colleagues.”

Haoren Ma operated an immigration business, but was neither an attorney nor an accredited representative. USCIS encourages people who need help filing an application for immigration benefits to seek assistance from the right place and from people who are authorized to help. For ideas on how to find legal services and avoid scams, go to www.uscis.gov/legaladvice.

Thanks to

USCIS efforts, HSI investigators linked the defendants to more than 800 asylum applications filed since 2000, making it one of the largest asylum fraud cases uncovered in the Los Angeles area in recent years.

New federal guidelines ban schools from conducting immigration checks on kids

(CNN) — The Obama administration issued guidelines Thursday to ensure children can enroll in public schools even if they or their parents are living illegally in the United States.

The legal guidance from the Justice and Education departments allow school districts and states to ask for proof

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of students’ age or that they are residents in the jurisdictions where they attend school.

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But schools can’t require proof of citizenship or block students if parents can’t prove their legal residency.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the legal guidance is in reaction to reports from around the country that some school districts have identification requirements that create hurdles for undocumented children to enroll in public schools, in violation of federal law.

Holder cited a 1982 Supreme Court decision that ordered states to provide education to any child living in their

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jurisdiction. “Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,”

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the attorney general said.

Schools have to be flexible about the proof of residency they can ask of parents, the guidelines issued Thursday say.

Administrators can ask for utility bills or apartment lease

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show a student lives in the district where they are attending school. They may ask for a parent’s driver’s license. But only to establish residency, not to determine legal immigration status, the guidelines say.

They also may ask for legal certification to show a child’s age. But schools can’t turn away students who can’t provide a birth certificate or whose parents refuse to provide a Social Security number for the child or parent.

The Obama administration issued legal guidance to states and school districts in 2011, but some problems have persisted.

“We want to be sure every school leader understands the legal requirements under the Constitution and federal laws, and it is our hope that this update will address some of the misperceptions out there,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in

a statement.

The rules also are intended to help remove hurdles for children who are homeless and whose parents may not be able to prove their residency in a school district, the departments said.

 

Source

Jeb Bush says illegal immigration often ‘an act of love’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Jeb Bush, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, said on Sunday that illegal immigrants who come to the United States to provide for their families are not committing a felony but an “act of love.”

In comments at odds with the views of many in his party, Bush, the son of the 41st president and brother of the 43rd, said of the divisive immigration issue: “I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh

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political rhetoric to a better place.

“I’m going to say this and it will be on tape and so be it,” Bush said in an interview with Fox News host Shannon Bream in an event at the Texas presidential library of his father, George H.W. Bush.

“The way I look at this youtube natural viagra is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally … and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work, to be able to provide for their family, yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony.

“It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.

Bush, 61, added: “I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime. There should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”

Bush repeated at the event that he would decide on a presidential bid by the end of the year.

A cvs pharmacy hours little canada mn comprehensive immigration reform bill passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate in June 2013 but has stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Republican lawmakers have cited deep divisions in the party cialis daily use review over the issue, including granting legal status to 11 million undocumented immigrants.

A Republican Party review after the last presidential election had urged the party to embrace immigration reform to attract more Hispanic support. Democratic President Barack Obama, who was re-elected in 2012, won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote to Republican challenger Mitt using viagra to last longer Romney’s 27 percent.

Recent polls have suggested that if he were to run, Bush, a former Florida governor, would be weighed down by Americans’ lingering attitudes toward his brother, George W. Bush, who left office in January 2009 as one of the least popular presidents in U.S. history.

In a Washington Post/ABC News poll last month, nearly half the voters surveyed said they “definitely would not” vote for Jeb Bush in 2016 – a level of disapproval matched only by Romney. Even Bush’s mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, has been lukewarm about the notion of another son running for president.

Asked by Bream about the critical considerations that would go into his decision on whether to run for the presidency, Bush said one was whether he could do it with a “hopeful, optimistic message” that avoids drawing him into a political “mudfight.”

The other consideration, he said, “is it OK for my family?

Is it something that isn’t a huge sacrifice for our family.”

He added: “It turns out that not running has generated more interest than if I said I was running.”

