September 29, 2017

A New Hampshire border patrol checkpoint 72 miles south of the Canadian border has raised some local eyebrows and marks "the latest in an escalation of border security efforts from [the] new presidential administration," the Concord Monitor reports. The location of the checkpoint this week — on the southbound side of Interstate 93, in Woodstock — is not new, although such stops were not conducted between 2012 and 2017.

A Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said that the stops have recently resumed because of increased funding to the agency as well as "intelligence and operational needs." In August, 25 undocumented immigrants were picked up from the checks and 18 U.S. citizens were arrested, most for drug use, which is a "side-focus" of the checkpoint, the Monitor writes.

Most people described their stops as being quick: A Monitor reporter and photographer were asked if they were "both U.S. citizens," and a verbal "yes" had them on their way. But Carla Gericke of the libertarian group Foundation for New Hampshire Independence said the stops are "extremely troubling."

"New Hampshire relies on tourism," she said, "and having banana republic-like stops [will hurt that]." Jeva Lange

September 26, 2017

The Department of Homeland Security has announced its intention to expand the sort of information it collects on immigrants, with "social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results" subject to be added to immigration files as soon as Oct. 18, BuzzFeed News reports. The new policy would apply to both green card holders and naturalized citizens.

The changes "will not only allow DHS to collect information about an immigrant's Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, but it also mentions all 'search results,'" Gizmodo writes. "It's not immediately clear if that means the agency will have access to things such as Google search histories nor is it clear how that would be obtained."

An additional consequence of the new policy is that everyone who interacts with immigrants on social media would also presumably be subject to having those conservations under surveillance, Gizmodo reports. What's more, social media surveillance has historically not proven to be a promising mode of vetting: "In cases of benefit denial, the denial was based on information found outside of social media," presidential transition documents by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services report.

The Brennan Center's co-director of liberty and national security, Faiza Patel, raised another concern to BuzzFeed News: "The question is, do we really want the government monitoring political views?" Patel said. "Social media may not be able to predict violence but it can certainly tell you a lot about a person's political and religious views." Read the full report at BuzzFeed News. Jeva Lange

September 21, 2017

An undocumented mother and father living in North Brownsville, Texas, were told by their local hospital that their 2-month-old son needed emergency stomach surgery that required them to travel to the only capable nearby facility, Driscoll Children's Hospital, in Corpus Christi, Texas. In order to get to Corpus Christi, Oscar and Irma Sanchez would have had to pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint. But even before they decided to go, a Border Patrol agent showed up at the hospital, likely summoned by a nurse, and told the parents that he would escort them through the checkpoint but arrest them and put them in deportation proceedings afterwards, NPR reports. The Sanchezes agreed to go:

The Border Patrol followed the ambulance, the night of May 24, as it raced to Corpus through desolate ranchland, carrying Oscar, Irma, and tiny Isaac — with an IV in his arm and a tube in his stomach. Once they arrived at Driscoll Children's Hospital, the green-uniformed agents never left the undocumented couple's side. Officers followed the father to the bathroom and the cafeteria and asked the mother to leave the door open when she breast-fed Isaac.

"Everywhere we went in the hospital," Oscar says, "they followed us." [NPR]

Oscar and Irma Sanchez have no criminal records and "advocates are puzzled why the Border Patrol chose to put the Sanchezes under such intense supervision, which one would expect for higher-value targets like drug traffickers or MS-13 gang members," NPR writes. Additionally, the Sanchezes' case raises immigration advocates' concerns about the Trump administration's treatment of "sensitive locations," or safe zones. Under President Obama, the Department of Homeland Security avoided arresting immigrants at hospitals, schools, churches, or public demonstrations.

"That's how you treat criminals that are harmful, and that's understandable for our own protection," said immigrant advocate Ana Hinojosa. "But [the Sanchezes are] a family that's just here trying to make a living, provide an education and a future for their children." Read or listen to the full story at NPR. Jeva Lange

June 2, 2017

Want to come to America? Get your Twitter handle ready. The White House on Thursday approved a harsher visa vetting procedure that, among other changes, includes social media scrutiny.

Applicants are asked to provide "your unique user name for any websites or applications you have used to create or share content (photos, videos, status updates, etc.) as part of a public profile within the last five years." Officially, compliance is voluntary, but refusal can affect whether or how quickly an application is processed.

