White House to push merit-based immigration in new campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is embarking on a major campaign to turn public opinion against the nation’s largely family-based immigration system ahead of an all-out push next year to move toward a more merit-based structure.

The administration was laying the groundwork for such a drive even before an Islamic State-inspired extremist who was born in Bangladesh tried to blow himself up in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. It is assembling data to bolster the argument that the current legal immigration system is not only ill-conceived, but dangerous and damaging to U.S. workers.

“We believe that data drives policy, and this data will help drive votes for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.

White House officials outlined their strategy this week exclusively to The Associated Press, and said the data demonstrates that changes are needed immediately. But their effort will play out in a difficult political climate, as even Republicans in Congress are leery of engaging in a major immigration debate ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The issue is expected to be prominently featured in the president’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address. The White House also plans other statements by the president, appearances by Cabinet officials and a push to stress the issue in conservative media.

The administration was beginning its campaign Thursday with a blog post stressing key numbers: Department of Homeland Security data that shows nearly 9.3 million of the roughly 13 million total immigrants to the U.S. from 2005 to 2016 were following family members already in the United States. And just one in 15 immigrants admitted in the last decade by green card entered the country because of their skills.

Other planned releases: a report highlighting the number of immigrants in U.S. jails, assessments of the immigration court backlog and delays in processing asylum cases, and a paper on what the administration says is a nexus between immigration and terrorism.

Critics have questioned the administration’s selective use of sometimes misleading data in the past.

The proposed move away from family-based immigration would represent the most radical change to the U.S. immigration system in 30 years. It would end what critics and the White House refer to as “chain migration,” in which immigrants are allowed to bring a chain of family members to the country, and replace it with a points-based system that favors education and job potential — “merit” measures that have increasingly been embraced by some other countries, including Britain.

Gidley said that for those looking to make the case that the U.S. is ill-served by the current system, “transparency is their best friend.”

“The more people know the real numbers, the more they’ll begin to understand that this is bad for American workers and this is bad for American security. And quite frankly, when these numbers come out in totality, we believe it’s going to be virtually impossible for Congress to ignore,” he said.

The public is sharply divided on the types of changes President Donald Trump is advocating.

A Quinnipiac University poll in August found that 48 percent of voters opposed a proposal that Trump has backed to cut the number of future legal immigrants in half and give priority to immigrants with job skills rather than those with family ties in this country. Forty-four percent of those polled — including 68 percent of Republicans — supported the idea.

The White House hopes to see Congress begin to take up the issue early in 2018 — though it has yet to begin discussions with congressional leaders over even the broad strokes of a legislative strategy, officials said.

Trump has laid out general principles for what he would like to see in an immigration bill in exchange for giving legal status to more than 700,000 young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. These include the construction of a border wall, tougher enforcement measures and moving to a more merit-based legal immigration system. In September, Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix to allow the young immigrants known as “Dreamers” to stay in the country, creating an early-2018 crisis point he hopes will force Democrats to swallow some of his hardline demands.

After Monday’s incident in New York and the truck attack there in October, DHS quickly released information on the suspects’ immigration statuses, and Trump amplified his calls for ending the two programs that brought them to the U.S.

For those who have been pushing for an end to chain migration for decades, it’s a welcome push.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which advocates for lower immigration levels, among other changes, recently began a national radio campaign warning of what it sees as the dangers of chain migration and the diversity visa lottery program. The group has spent close to $1 million over the last month and a half on its campaign.

And NumbersUSA, another group that advocates for lower immigration levels, launched a national six-figure ad campaign Thursday “to educate on Chain Migration categories.”

Guillermo Cantor, research director at the American Immigration Council, counters that the administration is ignoring the benefits of a family-focused immigration system and the values that drove the country to adopt it in the first place.

Research, he said, has shown that allowing immigrants to reunite with their families is one of the best integration tools. And family members bring their own skills, as well as support networks and other benefits, such as help with child care.

“This is a society that’s founded on family values,” Cantor said, arguing that, for many who have become citizens or legal residents, reuniting with siblings and other extended family members is crucial.

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Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Working. Muslim Immigration Slumps

This article first appeared on the Cato Institute site.

During his campaign, President Trump promised to ban all Muslims outright until he could figure out “what is going on.”

He later explained that this idea had developed into several policies that would have the same effect.

Since his inauguration, Trump has begun to implement them—they include slashing the refugee program, banning all immigration and travelers from several majority Muslim countries, and imposing new burdens on all visa applicants as part of “extreme vetting” initiatives.

So far, these policies appear to have “worked,” strongly reducing Muslim immigration and travel to the United States.

Muslim refugee admissions have fallen dramatically over the past year. According to figures from the State Department, Muslim refugee flows fell 94 percent from January to November 2017 (the last full month of available data).