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Jim Loney and Eric Walsh)

 

Source

Luisa Martinez: New York mom faces looming deportation

Luisa comes from a poor rural indigenous community in Oaxaca, Mexico. In 1990, she crossed the border with her young son and daughter at the insistence of her husband, who had left years earlier and was living in New York. He wanted to provide his children with opportunities he felt were only available in this country.

In 1994 Luisa gave birth to another daughter Elena. When a lawyer advised the family in 1997 that they could legalize their status, they jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, by then the law had changed and it was no longer possible to apply for suspension of deportation based on a 7 year residence and a US citizen child. At a merits hearing in January of 2000, she was told she was statutorily ineligible for relief. Luisa and her two Mexican born children were granted Voluntary Departure in May of 2000. By that time she was no longer together with her husband. He hadn’t shown up at the hearing and was ordered deported. Luisa was and continues to be the sole support for her children. The only benefit of the deportation proceeding was to the lawyer, who collected thousands of dollars for his totally inadequate representation.

In September of 2000, 4 months after the hearing, Luisa was asked to come into the immigration office, but the officer she was scheduled to see was unavailable and Luisa was told she would be rescheduled. She didn’t hear anything for 7 years. During that time she struggled to support her three children but knew that their chances of a decent life were in the United States and not in the poor, rural community from which she came from.

In 2006, Luisa’s oldest daughter, who was 21, received a “bag and baggage” letter. When she went to the immigration office to find out what she was to do, she was arrested, handcuffed, placed in detention and shipped to Mexico City, where she knew no one. This event seriously traumatized her sister Elena, then 11 years old, who was very close to her older sister. In April of 2007, Luisa’s

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son was picked up. Like his sister, Luisa’s son was immediately sent to Mexico.

In the 2 years that followed, Luisa obtained sole custody of her daughter and applied for her passport. However, if her daughter were to accompany her to Mexico, her future would be ruined. Here in New York, her daughter received the educational support she needed to help her succeed in spite of her diagnosed learning disability. In fact, Elena has just graduated from high school and has been accepted to a college in Vermont, a testament to the educational services she received at school and her mother’s unwavering support.

During her last two years in high school, Elena began receiving counseling. She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is on medication. Although

she is doing well, she could face either the trauma of losing her mother or, if she goes back to Mexico, the shock of having to make her way in a totally foreign culture in a language she barely knows. With all this, she is likely to decompensate and experience again all the debilitating effects of her PTSD.

In light of the effect on Elena of her mother’s looming deportation, Luisa was granted a stay of removal until the end of May of this year, however, her request for a renewal of the stay has just been denied.

Luisa is the sole support of her US citizen daughter, both financially and emotionally. Were Luisa to be removed to Mexico, Elena’s future would be bleak indeed. A gifted musician, Elena would lose the opportunity she has earned to go to college and pursue a musical career. Emotionally fragile because of the trauma she has experienced in her young life, the gains she has made through counseling would be lost and, according to her counselors, she would likely re-experience all the symptoms of PTSD.

Luisa herself has been an exemplary parent and member of her community. She has supported her children without help from either her husband or the government. She has worked for years with the Chair of the Anthropology Department in the State University of New York at Albany, who has been studying the indigenous language that Luisa speaks and which is threatened with extinction since it is not a written language. She has earned her living by working for many years taking care of the children in a family that staunchly supports her continued stay in this country.

 

Source

A Vatican Visit, Then Dad Freed from Immigration Detention

After a 10-year-old girl traveled to the Vatican to plead with Pope Francis for help as her father faced deportation, her dad, Mario Vargas was released on bond from immigration detention, and the

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family had a tearful and emotional reunion in Los Angeles.

The father was freed from a Louisiana detention center on Friday after posting $5,000 bond on Friday. A relative who saw the girl on television pleading with the pope during a public audience helped with the funding, said his wife, Lola Vargas. Authorities later said the father was in the

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process of being released.

The daughter, Jersey, of Panorama City, Calif., had addressed the Pope as part of a 16-member delegation that traveled to urge the Vatican to talk to President Obama on immigration reform. The President and the Pope met last week.

Juan Jose Gutierrez, an immigrant advocate who coordinated the trip to Italy, said the archdiocese of Los Angeles helped get the group a key spot so they could speak with Pope Francis amid the crowds.

