August 8 – Legal Help Crisis and Obama’s Executive Action

Joe Biden Calling For Legal Assistance For Unaccompanied Minors

During a conference earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden brought attention to a catastrophic shortage of lawyers for migrant children facing removal. Currently, federal government provides a quick legal orientation program for detained immigrants – although the detainees may seek legal help on their own they are not entitled to an attorney by law. 52% of migrant children do not have legal representation. Studies show that children’s chances to obtain relief such as asylum in the U.S. double if they are represented by a legal professional.

Having legal assistance would also speed up the hearings and ultimately lead to a quicker resolution of immigration cases. In his $3.7 billion request Obama has intended about $15 million to be spent on legal aid for migrant children, however since Congress did not approve any additional spending, Biden is calling on law firms and nonprofit organizations to fill the gap.

More Americans Worried About Immigration

Reuters reports that about 70% of Americans view the increasing flow of undocumented immigrants as a threat to the country’s economy and the American way of life, according to their online poll. Congress’ inability to pass immigration reform before breaking for recess has only increased the level of concern. Many see immigration as one of the three most important issues facing the government, together with the state of the economy and Obamacare. According to the poll, the growing anti-sentiment against undocumented immigrants is higher in New England states, which have not been as affected by the influx of migrants as other states, such as Texas. Obama is expected to take executive action on the immigration crisis in the coming weeks, which experts claim, might lead to further loss of political support.

Obama Prepares To Move Without Congress On Immigration Reform

The coming executive actions to change immigration policy could become the defining moment in Obama’s second term marred by congressional gridlock. Amid fierce debate over the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border they also could set up a potential political firestorm just weeks before the crucial midterm elections. The Administration has given few hints on what Obama will do on immigration The Washington Post has reported, based on readouts of meetings among White House officials, that Obama could effectively expand the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA has shielded hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.

Criminal Turned Informant Faces Imminent Deportation

After his arrest in 1998, Mr. Miguel Feliz, a Dominican native who used to be part of one of the largest cocaine gangs in New York, has turned sides and became an informant. His contribution has led to solving over 30 homicides. In return, federal law enforcement promised him they would do all they can to prevent him from being deported after completing his prison sentence and sponsoring him for the so-called “informant” or S visa, which guarantees legal status to individuals who posses information valuable to an investigation. However, upon his release in 2011, he was detained and is now facing deportation. In response to an inquiry, Department of Homeland Security stated that no petition on behalf of Mr. Feliz has been filed. According to United States attorney’s office spokesman, “prosecutors and their law enforcement partners continue to work together with ICE and are hopeful that Mr. Feliz can still be granted an S visa.”

Advocates In New York Scramble As Child Deportation Cases Are Accelerated

Immigrant advocacy groups were rushing on Monday to prepare for special new court procedures in New York City next week that will accelerate deportation hearings for newly arrived unaccompanied children from Central America. The advocates were trying to develop a strategy to respond to the shift, including recruiting and preparing pro bono lawyers and searching for additional financing to support their efforts. Under the new procedures, unaccompanied minors and families with children who entered the United States in recent months during a surge of migrants from Central America will be moved to the front of the line to go before immigration judges. The plan is part of the President Obama’s strategy, announced last month, to accelerate cases involving child migrants and parents with children to deter the influx of migrants across the southern border.