In calendar 2016, the United States admitted almost 45,000 Muslim refugees, compared to a little more than 11,000 in 2017—fully half of those entered in January and February.

Of course, the administration has cut refugee flows generally, but the Muslim share of all refugees has dropped substantially too—from 50 percent in January to less than 10 percent in November.

Figure 1

Monthly Muslim Refugee Admissions for Each Month of 2017 and Average for 2016

muslimrefugees1 Source: U.S. Department of State *Monthly average, **Through December 11, 2017

This year’s drop is even more substantial when compared with the trend. In only one year over the last decade has the number of Muslim refugee admissions fallen, and Muslim admissions have increased on average 18 percent annually from 2007 to 2016.

As for foreign travelers and immigrants seeking to live permanently in the United States, the State Department does not ask on its visa application form about their religious affiliation (thankfully).

But based on the number of visas issued to nationals of the nearly 50 majority Muslim countries, it certainly appears that the Trump administration policies have affected them as well.

America issues two types of visas—“immigrant” for permanent residents and “nonimmigrant” for temporary residents—mainly tourists, guest workers, and students.

For Muslim majority countries, the average monthly permanent visa issuances during the period of March to October 2017 (the only months that are available so far) dropped 13 percent from the monthly average in FY 2016. Average monthly visa issuances for temporary residents —tourists, guest workers, and students—from majority Muslim countries have dropped 21 percent from the FY 2016 monthly average.

Figure 2

Average Monthly Visa Issuances—Permanent and Temporary—2016 and 2017

muslimrefugees2 Sources: U.S. Department of State, “ Monthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Statistics”; “Monthly Immigrant Visa Issuance Statistics ”; “Nonimmigrant Visas Issued by Nationality”; “Immigrant Visas Issued”

During the last decade, majority Muslim countries have never—even during the recession—seen temporary visa issuances fall by more than 1 percent in a single year and immigrant visas never more than 7 percent.

From 2007 to 2016, temporary visa approvals for nationals of these countries actually grew 8 percent annually and permanent visas 9 percent annually. Again, compared to the expected increases, the declines are even more remarkable.

Immigration and travel from all countries has also declined this year, but the declines for Muslim majority countries were larger. They saw their share of all immigrant visa issuances fall 3 percent and their share of temporary visa approvals by 15 percent.

The visa declines disproportionately affected certain countries. In particular, they impacted the eight majority Muslim countries that President Trump has singled out in his three “travel ban” executive orders—Chad, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. (Iraq and Sudan are technically now off the list, though Iraqis are supposedly subject to higher scrutiny. Chad was added in September.)

All eight countries received fewer visa approvals, and collectively, their monthly average immigrant visa issuances fell a collective 36 percent, while temporary visas fell 42 percent. These declines occurred despite court orders that barred full implementation of the ban until this month.

Figure 3

Average Monthly Visa Issuances—Permanent and Temporary—2016 and 2017 for Eight “Travel Ban” Countries

muslimrefugees3 Sources: U.S. Department of State (See Figure 2)

The decline in Muslim refugee admissions is almost entirely a consequence of policy. The administration selects the number and types of refugees that it wants.

President Trump promised to “prioritize” Christian refugees, and he has done so, not by increasing their numbers—the number of Christian refugees has declined as well—but by decreasing Muslim admissions.

Policy is at least partially culpable for fewer visa approvals. Almost 80 percent of the drop in immigrant visas came from the eight targeted countries, but these countries explain only 14 percent of the drop in temporary visas.

The Trump administration has rolled out other policies designed to target Muslim extremists that include more complicated and lengthy immigration forms and requirements to supply more evidence to support certain claims, such as past addresses and jobs.

These could be increasing the costs associated with an application, forcing immigrants to hire attorneys or simply delaying their applications. Accounts of mysterious visa denials for Muslim applicants have serviced as well.

Undoubtedly, some Muslim travelers are also afraid to travel to the United States right now—stories of lengthy detentions and other mistreatment at the border for Muslims could dissuade Muslims from even applying.

Regardless, President Trump is certainly fulfilling a major campaign promise: few Muslims are entering the United States.

One can only hope he will figure out “what is going on” soon.

David J. Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. From 2013 to 2015, Mr. Bier drafted immigration legislation as senior policy advisor for Congressman Raúl Labrador, a member and current chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

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He told them they could become citizens by getting adopted. Now he’s going to jail

Helaman Hansen, a charismatic Elk Grove businessman who defrauded 471 undocumented immigrants out of their savings by promising them they could be adopted into citizenship, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Thursday.

“He has hurt so many people, and even today he still believes he’s done what he could for these people,” said U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. “He really doesn’t get it. I believe the victims caught up in this scheme were very vulnerable and were trying their best to become citizens. As one victim said today, they were duped.”