“When she

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left, her wish was that her father would be home,” she told The Associated Press in Spanish. “Thank

God she is going to get her wish.”

–The Associated Press contributed to this report.

First published March 30th 2014, 6:15 am

 

 

Source

Brown OKs driver’s licenses for immigrants here illegally

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a landmark law Thursday granting driver’s licenses to people who are in the country illegally, hailing the measure as an important expansion of immigrant rights and one that should serve as an example to other states.

“This is only the first step. When a million people without their documents drive legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice,” Brown said outside Los Angeles City Hall, with Archbishop Jose Gomez and other dignitaries in attendance. “No longer are undocumented people in the shadows.”

The licenses will bear distinguishing marks: The legislation recommends DP for driving privilege, rather than DL for driver’s license.

The new law will set off a scramble at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which may open up to six temporary offices to handle the estimated 1.4 million immigrants who are expected to apply in the next three years.

Proponents say that with more licensed drivers, hit-and-run accidents will decrease and the percentage of drivers who are insured will increase.

Ten other states have passed similar laws — seven of them this year — as comprehensive immigration reform remains stalled at the federal level. In the three states that already grant such licenses, the effect is being debated.

A study in New Mexico found that the rate of insured drivers has increased only slightly. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has advocated the repeal of the driver’s license provision, arguing that out-of-state immigrants are flocking there and fraudulently obtaining licenses. Washington state has also seen multiple attempts to repeal its immigrant driver’s licenses.

Immigrant rights advocates predict that most people who are driving without licenses will come forward and apply. In Utah, people were initially scared, but about 75% to 80% ended up applying, said Tony Yapias of Proyecto Latino de Utah.

“For the last eight years, it has worked well in Utah,” Yapias said. “I tell the immigrant community in California to give it a chance. It will make things safe for everyone.”

California DMV officials will begin developing eligibility guidelines and the licenses probably won’t be issued until late 2014 or early 2015. The legislation suggests using documents such as a passport, lease agreement or birth certificate to establish identity.

State officials estimate that once guidelines are in place, processing the flood of applications will cost $140 million to $220 million in the first three years. The new applicants would collectively pay about $50 million under current fee structures, but the bill allows additional fees if necessary.

California is home to nearly one in four immigrants who live in the U.S. without legal status. The state can learn a lot about potential problems from New Mexico, which has issued more than 90,000 driver’s licenses to foreign nationals since 2003, said Demesia Padilla, that state’s secretary for taxation and revenue.

“It’s been a disaster,” Padilla said. “We have had a lot of identify fraud.”

The state has broken up fraud rings that used false addresses and fraudulent lease and utility documents to obtain driver’s licenses for immigrants who live in other states, she said.

One of the California bill’s leading opponents, businessman Don Rosenberg of Westlake Village, said he is considering a possible legal challenge to the new law, which he called a “sham.”

Rosenberg, whose 25-year-old son was killed in an accident with an unlicensed immigrant driver, testified at the Capitol in recent months against the legislation, criticizing it for not requiring any training or other measures to make sure the new drivers are safer.

Police chiefs and sheriffs across California have generally backed the measure because the licenses are clearly distinguishable from standard ones.

“With this bill, over 1 million drivers in California will be more likely to have been tested, to have insurance or to know the rules of the road and obey the laws of this state,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.

But in New Mexico, the law enforcement benefits touted by the licenses’ proponents have not materialized, said Jim Burleson, executive director of the state’s Sheriffs’ and Police Assn. Burleson argues that immigrants should drive in the U.S. using driver’s licenses from their home countries.

“Go get the license from where you come from,” he said. “There’s nothing value-added having a person … get a license from that state if they’re not from there.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a landmark law Thursday granting driver’s licenses to people who are in the country illegally, hailing the measure as an important expansion of immigrant rights and one that should serve as an example to other states.

“This is only the first step. When a million people without their documents drive legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice,” Brown said outside Los Angeles City Hall, with Archbishop Jose Gomez and other dignitaries in attendance. “No longer are undocumented people in the shadows.”

The licenses will bear distinguishing marks: The legislation recommends DP for driving privilege, rather than DL for driver’s license.

The new law will set off a scramble at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which may open up to six temporary offices to handle the estimated 1.4 million immigrants who are expected to apply in the next three years.