Critics have argued the new screening will function in practice as means of unfair discrimination. "What this language effectively does is give the consular posts permission to step away from the focused factors they have spent years developing and revising, and instead broaden the search to large groups based on gross factors such as nationality and religion," said Jay Gairson, an immigration attorney who spoke with Reuters when the proposal was floated earlier this year. Bonnie Kristian

April 22, 2017
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President Trump told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that "DREAMers," young immigrants who were brought to America illegally as children, should not fear deportation because they are not being targeted. DREAMers can "rest easy," the president said, because his administration is "not after the DREAMers; we are after the criminals."

The DREAMer label comes from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which has not passed at the federal level, despite repeated introductions in Congress since 2001, but is implemented in modified forms in some states.

On Tuesday, a 23-year-old man named Juan Manuel Montes, a DREAMer, sued the Trump administration for deporting him earlier this year. Montes appears to have had an active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, which should have prevented deportation. Trump told the AP Montes is "a little different than the DREAMer case," but did not say why. Bonnie Kristian

April 18, 2017
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Within three hours of his encounter with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in California, a 23-year-old man who appears to have active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status was walked across the Mexican border and told to stay in his birth country. On Tuesday, he sued the Trump administration, demanding answers.

The DACA program, created by former President Barack Obama, protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. while they were children. While President Trump has signed strict executive orders regarding immigration, he hasn't revoked the DACA protections that cover more than 750,000 people, often called "DREAMers," saying he has a "big heart." But on February 17, Juan Manuel Montes, who came to the U.S. at age 9, was approached by a border patrol agent while he waited for a ride in Calexico. He said he left his wallet with his ID and proof of DACA status in a friend's car, Montes said in a statement, and asked if he could retrieve it; he was told he couldn't. "They detained me, they took me to a center, they asked me a lot questions, and I signed a lot of papers," he told USA Today.

Montes says he did not understand what he was signing, did not receive any copies of the documents, and was then walked to the border and released into Mexicali, becoming the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status deported under Trump (his attorneys have provided a copy of his work authorization card, which reportedly shows his DACA status is valid through 2018). Montes has learning disabilities after a traumatic brain injury as a child, and was taking welding courses at a community college while earning money picking crops. He was convicted of shoplifting in 2016 and driving without a license, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says these infractions are not serious enough to revoke DACA status.

Montes is now staying with an aunt and uncle in western Mexico, after attempting to cross the border two days after his deportation, following a mugging; he was quickly caught and returned to Mexico. This has people like Greisa Martinez, director of the advocacy group United We Dream, concerned. "We've seen Trump and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary] John Kelly say, 'The DACA program is alive and well,'" she told USA Today. "We've seen [House Speaker] Paul Ryan look straight into the eyes of one of our members and say, 'You have nothing to worry about.' And then this happens." Read more about Montes' situation and the Department of Homeland Security's response at USA Today. Catherine Garcia

April 13, 2017

The city council of Lansing, Michigan, voted unanimously April 3 to label the town a sanctuary city, which generally means a jurisdiction where local law enforcement limits its cooperation with federal immigration officials. Then, on April 12, the council voted 5-2 to undo the decision.

The second vote was motivated by pushback from local citizens and the city and state chambers of commerce. "Recent actions of City Council, whether intended or not, have placed an unnecessary target on the City of Lansing while jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal funding that impacts the city budget," said a letter from the chambers to the council referencing President Trump's threat to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities thwarting his immigration agenda.

City council member Carol Wood argues the situation is more complicated still. A mayoral executive order, which says Lansing police and city workers cannot ask anyone about their immigration status "except as required by federal or state statute or court decision" will remain in effect, and Wood says the council resolution didn't add any meaningful protections on top of that order. The resolution "won't make any difference" for undocumented immigrants, she said, so keeping the "sanctuary city" title could "give this false perception to people that there is something out there that is not there." Bonnie Kristian

March 27, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday demanded an end to sanctuary cities, saying such policies "cannot continue."

"When cities and states continue to refuse to help enforce our immigration laws, our nation is less safe," Sessions said. He added: "Countless Americans would be alive today … if these policies of sanctuary cities were ended."

Sessions went on to say that the Department of Justice would look to "claw back" grants from jurisdictions that do not comply with federal authorities' immigration-related efforts.

Trump has already signed an executive order to block federal funding to sanctuary cities. At least 633 counties in the United States "limit how much local police can cooperate with requests from federal authorities to hold immigrants in detention," The New York Times reports. Jeva Lange

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