England ordered Hansen to pay $576,264 in restitution to his victims. But after the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorneys André M. Espinosa and Katherine T. Lydon told about half a dozen victims who had come to the sentencing that Hansen doesn’t have the money to pay the judgment.

“He lived in a rented house and drove an old car,” Espinosa said. Lydon added that federal investigators were unable to find any hidden assets.

At his 11-day trial last spring, Hansen, 65, insisted he put all the money back into his organization, Americans Helping America, and several sister organizations to sell memberships in what he called a migration program. A jury in Sacramento U.S. District Court found Hansen guilty of 12 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and two counts of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain.

Between October 2012 and January 2016, Hansen and his agents allegedly targeted undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Fiji, India, Ecuador, Laos and other nations. They paid between $150 and $10,000 on the false promise that they would obtain American citizenship after being adopted by U.S. citizens.

While some people as old as 50 were adopted through Hansen’s group, none ever gained citizenship. Only undocumented immigrants under age 16 can achieve citizenship by being legally adopted by a U.S. citizen, Lydon said.

Hansen, clad in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, tearfully told the judge Thursday that he intended to help people, and that representatives of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said nothing when they found out what he was doing. Hansen noted that several adoptions actually went through in court, and that what he was doing was legal according to state law. The nuances of the law, Hansen said, “are too complex for a jury trial.”

One of his attorneys, federal public defender Tim Zindel, told the judge that Hansen’s plea was further evidence “he has a significantly reduced mental capacity.”

“He suffers from grandiosity, but I think in Mr. Hansen’s heart his intentions were good,” he said.

Prosecutors weren’t buying it. “He’s not deluded, he’s shrewd,” Espinosa said, noting Hansen had threatened victims, telling them that if they did not come to a meeting where Hansen would explain why the program wasn’t working, “he would have no choice but to report them to ICE.”

The adoption for citizenship case, which prosecutors believe is the first of its kind nationwide, was the result of an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Hansen claims he is the grandson of a Tongan prince. He came to the United States by entering the U.S. diversity lottery – also known as the green card lottery – for immigrants from underrepresented nations. He was accepted as a Tongan immigrant in October 1999.

Medrano Reyes, an undocumented Mexican construction worker from Castro Valley, testified at the trial that he and his wife each paid Hansen $5,000. Reyes said his wife was adopted in July 2015 in Oakland Superior Court by one of Hansen’s agents, but never obtained citizenship.

Reyes, 48, testified that when it was his turn to be adopted, “the judge addressed the person who was going to adopt me and and said it shouldn’t be for purposes of immigration.”

Related stories from The Sacramento Bee

But the agent Hansen had lined up to adopt him told the judge “it was because my mother was his sister and had died so he wanted to adopt me so we can start a family relationship.”

Reyes said his mother was alive in Mexico, and was not related to the man who was seeking to adopt him.

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ICE Kept 92 Immigrants Shackled On A Plane For Two Days In ‘Slave Ship’ Conditions, Advocates Say

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) kept 92 Somali immigrants chained on an airplane for 46 hours in “slave ship” conditions during a botched attempt to deport them back to Somalia earlier this month, detainees and advocates say.

The plane carrying the Somalis—chartered by the ICE Air Operations division—made a pit stop in Dakar, Senegal, 10 hours after taking off from Louisiana on December 7. But the plane never made it to Mogadishu. Instead, after parking the plane on the tarmac for nearly a day, ICE turned it around and made the 4,600-mile flight back to the United States on December 9.

Interviewed by Newsweek, one of the men on the plane and an attorney for two others said ICE deprived the Somalis of adequate food and water, and access to a working bathroom, during their two-day detention on board, forcing them to urinate in empty water bottles or, when they ran out of the bottles, on themselves.

The Somalis also claim that the plane’s air-conditioning system was dysfunctional, making it hard to breathe in the crowded cabin. One of the immigrants also says he and another Somali were hit in the face by ICE agents on board.

“We were treated like slaves,” Rahim Mohamed, 32, told Newsweek. A diabetic truck driver and father of two, he has lived in the U.S. since 2002.

“We were shackled for nearly two days,” he continued. “We weren’t allowed to use the bathroom or get out of the plane. I was not given the medication I need. I peed into a bottle, and then I peed on myself. It was a horrible thing, man. I thought my life was pretty much over.”

For Rebecca Sharpless, an immigration law professor at the University of Miami who has been following the situation, it was a gross violation of basic decency.

“If you shackle someone to a chair for almost 46 hours with very little food and very little water with no access to a bathroom, it’s a violation of their human rights. It’s reminiscent of a slave ship experience,” she said.

In an emailed statement, ICE denied the complaints were valid.