Proponents say that with more licensed drivers, hit-and-run accidents will decrease and the percentage of drivers who are insured will increase.

Ten other states have passed similar laws — seven of them this year — as comprehensive immigration reform remains stalled at the federal level. In the three states that already grant such licenses, the effect is being debated.

A study in New Mexico found that the

rate of insured drivers has increased only slightly. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has advocated the repeal of the driver’s license provision, arguing that out-of-state immigrants are flocking there and fraudulently obtaining licenses. Washington state has also seen multiple attempts to repeal its immigrant driver’s licenses.

Immigrant rights advocates predict that most people who are driving without licenses will come forward and apply. In Utah, people were initially scared, but about 75% to 80% ended up applying, said Tony Yapias of Proyecto Latino de Utah.

“For the last eight years, it has worked well in Utah,” Yapias said. “I tell the immigrant community in California to give it a chance. It will make things safe for everyone.”

California DMV officials will begin developing eligibility guidelines and the licenses probably won’t be issued until late 2014 or early 2015. The legislation suggests using documents such as a passport, lease agreement or birth certificate to establish identity.

State officials estimate that once guidelines are in place, processing the flood of applications will cost $140 million to $220 million in the first three years. The new applicants would collectively pay about $50 million under current fee structures, but the bill allows additional fees if necessary.

California is home to nearly one in four immigrants who live in the U.S. without legal status. The state can learn a lot about potential problems from New Mexico, which has issued more than 90,000 driver’s licenses to foreign nationals since 2003, said Demesia Padilla, that state’s secretary for taxation and revenue.

“It’s

been a disaster,” Padilla said. “We have had a lot of identify fraud.”

The state has broken up fraud rings that used false addresses and fraudulent lease and utility documents to obtain driver’s licenses for immigrants who live in other states, she said.

One of the California bill’s leading opponents, businessman Don Rosenberg of Westlake Village, said he is considering a possible legal challenge to the new law, which he called a “sham.”

Rosenberg, whose 25-year-old son was killed in an accident with an unlicensed immigrant driver, testified at the Capitol in recent months against the legislation, criticizing it for not requiring any training or other measures to make sure the new drivers are safer.

Police chiefs and sheriffs across California have generally backed the measure because the licenses are clearly distinguishable from standard ones.

“With this bill, over 1 million drivers in California will be more likely to have been tested, to have insurance or to know the rules of the road and obey the laws of this state,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.

But in New Mexico, the law enforcement benefits touted by the licenses’ proponents have not materialized, said Jim Burleson, executive director of the state’s Sheriffs’ and Police Assn. Burleson argues that immigrants should drive in the U.S. using driver’s licenses from their home countries.

“Go get the license from where you come from,” he said. “There’s nothing value-added having a person … get a license from that state if they’re not from there.”

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Insurance Regulation suggested that in states that grant driver’s licenses to such immigrants,

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the rate of uninsured motorists had increased by almost 2%, resulting in more fatal car crashes.

In Utah, a 2006 state audit report showed that about 75% of those with the immigrant “driving privilege cards” had obtained car insurance, compared with 81% of those with regular licenses.

Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo introduced a licensing bill every year during his two decades in the California Legislature. He said Thursday that the legislation was prompted by the seizure of unlicensed immigrants’ cars.

For Araceli Sanchez of West Los Angeles, a driver’s license would allow her to get to her housecleaning and painting jobs without fear that her car will be impounded or that she will be deported.

“Driving without a license is a lot of fear,” said Sanchez, 49, who came to the U.S. illegally from Oaxaca, Mexico, more than two decades ago. “Every day when we go to our work or take our kids to school, we feel a menace following us.”

Angel Barrera said that all the immigrants in his Van Nuys apartment building are studying for the driver’s license test using a Spanish-language smartphone app.

“You don’t know what a difference this will make,” Barrera said. “We will be able to go everywhere we want now.”

 

 

 

Source

Obama ‘humane’ order roils immigration debate

MIAMI — President Obama’s recent order to his administration to find ways to deport people living in the United States illegally “more humanely” has both sides of the immigration debate wondering eagerly what he means by that.

Advocates for undocumented immigrants hope it means that the Department of Homeland Security will finally decide to end all deportations, and opponents of Obama’s immigration polices hope it does not.

