David Bennion: August 2010 Archives

My client Ivan Nikolov is still being detained by ICE in Battle Creek, Michigan, for the crime of coming to the U.S. with his mother at the age of 11. Please take a moment to watch this moving video from Ivan's fiancee, Alanna, as she describes how she met Ivan, why he is being deported, and what you can do to help.

If Ivan were released from prison, he would be a candidate for the DREAM Act if it were to be passed by Congress. Ivan's case demonstrates that ICE is still trying to deport DREAMers. Please don't let Ivan be the public example that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Obama use to placate anti-immigrant voters in a misguided and ineffective effort to preserve Democratic majorities in Congress this fall. Let Democrats in Congress and the White House know they shouldn't play politics with the lives of Ivan and other DREAMers!

Please do the following to help Ivan:

1. Sign this petition to DHS
2. Send a fax to DHS
3. Call John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (202-732-3000)
4. Call Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and ask him to continue to work on Ivan Nikolov's case until he is released from prison (202-224-6221)
5. Call Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and ask her to support Ivan Nikolov (202-224-4822)

When calling ICE please be very polite and say something like this:

I am calling to leave a message of support for Ivan (A#078-251-095) who is going to be deported any day now. I ask that Director Morton please step in to defer Ivan's deportation, he is an asset to this country. Thank you.

Ivan and Alanna.jpg[Photo - Ivan and Alanna]

Ivan Nikolov still needs your help. He has been locked up since May for the "crime" of coming to the United States with his mother when he was eleven years old. All he wants is to be able to stay in the U.S. with his fiancée Alanna, a senior at Wayne State University in Michigan. Ivan's mother was already deported last week, leaving Ivan's U.S. citizen stepfather heartbroken and questioning the actions of his own government. Ivan waits in prison not knowing if each day will be the last day he sees his fiancée. Today his fiancée and stepfather are holding a press conference at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan, to try to raise awareness of Ivan's situation in order to stop his deportation (see details below below the fold).

Contrary to Julia Preston's otherwise informative New York Times article about the success of undocumented youth organizing to stop their own deportations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not announced any formal policy on this point. This allows ICE to approach the issue on a case-by-case basis, deporting some DREAM Act-eligible youth (DREAMers) while exercising mercy in others. It's like the emperor in the stadium, giving the thumbs up to the gladiator he likes and sending the others to the lions. The emperor doesn't have to explain himself, the thumb does the talking.

Except in this scenario, the emperor isn't Obama, it is the supposedly subordinate agency that reports to Obama: ICE. Anti-immigrant elements within the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a constituent agency, have decided that the chain of command that keeps every other military and federal law enforcement agency running smoothly doesn't apply to DHS. They've decided to take matters into their own hands, leaking draft policy memos to hostile Republican Senators and staging a public vote of no-confidence in their own leadership.

ICE is a rogue agency that wants to cause political problems for its own leaders so that ICE agents can ramp up deportations beyond the record 400,000 people Obama is already deporting this year. And so far, Obama and Napolitano have caved to their supposed subordinates, more afraid of anti-immigrant voters than Latin@ voters.

Who is running the show here?

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos has cast his own vote of no confidence in the Obama administration, and some Latin@ voters are likely to follow Ramos's lead this fall.

Meanwhile Ivan waits in jail for the crime of coming to America as an eleven-year-old child. Will you ask DHS Secretary Napolitano to let Ivan out while he fights his immigration appeal?

[Disclosure: I represent Ivan in his immigration case.]

Border wall.jpgDespite the "all or nothing" rhetoric with which Democrats in Congress have shot down proposed piecemeal reforms like the DREAM Act in defense of comprehensive immigration reform, Democrats are perfectly ok with passing piecemeal reforms--as long as they ramp up enforcement and deliver nothing of value to the immigrant community. On Thursday, Senate Democrats introduced a $600 billion million border enforcement bill that will further militarize the border while getting nothing in return for the immigrant community. America's Voice chided Democrats for continuing "to play a losing game of catch-up to politicians like Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio."

Republicans like John McCain are thrilled that Democrats are doing their work for them to punish immigrants until they leave on their own, a policy known as "enforcement through attrition":

"Although, there is a great deal more to be done, I believe today Democrats finally put good policy over politics and agreed we must secure our border first," McCain said in a statement.

With strong Republican support, the bill was quickly approved by the Senate. Democrats for a long time now have been good at pretending to be allies of the immigrant community to court the Latin@ vote, but bad at actually delivering any legislation that does more than further penalize the immigrant community.

The Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that Senator Schumer rejected attempts to attach the DREAM Act and AgJobs to the border enforcement bill. (Hat tip Jose Franco of the DREAM Act 21.) Deepak Barghava of the Center for Community Change speculated in a Politico article that introduction of the bill had been a failed attempt by Democrats at a bluff, but that Republicans "ate the Democrats' lunch," and voted for the bill even though Schumer had only introduced it a few hours before the vote. Politico reported that unnamed immigrant rights advocates said that passing a stand-alone border bill eliminated a bargaining chip for Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform. If so, this was a major tactical error by Schumer and shows how thoroughly outclassed he is by GOP Senators when it comes to immigration policy.

This is the latest in a string of piecemeal enforcement backed by Democrats without any expectation of any pro-migrant reform in return. Immigration Impact reported recently that the Democrats have now enacted the majority of the enforcement pieces of the failed 2007 comprehensive reform bill, while getting nothing in return for the immigrant community. Democrats have been the biggest facilitators of the current enforcement-only immigration policy regime, caving time after time to nativists in the GOP even though Democrats hold large majorities in both houses of Congress. These are not allies, they are "frenemies," friends to your face who stab you in the back as soon as you turn around.

If CCC and other national immigrant advocacy organizations are unhappy with Democrats right now, they have only themselves to blame for repeatedly enabling Democratic frenemies, from giving Deporter-in-Chief Obama an uncontested platform to deceive the immigrant community at the March 21 immigrant rights rally in Washington, D.C., to buying into Rahm Emanuel's poll-tested "tough on immigrants" talking points that reinforce conservative frames on immigration. Aside from recent movement from America's Voice to support standalone DREAM Act and challenge the Democrats, to me it's still an open question: Will D.C.-based immigrant rights organizations ever hold Democrats accountable for selling out the immigrant community?

And the next big question with this latest installment of enforcement-only legislation coming from Democrats in the Senate: Will the Congressional Hispanic Caucus follow the Senate's lead and support piecemeal enforcement-only reform while continuing to hold pro-migrant piecemeal legislation like the DREAM Act hostage to a nonexistent CIR bill?

So who are these Democratic frenemies, and what do they have against immigrants? Here is a short primer:

Grassley.jpgLate last week, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released a draft internal immigration policy memo (pdf) that one or more anonymous anti-immigrant Department of Homeland Security employees had leaked to his office. Shortly before the leak of the draft memo from USCIS, the federal immigration agency which is part of DHS, Senator Grassley, along with seven other Republican Senators, had sent a letter to President Obama warning him against taking the kinds of actions outlined in the draft memo that would ameliorate some of the current unreasonably harsh immigration policies that separate families and punish children.

The policy changes would have:

  • Given DHS greater latitude to defer the deportation of undocumented youth brought here as children by their parents.
  • Eased interpretation of the current strict standard for showing that deportation of a parent, child, or spouse has caused "extreme hardship" to the remaining U.S. citizen family member. Currently, forced long-term (10 years or more) separation from one's spouse or child cannot be used as a factor in deciding whether "extreme hardship" exists.
  • Finalized the rules dealing with children who come to the U.S. alone, and for victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and other criminal activities.
  • Permitted USCIS to exercise discretion to target criminals for deportation proceedings in line with ICE's stated enforcement priorities.

To me and others, these seem like common sense measures that should have been adopted long ago. To the anti-immigrant groups behind this manufactured scandal, the draft policy memo is the greatest outrage the world has ever known.

Senator Grassley is working closely with the nativist group NumbersUSA, a member of eugenicist John Tanton's network of anti-immigrant organizations, in an effort to use the leak of this draft policy memo to destroy any chance of immigration reform that remains this legislative session. The leak came just as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) proposed a constitutional amendment to revoke birthright citizenship, which could lead to the deportation of citizen children of undocumented parents.

The leak of the draft memo, which was written in April, followed a letter in June from the same group of GOP Senators warning President Obama not to enact administrative reforms in lieu of comprehensive immigration reform. The release of the June letter shows that Grassley and NumbersUSA had the draft memo then and were holding on to it until its release would have maximum political impact.

The timing of the release, coming in the same week that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) met to discuss moving the DREAM Act forward separate from comprehensive immigration reform [Update: Reid's office is now denying that he discussed the DREAM Act with Pelosi at their meeting last week], the same week that communities around the country mobilized in opposition to SB1070, was no coincidence in my view. The leak was timed to derail the momentum the DREAM Act had gotten over months and years of organizing efforts by DREAMers, including a civil disobedience action in D.C. on July 20 where 21 undocumented youth risked deportation by being arrested in the Senate office buildings and an ongoing hunger strike now in its 12th day in California. The leak was designed to increase pressure on Obama to maintain existing federal SB1070-style programs like 287g that promote collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE and lead to racial profiling of brown-skinned people.

If this is the best attack the nativists can muster, if this is their "secret weapon" against the DREAM Act or any other legislative action on immigration, then I think the pro-migrant community is in good shape.