Upon landing for a refueling and pilot exchange at Dakar, Senegal, ICE was notified that the relief crew was unable to get sufficient crew rest due to issues with their hotel in Dakar. The aircraft, including the detainees and crew on board, remained parked at the airport to allow the relief crew time to rest. During this time, the aircraft maintained power and air conditioning, and was stocked with sufficient food and water. Detainees were fed at regular intervals to include the providing of extra snacks and drinks. Lavatories were functional and serviced the entire duration of the trip. The allegations of ICE mistreatment onboard the Somali flight are categorically false. No one was injured during the flight, and there were no incidents or altercations that would have caused any injuries on the flight.

The agency did not dispute the claims that passengers were shackled during the 46 hours on board.

According to ICE, 61 of the 92 Somalis had criminal convictions, including “homicide, rape and aggravated assault.” The rest were picked up for being in the U.S. without proper authorization. Like Mohamed, most of them have U.S. citizen spouses and children. (His immigration lawyer, Mirella Ceja-Orozco, told Newsweek in an email that Mohamed has “one misdemeanor from 2005,” which she declined to discuss.)

ICE did not give an exact reason why the plane could not make it to Somalia.

The 92 Somalis are currently being held in two detention centers in Florida. Their lawyers, along with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a civil rights group, are calling on the government to delay their clients’ deportation for a month so they can receive legal counsel.

ICE refused to say when it expected to deport the 92 Somalis, citing agency policy and operational security. But Mohamed said an ICE agent informed him on Wednesday that the agency planned to fly them out to Somalia sometime early next week.

RTR2OT50 Pedro Pimentel Rios is transferred to an awaiting plane bound for Guatemala by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona, in July 2011. REUTERS

It’s been decades since ICE issued deportation orders on most of the 92 Somalis. Almost all of them came to the U.S. at the height of Somalia’s multiple civil wars in the 1990s and early 2000s. They were allowed to stay in the U.S. under ICE supervision because the government of Somalia either refused or was unable to issue proper travel documents.

But in 2014, two years after the Somali federal government was fully established, ICE began to quickly deport more Somalis than ever before. Since then, over 900 have been deported, more than half during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, according to The New York Times.

Human rights advocates and experts in the region warn that the situation in Somalia is volatile and precarious, especially for Westernized expatriates without strong economic or political ties.

In October, militants with Al-Shabab, a separatist Islamist group in Somalia, killed 300 people and injured hundreds more in one of the deadliest attacks in the history of sub-Saharan Africa.

For Laetitia Bader, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, the attack best illustrates the dangers facing Somalis. “What we’re seeing is the return of tensions and conflict around the underlying problems that led to the civil war in the first place,” she told Newsweek by phone from Nairobi, Kenya.

Mohamed says that Al-Shabab has also threatened to kill Somalis coming back from the U.S.

“My mom’s family in Somalia told her that Al-Shabab wants to behead Somalis coming back from the United States,” Mohamed said. “I’m terrified of going back.”

Furthermore, the Somali government’s ability to protect civilians remains very limited. According to a United Nations report released earlier this month, over 4,500 civilians have been killed by terrorism or internal warfare since 2016. “State and non-state actors also carried out extrajudicial executions, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and detention, and abductions,” the report adds.

Many of the lawyers for the 92 Somalis claim that these are reasons enough to hold off on deportations to Somalia, but the government has so far disagreed.

Still, Mohamed’s lawyer, Ceja-Orozco, says that they will take advantage of ICE’s failure to deport her client and will submit another emergency application to reopen his file.

“This doesn’t happen, ever,” she said. “This is our second chance.”

RTS1HIF7 Somali security officers assess the scene of a suicide car bomb explosion at the gate of the Naso Hablod Two Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 29. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

For years, human rights organizations have raised red flags on ICE’s treatment of detained immigrants.

Most recently, Human Rights Watch cited “serious lapses in health care that have led to severe suffering and at times the preventable or premature death of individuals held in immigration detention facilities in the United States.” It concluded there is a pattern of “systemic indifference” to immigrants’ health and well-being while detained by ICE.

At the time, ICE said it always wants to make sure detainees are well cared for.

“Staffing for detainees includes registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health providers, mid-level providers that include a physician’s assistant and nurse practitioner, a physician, dental care, and access to 24-hour emergency care,” an agency spokeswoman told The Guardian.

Advocates remain concerned that the torturous conditions the 92 Somalis were reportedly subjected don’t represent a stand-alone case.

“People who are deported basically disappear to U.S. human rights activists. The Somalis were able to make a complaint because the plane turned back around. I don’t think that’d be the case if they were successfully taken back to Somalia,” said Clara Long, a senior immigration researcher for Human Rights Watch.

As his lawyer rushes to file reams of paperwork, Mohamed is behind bars, waiting to be deported—again—while his wife is back in Atlanta raising their two infant children.