Both sides say the law is on their side: Proponents claim Obama has every right to order a backing-away from enforcing deportation laws and opponents say he is violating his oath of office if he does.

“The Department of Homeland Security has a pretty broad range of authority to decide which individuals will be removed from the country or not,” says Marielena Hincapié, executive director of

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the National Immigration Law Center, which advocates on behalf of legal and undocumented immigrants.

“The administration is on solid legal footing … and can still go much further.”

Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks lower levels of legal and illegal immigration, says doing so violates Obama’s oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution.

“If he can simply decide, ‘Congress can pass any law that it wants and I’m going to ignore the ones I don’t like and create the ones I want,’ then this is not just an immigration issue,” Mehlman says. “This ends up becoming a constitutional issue, and it’s precisely what the founding fathers sought to avert.”

When the president decides, it is likely to reignite a debate going on in Congress and making its way through federal courts about the limits of presidential power that goes back decades.

At first glance, the debate seems pretty clear.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Galvan v. Press that the power to create immigration policy is “entrusted exclusively to the Congress.” However, in 2002, when Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, it delegated to the department’s secretary the power to establish “national immigration policies and priorities.”

Obama has already alluded to that congressional mandate when establishing orders and policies for immigration enforcement.

In 2011, John Morton, then Obama’s director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued a memo laying out a set of principles his agents should follow when determining who to deport.

In what is known as The Morton Memo, agents were told to focus deportation efforts on certain undocumented immigrants, such as those with extensive criminal records or those deemed threats to national security.

In 2012, the president went a step further, creating the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program. That allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to apply to the federal government to have their deportations delayed for two years. So far, more than 520,000 people have been approved.

Obama continued in 2013, granting deportation protections to the direct relatives of U.S. servicemembers and to parents with minor children.

Immigrant advocates such as Hincapié say Obama has unquestionably carried out the immigration enforcement goals approved by Congress, as evidenced by the roughly 400,000 people he deports each year. His moves to protect some segments of the undocumented population is merely his way of targeting the right people to deport, they say.

Many critics of the administration say any president has the right to exercise “prosecutorial discretion,” directing federal law enforcement officers and government attorneys to focus efforts on certain types of crimes and criminals.

But Mehlman and others say a president exceeds his legal authority when he exempts broad classes of people here illegally from federal deportation laws.

That legal argument led a group of agents for the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency, the interior enforcement arm of DHS, to sue the Obama administration. They claim the White House put them in an impossible bind because as agents they are required by law to deport people they encounter who were in the country illegally, but their superiors are telling them not to based on the principles laid out by Homeland Security leadership.

Whether that is a sound legal position has to to be decided. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor dismissed the lawsuit last year but only because it had been filed in the wrong jurisdiction. He said in his ruling he agreed that the agents had a strong case.

“The Court concluded that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Department of Homeland Security has implemented a program contrary to congressional mandate,” O’Connor wrote in July.

The case is under appeal.

Some politicians who oppose Obama’s exemptions of whole classes of undocumented immigrants from the law have agreed that past presidents had the right to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in immigration cases.

In 1999, 14 Republicans signed a letter calling on the attorney general and commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to use “prosecutorial discretion” and not

act on cases that had come to their attention of legal permanent residents who were deported for committing a single low-level crime years ago.

The letter-signers said prosecutorial discretion was a “well established” principle that should be used to stop the deportations they described as “unfair and resulted in unjustifiable hardship.”

Signers of the letter included Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., co-sponsors of the ENFORCE Act passed by the House that would let Congress sue the executive branch for failing to enforce laws.

Smith disagreed that the letter indicates he agreed with Obama’s position in the past.

“This stands in stark contrast to the president’s actions that go beyond the bounds of our immigration laws by exempting broad categories of illegal immigrants from enforcement by executive fiat,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security is conducting a system-wide review of the way it enforces immigration laws per Obama’s directive last week. But it is something that has been on the president’s mind for a while.

“I am the head of the executive branch of government. I’m required

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to follow the law. And that’s what we’ve done,” Obama told Univision last year. “But what I’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we’re applying the law in a way that takes into account people’s humanity.”

