FAIR Legislative Update October 25, 2010
Federal Courts in Texas Dismissing Hundreds of Deportation Cases
The Houston Chronicle this week reported that federal courts in Texas were dismissing hundreds of deportation cases. Dismissals of such cases were up 700 percent between July and August of this year, according to The Chronicle, and were the result of unsolicited motions by federal prosecutors, not the defendants. (The Houston Chronicle, Oct. 17, 2010)
All signs indicate that the broad-based dismissal of deportation cases is the result of a new policy Homeland Security adopted in August. While Homeland Security didn’t officially announce the policy shift, immigration attorneys in Houston began to report that cases against their illegal alien defendants were being dismissed, allowing them to remain in the United States. The American Immigration Lawyers Association liaison to the U.S. DOJ, Raed Gonzalez, told reporters that Homeland Security had personally briefed him on the new policy, which would seek dismissal of deportation cases against illegal aliens who had been in the U.S. for more than two years and with no felony convictions. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, Aug. 30, 2010)
Homeland Security attempted to downplay its new policy, stating that it was limited only to individuals with family members legally in the U.S., and that deportation proceedings could always be reinstated. However,The Chronicle this week reports that their review of the cases dismissed suggest that the broader guidelines described by Mr. Gonzales are indeed in effect during this review process. (The Houston Chronicle, Oct. 17, 2010)
Amnesty advocates lauded Homeland Security’s new policy. "It makes all of the sense in the world," said Houston immigration attorney John Necham, who has seen several of his clients go free under this new policy. Enforcement advocates, however, decried the move. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and four other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee accused the Secretary of having a “lax approach” to immigration enforcement. (CQ Today, Oct. 21, 2010) “It appears that your Department is enforcing the law based on criteria it arbitrarily chose, with complete disregard for the enforcement laws created by Congress,” wrote the Senators. Other immigration enforcement advocates echoed these comments. "When you have this kind of mass dismissal, it sends a very clear message to illegal immigrants, and to society at large, that the government is not serious about enforcing the laws," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. (Id.)
OneAmerica Votes, an organization that aims to increase immigrant voter turnout, is actively recruiting illegal aliens to campaign for Democratic incumbent Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). (Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2010) The organization’s director, Pramila Jayapal, says the campaign is about empowering those who may not feel like they can contribute to a campaign because they can't vote. "Immigrants really do matter," Jayapal said. (Id.) One of the illegal aliens knocking on doors, Maria Gianni, is open about her illegal status. “There’s always a risk,” she said. “But if there’s a change, I would feel like I contributed, even in a small part . . . .” (Id.)
OneAmerica Votes program manager Toby Guevin says the group is endorsing Sen. Murray, who is in a tough re-election battle with Republican challenger Dino Rossi, because of her support for amnesty. (Seattle Weekly, Oct. 19, 2010) Murray voted for the 2006 amnesty bill, against building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and has stated her support for the DREAM Act. (Seattle Times, Sept. 21, 2010) The latest Rasmussen poll on the race shows Murray with a slight lead over Rossi, 49 percent to 46 percent. (Rasmussen, Oct. 17, 2010)
At the direction of Governor Paterson, the State of New York is currently reviewing hundreds of pardon applications from criminal aliens who want to avoid deportations based on their criminal acts. (The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2010) Governor Paterson announced in May of this year that he intended to pardon certain criminal aliens in order to prevent the U.S. government from deporting them. To that end, he ordered the creation of a Special Immigration Pardoning Board to review applications. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, May 10, 2010).
While Governor Paterson has provided little, if any, guidance as to criteria for receiving pardons, he did specify that review would be limited to green card holders (legal permanent residents). (The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2010) Officials said that the cases being reviewed by the Special Immigration Pardoning Board range from misdemeanors to felonies, and from turnstile jumping to murder. Some crimes were committed recently, while others were committed decades ago. The Governor has placed no limit on the number of pardons he may grant. (Id.)
Amnesty advocates have hailed Paterson’s use of pardoning power to circumvent the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. “People are being deported for indiscretions of their youth, and it’s ripping families apart,” said Carrie Grimm, the pro bono administrator at a law firm that helped file petitions on behalf of former prisoners. The panel, she said, “is a fabulous idea and needs to be replicated far and wide.” (The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2010) The Governor himself defended the move by calling federal immigration laws “embarrassing and wrongly inflexible.” (The New York Times, May 3, 2010). And Paterson insisted that his office was “separating these cases from ones where there are egregious crimes.” (Id.)
However, immigration enforcement proponents have strongly criticized Paterson’s decision. FAIR Media Director Ira Mehlman said that by pardoning criminal aliens who were subject to deportation, Governor Paterson was circumventing Congressional authority. “This is not his determination to make,” he said. (The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2010) Temple University Law School professor Jan Ting, also a former assistant immigration commissioner, said, “There are people out there, maybe the governor included, who don’t want to deport anybody, even people who have committed crimes.” He added, “I understand the impulse, but it’s an impulse that leads to open borders.” (The New York Times, May 3, 2010).
Police in the Mexican border city of Tijuana seized 134 tons of marijuana last Sunday in what was a record marijuana bust in Mexico. (NY Times, Oct. 21, 2010) The seizure occurred after local police came across a convoy and were fired upon. (Id.) A shootout between the convoy members and police ensued, leading to the arrest of 11 convoy members. (Washington Post¸ Oct. 19, 2010) The arrestees then led authorities to an industrial neighborhood where over 15,000 giant bricks of marijuana, wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil, were recovered in three tractor-trailers and a small truck. (Washington Post¸ Oct. 19, 2010; NY Times, Oct. 21, 2010) Officials believe that the marijuana belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, and had an estimated street value in Mexico of $340 million. (My Fox DC, Oct. 22, 2010;Washington Post¸ Oct. 19, 2010)
The seizure demonstrates an increase in marijuana production in Mexico over the last few years. According to a recent U.S. Justice Department report, marijuana production in Mexico has increased by 59 percent since 2003. (NY Times, Oct. 21, 2010) The increased production is partly due to reduced efforts to eradicate marijuana crops, as the Mexican military focuses on antiviolence measures. The result has been a significant increase in the amount of marijuana smuggled into the United States. (U.S. Justice Department National Drug Threat Assessment 2010, Oct. 24, 2010) Just last April, the military seized 19 tons of marijuana in a warehouse in Tijuana. (L.A. Times, Oct. 19, 2010)
After the seizure, Mexican authorities doused the bricks of marijuana with gasoline and burned it in what can only be described as a spectacular blaze. (See video at MyFoxDC.com, Oct. 22, 2010) Authorities estimated it would take two days to burn the entire amount. (NY Times, Oct. 21, 2010; Los Angeles Times, Oct. 20, 2010)