“I don’t think any of them deserve for us to be treated like this,” Mohamed’s wife, Maryam Maye, told Newsweek. “I have a newborn daughter. I worry she will never remember her father. My son is 22 months old. He cries out for his father every day. What do I tell him?”

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Immigration agents arrest 101 people in 5-day NJ sweep

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Immigration enforcement agents swept into 14 counties in New Jersey last week to arrest 101 people, 88 percent of whom officials said were guilty of crimes in the past that included child sex crimes, drug offenses and immigration violations, but also trespassing and shoplifting. 

Members of the Enforcement and Removal Operations division, which is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, led the five-day operation that arrested dozens of people aged 20 to 71, officials said in a statement. Of the 101 arrests, three were in Monmouth County. No arrests were reported out of Ocean County. 

Immigration arrests were up 30 percent in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 compared with the previous year, according to figures released last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Between President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 and Sept. 30, immigration arrests were up 40 percent over the same period in 2016, according to the data. The agency said that just over 61,000 people were removed from the country in that time – a 31 percent increase over the number of deportations in the same period the previous year.

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ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in Newark also reported a spike in arrests, saying that its officers arrested 3,189 people in fiscal year 2017, a 34.7 percent increase over the previous year. It conducted 2,536 removals, a 31 percent jump from 2016. Immigrants from Monmouth County who have check-ins with ICE often attend such meetings in the Newark office. 

The latest wave of arrests in New Jersey is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to amp up administrative arrests of people who lack valid immigration papers. Last week, immigration officials said 310,531 people were apprehended nationally in the last year, “underscoring the need for a physical barrier at the border.” The overwhelming majority of the apprehensions were made in the Southwest. 

“The continued results of our Fugitive Operations officers and their law enforcement partners underscore ICE’s ongoing and steady commitment to public safety,” John Tsoukaris, field office director of the Enforcement and Removal Operations division in Newark, said in a statement released Tuesday. “As part of this operation, we continue focus on the arrest of individuals who are criminal and are a threat to public safety and national security. Because of the tireless efforts of these professional officers, there are 101 fewer criminals in our communities.”

The recent sweep of immigrants drew criticism from Johanna Calle, program coordinator for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, who said the agency placed too much of an an emphasis on the crimes of those arrested. She also accused the agency of using “deceptive, unethical tactics to get into people’s homes” and arresting immigrants without warrants. 

“ICE continues to push anti-immigrant rhetoric and tar entire immigrant communities rather than tell the whole truth about what they’re doing,” Calle said in an email. “They tout the very few heinous cases they find to legitimize the targeting of the many more who pose no threat to public safety and actively improve their communities.”

Hudson County, which is home to Jersey City, the second-biggest city in the Garden State, recorded 15 arrests. Essex County, where Newark, or Jersey’s biggest city is located, was close behind, with 14 arrests. Essex County was trailed by Middlesex and Camden counties, at 11 arrests each, and then Passaic County, at nine arrests.

Seven people were arrested in Burlington County, six each from Bergen, Mercer and Union counties, four in Somerset, three in Cumberland, two in Atlantic and one in Morris. 

More: NJ Dreamers arrested after protest inside U.S. Capitol

More: Report: New Jersey pays double for Trump’s immigration plans

Immigration officials pointed out notable arrests that included a Mexican national convicted of sexually assaulting a minor, a Turkish citizen guilty of possessing child pornography, a Peruvian citizen convicted of recording a sexual act without consent, an Egyptian citizen convicted of possessing heroin and a Korean national found guilty of distributing cocaine. 

Officials did not release the names of the arrested. 

The arrests were announced by immigration officials Tuesday, on the heels of Trump stating “the urgent need for Congress to enact legislative reforms” about immigration. Trump has repeatedly said reshaping immigration policy is one of the top items on his agenda. 

Trump, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, once again called for change to immigration policy following a failed terrorist attack Monday morning near Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal that authorities said was carried out by a man who claimed he acted on behalf of the Islamic State. The suspect, 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, of Brooklyn, was federally charged. 

The majority of people arrested in the New Jersey sweep are nationals of Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe and South America. Eighteen people are from the Dominican Republic, officials said, and accounted for the most arrests in this sweep. Fifteen are Mexican nationals. 

More: Trump TPS decision will disrupt NJ Haitian families, advocates say

More: TPS immigrants: How temporary is ‘temporary’ status?

Immigration enforcement agents arrested eight nationals from Honduras, seven nationals from El Salvador, six from Guatemala, four from Colombia, four from Cuba, three each from Brazil, Costa Rica, Guyana and Haiti, and two each from Ecuador, Egypt, Korea, the Philippines, Peru, Spain and Turkey. 

The remainder of arrestees are from the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Jamaica, Liberia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam. One person was arrested from each of the countries. 