 

 

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Under Pressure, Obama Vows to Examine Deportations

Republicans are warning that any steps President Barack Obama takes to bypass Congress to ease deportations of immigrants illegally in the United States would severely hurt chances of overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.

The White House announced late Thursday that Obama was directing his homeland security chief, Jeh Johnson, to review America’s deportation program, with an eye toward finding more humane ways to enforce the law without contravening it.

The move came amid pressure from some of Obama’s staunchest allies to act on his own to slow the rate of deportations. Under Obama’s leadership, almost 2 million people have been removed from the U.S.

The office of House Speaker John Boehner cautioned that fixes to the immigration system should be carried out by Congress, not by the president on his own.

“There’s no doubt we have an immigration system that is failing families and our economy, but until it is reformed through the democratic process, the president is obligated to enforce the laws we have,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Friday. “Failing to do so would damage – perhaps beyond repair – our ability to build the trust necessary

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to enact real immigration reform.”

The White House directive to the Department of Homeland Security was announced after an Oval Office meeting Thursday evening

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with three Latino lawmakers.

The step was unexpected, coming from a president who said as recently as last week that when it came to deportations, he’s already stretched his presidential powers to the max.

Preferring a lasting legislative solution for one of Obama’s top priorities, the White House had wanted to avoid this course, knowing that any steps Obama takes that are perceive as overreaching will only give Republicans excuses to avoid dealing with immigration. After all, the GOP has already cast Obama as a president gone wild, citing endless changes to his health care law and his move to allow children brought to the U.S. illegally to stay here.

But what started as ordinary griping from a constituency that’s been among Obama’s most loyal has spiraled, with prominent Latino leaders denouncing Obama as the “deporter in chief.” Advocates that had long given Obama the benefit of the doubt determined that his persistent efforts to push lawmakers to act were not enough — they were done waiting for Congress.

“It is clear that the pleas from the community got through to the president,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., adding that the White House had been “dormant for too long.”

What is not clear is how far Obama will go — or what options are even available to mitigate the pain without consent from Congress.

White House officials declined to answer questions Thursday about what the government could do to make deportation more humane or whether there’s a timeline for Homeland Security to finish an inventory and report back to Obama. But immigration activists will likely renew their call for Obama to halt deportations of parents of children brought to the U.S. illegally, among other steps.

“The president emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system,” read

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a statement from Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney.

The conversation will start Friday, when Obama plans to meet with organizations working to pass bipartisan immigration legislation.

Separation of families is, in part, an incidental consequence of Obama’s 2012 executive order that removed the threat of deportation for kids brought to the U.S. illegally, but did not extend that protection to their parents. A former law professor, Obama has insisted that he’s already “stretched my administrative capacity very far.”

“I cannot ignore those laws any more

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than I could ignore any of the other laws that are on the books,” Obama said last week in a virtual town hall with Spanish-language media outlets.

Gutierrez, who represents a largely Hispanic district in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, exemplifies the shift that’s occurred among many immigration advocates. A liberal Democrat, Gutierrez has become a vocal critic of Obama on immigration, and on the House floor last week called Obama the “deporter in chief,” parroting a nickname given to him a day earlier by the head of the National Council of La Raza, a powerful advocacy group.

Under Obama’s leadership, almost 2 million people have been

removed from the U.S.

So as grumblings among Latino members of Congress grew louder on Thursday, Obama invited Gutierrez and two other Congressional Hispanic Caucus members to a meeting at the White House that wasn’t listed on Obama’s public schedule. After the meeting disbanded, the White House said Obama still intends to pressure Republicans to pass an immigration overhaul, but would take another look at deportation policies in the meantime.

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top second-term priority for Obama, immigration appeared to be an area of potential bipartisan agreement coming out of the 2012 election, in which Republicans lost the Hispanic vote by a wide margin. The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill in June with strong bipartisan support that would create a pathway for citizenship for about 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, tighten border security, and establish new visa and enforcement programs.

But the measure stalled in the House, despite calls for lawmakers to act from Republican leaders, business groups, religious organizations and labor. Although House Republicans said they wanted to pursue their own, piecemeal approach, Speaker John Boehner has acknowledged that stands little chance of happening this year, as Congress becomes consumed with midterm elections.

 

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In a rare case, a Chicago woman gets indicted for posing as an immigration attorney

Ivan Perez said he never thought he would become an “easy prey” for immigration scammers. [Photo by Michelle Kanaar]Maricela Haro had an elaborate strategy for finding vulnerable immigrants and scamming them out of thousands of dollars. Some of Haro’s victims say her scheme revolved around winning their trust. It went like this: She falsely claimed that she was an immigration attorney, and

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that her brother was a high-ranking U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official who would sign off on any legal residency application. She offered to meet potential clients at a

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restaurant, rather than at her downtown office, so she wouldn’t have to charge a $200 consultation fee. Then she promised them she could secure a permanent residency status within a year–regardless of their circumstances. After she charged an initial $2,500 as part of the “application fee,” she went on to grow personally close with her victims. She invited them to her house for parties, including her daughter’s sweet 15–or “quinceañera”–and even asked one of them to pick up her children from school. She called some victims “compadre,” a term of endearment to close family friends. The victims say they spent so much time with Haro and her family that it made them trust her. But Haro didn’t deliver what she promised, the victims said. After taking application fees, she told them to wait for a letter in the mail–sometimes for a year or more–and always came up with excuses when it didn’t arrive. After a while, she stopped answering calls. The victims sought out a help from Cook County Commissioner

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Jesus Garcia. His staff helped them file complaints at the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the Chicago Police Department. That led to Haro’s October arrest. She has since been indicted on “theft of property obtained by deception” for allegedly scamming 12 people, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. She is being held at the Cook County Jail until a Nov. 26 hearing and was unavailable to comment for this story. Haro’s case provides a rare glimpse into a serious problem of immigration fraud that continues to plague immigrant communities. These cases normally don’t come to poor mans viagra the surface as many victims are afraid—they are undocumented and not familiar with the legal system, said Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a group of attorneys who practice and teach immigration law. “Victims are inherently vulnerable, and scammers count on that,” Lichter said. “Victims are

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not willing to come forward and report it. [Immigrants] don’t feel safe reporting it; they fear that, if they report it, they will get in trouble.” Garcia said he’s seen the problem only get worse over the years, and he doesn’t expect it to go away any levitra versus cialis time soon. “I’m especially afraid that if the immigration reform happens,” he said. “There’s going to be an explosion of deceptive practices by shady characters waiting to rip people off.” Ivan Perez said he never thought he would become an “easy prey” for scammers. He met Haro through a friend in medications canada pharmacy 2011. She told him she could help him and his wife become a legal permanent resident–at the price of $2,500 each–and promised to get him a work authorization within a few months. She called later to ask for another $1,500 for each case to cover “your penalty for entering the country illegally,” Perez said in Spanish. Perez waited for about nine months. Haro never answered when he began calling her to check on the status. Eventually, he figured out what had happened–and that he and his wife weren’t the sole victims. At a meeting organized by Garcia’s staff, he met more than 20 other victims. Some of them are still afriad to publicly come out to tell their stories, he said. Perez said he had sacrificed time with his family to save money ever since he and his wife immigrated from the state of Michoacan, Mexico, more than a decade ago. He was able to save money by working two jobs and sleeping only for a couple of hours a day. “I feel bad. I feel dumb,” Perez said. “My friends make fun of me. They ask me, ‘How didn’t you not know that she wasn’t a lawyer?’” “I went to the police because she already stole money from me,” he added. “I don’t want that to happen to other people. I want her to pay for what she deserves.”

 

 

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Immigration reform could play a key role in Senate races

WASHINGTON — Immigration reform could play a key role this year in about a half-dozen Senate races from Colorado to South Carolina.

The outcome of those races will help decide which party controls the Senate and whether that chamber will be willing to take up immigration reform again if the House fails to pass it in this session of Congress.

Democrats now have 53 seats in the Senate and the support of two independents who nearly always vote with them. Republicans hold 45 seats.

The Senate last year passed a sweeping, bipartisan bill that included provisions to beef up security at the southwest border while also offering a pathway to citizenship for many of the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants.

If the House doesn’t act before the current two-year session of Congress ends in January, the Senate immigration bill will expire and efforts to enact reform will have to begin again.

Two of the Republicans who voted for the comprehensive bill last summer — Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — are facing primary challenges from tea party candidates who have denounced the senators’ support for reform. Graham may be a bigger target because he was one of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators who helped craft the Senate bill.