During fiscal year 2017, immigration officials said there was a 40 percent jump in the number of administrative arrests. Officials said 92 percent of people arrested were criminally charged or convicted, or a fugitive from immigration officials. Some had illegally come back to the United States after being deported in the past, officials said. 

ICE deportation agents conduct “targeted enforcement operations” every day around the country, officials said in the statement, adding that the operations are part of ICE’s efforts to “protect the nation, uphold public safety and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls.”

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection is extremely proud to have assisted in this operation,” Leon Hayward, acting director for the New York Field Office, said in a statement. “It is through collaborative efforts, such as the one leading to these arrests, that law enforcement agencies can combat illegal acts and apprehend criminals who pose a threat to the Homeland.”

Contributing: The Bergen Record.

Katie Park: @kathspark; 908-801-4853; kpark@gannettnj.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ICE detiene a un centenar de inmigrantes irregulares en redadas en Nueva Jersey

Nueva York.- Las autoridades informaron hoy que un total de 101 personas fueron detenidas en el estado de Nueva Jersey dentro de una operación de cinco días contra inmigrantes en situación irregular.

Según una nota del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE), el 88 por ciento de los arrestados son criminales convictos y tienen edades que van desde los 20 a los 71 años.

Por nacionalidades, el mayor número de detenidos procede de la República Dominicana (18), seguido de México (15) y Honduras (8).

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También figuran entre los inmigrantes arrestados personas procedentes de Brasil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Perú, España y Venezuela, entre muchos otros países.

La operación se desarrolló la semana pasada en varios condados de Nueva Jersey y en varios puntos de Nueva York y se produce en medio de un fuerte aumento de las acciones de las autoridades contra inmigrantes irregulares.

El ICE, en un comunicado, insistió en que la acción estuvo dirigida principalmente contra criminales convictos e inmigrantes que habían regresado de forma ilegal al país.

“Seguimos centrándonos en el arresto de individuos que son criminales y una amenaza para la seguridad pública y la seguridad nacional“, señaló en la nota el responsable del ICE para este tipo de operaciones en la localidad de Newark, John Tsoukaris.

Como ejemplo, las autoridades destacaron los casos de un ciudadano mexicano condenado por asaltar sexualmente a un menor, un español condenado por posesión de pornografía infantil o un colombiano condenado por violencia doméstica, entre otros.

Video relacionado: Inmigrante pacta con ICE para proteger a su familia

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EEUU: Muro fronterizo aliviará “crisis de inmigración”


Updated 3:35 pm, Wednesday, December 13, 2017



HIDALGO, Texas, EE.UU. (AP) — La nueva secretaria de Seguridad Nacional de Estados Unidos, Kirstjen Nielsen, dijo el miércoles que espera que la construcción del muro fronterizo con México comience pronto.

La funcionaria hizo sus declaraciones de pie frente a la cerca actual en Texas. Dijo que no sabía cuándo el gobierno podría comenzar a construir el muro. Varios prototipos están siendo probados en San Diego.

Una propuesta de 1.600 millones de dólares para financiar un tramo de 97 kilómetros (60 millas) de muro en Texas se ha estancado en el Congreso.


Nielsen dijo que el sistema de inmigración enfrenta una “crisis nacional” que requiere además cambios para reducir el número de solicitudes de asilo y para acelerar las deportaciones.

Nielsen habló el martes en Austin, donde criticó las llamadas ciudades santuario y elogió a Texas por colaborar con las autoridades federales de inmigración.

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Sessions culpa a Inmigración de facilitar entrada a terroristas

El fallido atentado perpetrado por un bangladeshí en Nueva York, el lunes pasado, reabrió el debate sobre cómo las viejas políticas de inmigración del gobierno de Barack Obama facilitan que simpatizantes de grupos terroristas puedan ingresar legalmente a EE.UU .

El fiscal general, Jeff Sessions, culpó a esas políticas y consideró que su gobierno debe seguir apostando por un sistema migratorio basado en méritos y que priorice a quienes “hablan inglés”.

Ayer, durante una conferencia de prensa en Baltimore, Sessions, acompañado de la nueva secretaria de Seguridad Nacional, Kirstjen Nielsen, reconoció que esa será una de sus principales metas para garantizar la seguridad interna de EE.UU.

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“No podemos esperar más. Como los eventos de ayer nos mostraron en los términos más claros que la inmigración es un problema de seguridad nacional”, afirmó Sessions, en una clara alusión a la condición migratoria del atacante Akayed Ullah, el joven bangladeshí que supuestamente detonó ayer un artefacto casero en la principal estación de trenes de Nueva York. Ullah habría llegado a Estados Unidos en 2011 gracias a un visado de reagrupación familiar.

Sessions criticó la “inmigración en cadena” y recordó a otro atacante: Sayfullo Saipov, el inmigrante uzbeko que, en octubre, mató con una furgoneta a ocho personas en Manhattan y que había llegado a EE.UU. gracias a una lotería de visados a la que pueden postularse los nacionales de países con bajas tasas de inmigrantes en territorio estadounidense.

El fiscal aprovechó el atentado de Nueva York para relanzar la propuesta migratoria que hizo en octubre  el presidente Donald Trump, en la que plantea cambiar el sistema migratorio para limitar la concesión de visas mediante un sistema de méritos y acabar con el principio de reagrupación familiar.

“El presidente (Trump) ha propuesto acabar con la inmigración en cadena y cambiar a un sistema basado en méritos, como en Canadá y Australia. Eso significa dar la bienvenida a los mejores y más brillantes y rechazar a los terroristas, a los miembros de las pandillas y criminales”, reiteró el fiscal estadounidense.

Atacante acusado de terrorismo

La fiscalía del sur de Nueva York presentó ayer cargos federales de terrorismo contra un sospechoso acusado de detonar el lunes una granada casera cerca de una estación de trenes.

El sospechoso Akayed Ullah, de 27 años de edad, enfrenta cinco acusaciones que van desde uso de armas de destrucción masiva hasta apoyo a una organización terrorista.

Ullah, un residente legal permanente originario de Bangladesh, admitió ante los investigadores que construyó la granada casera y perpetró el ataque, se indicó en la acusación.

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Trump’s Baseless Immigration Claim

Arguing for a merit-based immigration system, President Donald Trump offered a muddled, inaccurate and unsubstantiated critique of a program that annually provides visas by lottery to qualified and screened applicants from countries with low immigration rates.

Trump said that other countries are gaming the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program to “take their worst” and “put them in the bin” so that when the lottery occurs, “they have the real worst in their hands. … And we end up getting them.”

There’s no evidence for that.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, or DV program, uses a computer lottery system to randomly issue up to 50,000 immigrant visas each year to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Millions of applicants apply annually for the diversity visas.

Trump has thrown his support behind the RAISE Act, a bill that seeks to halve legal immigration into the U.S. by reducing the number who gain entry based on family ties, capping the yearly number of refugees admitted and emphasizing a “merit-based” immigration system. It also would do away with the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

Trump’s most recent critique of the DV program came during a rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Dec. 8.

Trump, Dec. 8: How about the lottery system, folks? Do you see that? That’s the guy in New York City, the lottery system, where they put names in a bin. You know, you think these countries are legit when they do their lottery system. So what they do, I would say, but more than just saying, they take their worst and they put them in the bin. And then when they pick the lottery, they have the real worst in their hands, oh, here they go. And we end up getting them. No more lottery system. We are going to end that. We have already started the process. We want people coming into our country who love our people, support our economy, and embrace our values. It’s time to get our priorities straight.

Trump’s reference to “the guy in New York City” is to Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an Uzbekistan-born immigrant charged with killing eight people in New York City on Oct. 31. Trump rightly notes that Saipov came to the U.S. legally in 2010 through the diversity visa program, as was confirmed by the Department of Homeland Security.

But his appraisal of the program unravels after that.

Let’s start with the claim that the DV program is bringing “the real worst” from other countries.

There were nearly 9.4 million qualified entries in the lottery in 2015, and the DV program ended up bringing 47,934 new legal permanent residents to the U.S. — about 4.6 percent of all of those who obtained lawful permanent resident status through various immigration programs that year.

In order to be eligible for the lottery, applicants must demonstrate that they have a high school education or its equivalent or “two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.”

But that’s not all. If one is selected through the lottery, he or she still has to go through a background security vetting process.

“It is a complicated and lengthy process,” explained Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School. “Among other things, the consular officer must make sure the individual is not ‘inadmissible.’ This means that the person has not committed a crime, doesn’t have a serious health problem, isn’t a terrorist, hasn’t committed fraud, and hasn’t overstayed in the U.S. before.”

There are more than a dozen grounds of inadmissibility, including, as Yale-Loehr said, health issues, criminal activity, national security concerns and the “likelihood of becoming a public charge,” meaning “a person who is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.”

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications,” a State Department official told us via email. “Every prospective traveler to the United States undergoes extensive security screening. No visa can be issued unless all concerns raised by the screening are fully resolved.

“Applicants are continuously screened, both at the time of their visa application and afterwards, to ensure they remain eligible to travel to the United States,” the official said. “This screening draws on information from the full range of U.S. government agencies, including thorough biographic and biometric screening against U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism databases. Biometric screening includes checks based on fingerprints and/or facial recognition software.”

The screening process also includes an interview by consular officers with a line of questioning “tailored to the circumstances of each applicant,” the State Department official said.