In Georgia, where the retirement of Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss has left an open seat, GOP candidates are battling each other over who is the biggest opponent of the Senate bill. The three House members running in the primary are all on record as favoring the deportation of “dreamers” — young immigrants brought to the United States as children.

At the same time, Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are facing strong competition from Republicans who oppose a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. All of the Senate Democrats voted for the bill last summer.

The Colorado race that pits Udall against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner could be the biggest test of all for the power of immigration reform to sway voters, said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races as senior editor for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Gardner has denounced the Senate bill that Udall supported as “amnesty for illegal immigrants” and said it will only encourage more illegal immigration. Gardner also has opposed the Dream Act, which would allow some immigrants brought to the United States as children to become citizens. He voted for a bill by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to cut off funding for an Obama administration program that stopped the deportation of

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“I can see immigration playing a major role in Colorado,” Duffy said. “Democrats will certainly use it to try to turn out Hispanic voters, and Democrats have done well in the state in recent elections. But it’s far from a done deal for Udall. Colorado isn’t a solid Democratic state. I can see room for a Republican to win.”

It may be the only race where the incumbent views his support for immigration reform as a likely boost to his campaign. About 14 percent of eligible voters in Colorado are Hispanic, and Latino voters proved crucial in 2010 in re-electing Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“There’s no doubt this is going to be an extremely close race,” said Craig Hughes, a partner at at Hilltop Public Solutions and campaign manager for Bennet in 2010. “But I think the Latino vote will be decisive for Udall’s victory.”

Latino voters, who usually favor Democrats, won’t be much help to Graham and Alexander in their respective Republican primaries, where both are under attack for voting for earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

But business leaders who support the Senate legislation have come out strongly for the senators, and conservative evangelical pastors are preaching the importance of immigration reform at pulpits throughout the South.

“The Chamber is proud to have supported Senators Graham and Alexander in the past because of their strong support of American free enterprise, and we will continue to stand with them,” said Blair Latoff Holmes, executive director of media relations for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In South Carolina, Matthew Blanton, an organizer for the Evangelical Immigration Table, said a growing number of Baptist preachers and other Southern pastors are supporting the cause of immigration reform and urging their congregations to do the same.

Blanton’s group does not get involved in congressional campaigns, but he said the message the pastors are spreading could end up helping Republican senators such as Graham and Alexander with conservative evangelical Christians.
“When we talk about the issue, people know that Senator Graham made a bold move by

being part of the Gang of Eight,” Blanton said.

A spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — which opposed the Senate immigration reform bill — said he believes Graham and Alexander will both win their primaries in part because of strong financial support from business groups.

But

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spokesman Ira Mehlman also said Republican candidates such as Graham and Alexander are making a political miscalculation in the long run.

“This idea out there among Republicans that if they suddenly get behind amnesty that Latinos will flock to them doesn’t seem to be the case,” Mehlman said. “I think for Republicans what they risk is alienating their own base by supporting amnesty and mass immigration increases without any real promise of gaining large numbers of Hispanic voters.”

Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice immigrant rights group, said he believes what happens

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to Graham and Alexander will have a big impact on the Republican Party.

“If the tea party wins those primaries, it will send shivers throughout the Republican establishment,” Sharry said. “If the tea party loses and loses

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big as expected right now, it is going to show that the tea party has more bark than bite. And it will show other Republicans that you can support reform and win.”

Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, which opposed the Senate bill, said the Democratic senators from conservative states may be more at risk this election year for their support of immigration reform.

He cited Pryor of Arkansas, Landrieu of Louisiana, and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. as examples of senators whose support for reform appears to go against the views of many of their constituents.

The Cook Political Report lists Pryor’s race as a “toss-up” and Landrieu and Hagan’s races as “leaning” Democratic. The Colorado race was recently moved from “likely” Democratic to

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“leaning” Democratic after Gardner entered the race.

“Their support for the big comprehensive immigration reform bill is a big vulnerable point for every one of these Democrats who are in competitive races,” Beck said. “Will the Republicans in those races exploit that vulnerability? That I can’t answer. But if they’re intent on winning, they should.”

Contact Erin Kelly at ekelly@gannett.com

 

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