In a press briefing on Dec. 12, Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, contended “the criteria [for the DV program] are very low.” As a result, he said, “either you have no education at all and very little skills, or you have a minimum of education and no skills at all.”

But that’s not borne out by the statistics.

According to a 2011 report from the Congressional Research Service, a higher percentage of immigrants who entered the U.S. through the DV program had managerial and professional occupations than green card holders overall. Specifically, the report states, 24 percent of diversity immigrants reported managerial and professional occupations in 2009, compared with 10 percent among all green card holders that year. Diversity immigrants also had a lower unemployment rate (3 percent) than all green card holders (8 percent) that year.

More recent data from the Department of Homeland Security’s 2015 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics show 32 percent of those who came through the DV program in 2015 were employed in management, professional and related occupations; another 36 percent were students or children. That’s a lower percentage in management, professional and related occupations than among immigrants who came to the U.S. via employment-based preferences (41 percent). But it’s far higher than the percentage among those who came via family-sponsored preferences (12 percent) or among those who were granted green cards because they were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (9 percent). That year, 497 of the 47,934 DV immigrants were listed as unemployed, or about 1 percent. That’s far lower than the percentage of unemployed people among all green card recipients (5.1 percent).

It is unclear, exactly, how Trump is suggesting other countries “take their worst and they put them in the bin” so that after the lottery, “we [the U.S.] end up getting them.” The White House press office did not respond to our email seeking clarification.

But there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim of any sort of organized effort by foreign governments to steer their “real worst” to the U.S.

“The diversity lottery is a true lottery,” Yale-Loehr told us via email. “There is no way a foreign government can game the lottery to offload the worst of their citizenry.”

Cissna noted that in 2003, the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General warned about problems with fraud in the program and cautioned that the DV program “contains significant risks to national security from hostile intelligence officers, criminals, and terrorists attempting to use the program for entry into the United States as permanent residents.”

A 2007 Government Accountability Office report warned that the DV program was “particularly vulnerable to manipulation” and fraud risk, even though researchers had found “no documented evidence of DV immigrants from state sponsors of terrorism committing terrorist acts.” The authors note that the State Department, then under President George W. Bush, “was disappointed with the report’s findings and did not agree with the recommendations” and rejected them.

A 2011 Congressional Research Service report similarly said that “[c]ritics of the diversity lottery warn that it is vulnerable to fraud and misuse and is potentially an avenue for terrorists, citing the difficulties of performing background checks in many of the countries eligible for the diversity lottery. Supporters respond that background checks for criminal and national security matters are performed on all prospective immigrants seeking to come to the United States, including those winning diversity visas.”

At the start of his remarks on Dec. 12, Cissna noted that there was also a DV connection related to Akayed Ullah, who is alleged to have set off a pipe bomb in a bungled suicide attack at a bus terminal in New York on Dec. 11. Ullah came to the U.S. based on a family connection to an uncle who originally came to the U.S. through the DV program. But Ullah is not an example of a terrorist who sneaked into the country through any immigration program. According to the criminal complaint filed against Ullah, he came to the U.S. in 2011 and his radicalization began about three years later, in at least 2014.

The State Department warns about the possibility of fraudulent emails sent to lottery applicants that purport to be from the U.S. government “in an attempt to extract payment from DV applicants.”

“So even if a government tried to game the lottery, it should be caught,” Yale-Loehr said. “If people are caught committing fraud, they can’t immigrate. I have never heard of a foreign government trying to game the diversity lottery system. … The bottom line: President Trump’s statements about how the diversity visa program works are false. ”

The DV program has been in Trump’s crosshairs for months, but he renewed calls for its elimination in the wake of Saipov’s attack in New York City. At the time, Trump criticized Sen. Chuck Schumer for helping to create the DV program. As we wrote, Schumer was instrumental in helping to create the program back in 1990 — which was initially intended in large part to benefit Irish immigrants. Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, also was part of the bipartisan Gang of Eight in 2013 that sponsored an immigration overhaul that would have done away with the DV program.

The demographics of those who benefit from the DV program have changed dramatically since its inception. In 2015, DV program visas were offered to residents of 182 different countries, with the largest contingent coming from the African countries of Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as from Nepal and Iran. Excluded are those from countries with high rates of immigration to the U.S. In 2015, that included 19 countries, such as Mexico, India, the Philippines, China, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The program may not enjoy the political support it once did, and Trump is, of course, entitled to his opinion about the need to pivot to a more merit-based immigration system. But we find no basis for his warning that countries are gaming the lottery system and sending “the real worst” of their citizens to the U.S.

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2017-12-14 18:46:52 UTC

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Foreign countries game the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program to send “their worst” citizens to the U.S.

Pensacola, Florida

Friday, December 8, 2017

2017-12-08

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