Note: this article, featuring our Deputy Director of Legislation and National Security Analyst Irvin McCullough, was originally published here.
Early Arrival: Justice Department Challenges NYC Sanctuary Laws
The Justice Department is pressuring New York City to release documents to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about a pair of inmates accused of being in the country unlawfully, putting the state’s sanctuary policies to the test. Federal prosecutors filed papers on Monday saying the city has not yet responded to subpoenas ICE issued last month. The agency sought information on some inmates who were released from custody despite ICE requesting they be turned over.
The city has so far fought off ICE’s attempts. “When Congress authorized administrative subpoenas, it did not intend that they be abused to punish cities and states for exercising the rights afforded to them by the constitutional system of federalism,” James Johnson, head of the city’s law department, countered in a letter to ICE. Mayor Bill de Blasio accused ICE of employing “scare tactics.” ICE said city officials could be held in contempt if they refuse a federal judge’s order to comply.
The agency is requesting information about a Guyanese man who was charged with sexually assaulting and killing Maria Fuertas, a 92-year-old Queens woman. That case became a flashpoint after ICE announced the woman’s alleged attacker, 21-year-old Reeaz Khan, was released rather than turned over for deportation. ICE is asking for Khan’s home and employment addresses so they can locate him if he is released from custody. A spokeswoman from City Hall says ICE is trying to use the murder to bully the city into changing its sanctuary policies. NBC New York
Former Food Cart Operator is New Street Vendor Project Director
The new director of the Street Vendor Project knows his constituents well: He was a longtime food cart operator and owner himself. Mohamed Attia recently took on the complex and demanding task of lobbying on behalf of the 20,000 vendors who sell food, jewelry and clothing in New York City. He’s part political advocate and part legal adviser, helping vendors do everything from fighting harassment by business owners and police to following a complex system of health codes. The New York Times
Census Funding Coincides with Buildings Crackdown
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson have awarded $16 million to nonprofits across the city in an effort to bolster census counts. Yet at the same time, the Department of Buildings is cracking down on unregistered apartments carved out of basements across Queens, which are often rented to immigrants. The crackdown, combined with the Trump administration’s efforts to weaponize the census against immigrants, is stoking fears in the community. “You don’t know what giving away that kind of information will do,” said Mario, a 43-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant who lives in a basement apartment in Jamaica, Queens. “Now they got your name and the area of where you may live.” The City
ICE Uses Commercial Airliners for Over 1000 Deportations
ICE used United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Airlines to facilitate more than 1,200 deportation flights to Central America in just a year, according to data obtained by Newsweek. Commercial airlines were used for deportation flights in at least 1,386 cases between January 1, 2019, and January 16, 2020. United was used for nearly half of those fights. Most of the journeys were bound for Honduras and largely departed from Texas and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Newsweek
Concern Over Border Wall’s Environmental Impact Grows
As construction of President Trump’s border wall progresses, Border Patrol agents’ relationships with local ranchers and environmental groups have continued to unravel. Advocates fear that wildlife migration, habitats and water resources will be permanently damaged because the federal government has waived dozens of environmental and cultural protection laws that would mandate environmental studies before construction took place. On Friday, four conservation groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review lower court decisions that allowed the administration to waive those laws. Arizona Republic
More Indians Seeking Asylum in the United States
An increasing number of Indian citizens are attempting to seek asylum in the United States, according to CBP statistics. Nearly 9,000 Indians were caught by Border Patrol agents in 2018, the highest number ever recorded, and up from only 77 a decade earlier. Immigration lawyers in the U.S. say the rise in undocumented Indian migration likely stems from the Hindu nationalist party’s rule in the country. BJP leader Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, and a spike in vigilante violence against Muslims and other minorities in the country quickly followed. The Guardian
African Families Distraught Over Trump’s Travel Ban Expansion
Families in Africa are nervously waiting to see how the expansion of President Trump’s travel ban will affect them. Trump’s new version of the ban bars some immigrant visas for Eritreans and Nigerians, as well as people from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Tanzania and Sudan, and it effectively makes it impossible for them to become residents of the U.S. “Trump’s new law, for us, it’s very hurtful,” said Awet, an Eritrean refugee who was resettled in the U.S. He has been attempting to bring his children over on a family visa that Trump’s expansion later blocked. Reuters
21 Savage Still Awaiting Immigration Court Hearing
It’s been a year since rapper 21 Savage was arrested by ICE, but his immigration case is far from over. The Atlanta-based rapper was born in the U.K. and was charged with overstaying his visa in the U.S. He faces deportation and a 10-year ban from returning to the U.S. The Atlanta immigration court has one of the lowest grant rates for asylum cases and employs notoriously difficult judges. It currently has over 35,000 unresolved cases. Still, 21 Savage has managed to have a successful year, and even won a Grammy for the Best Rap Song. Pitchfork
Washington – CBP Grows More Secretive with Memo, Congressman Brings Formerly Deported Troop to the State of the Union
Last Friday, the Trump administration quietly designated CBP as a “Security Agency,” according to a memo obtained by The Nation. The move places CBP under the same designation as intelligence agencies like the FBI and Secret Service. It will allow CBP to exempt certain records from disclosure to the public.
Analysts say this designation will result in less transparency from the agency, which has been accused of a wide array of abuses against the immigrants it holds in its custody. It is the second agency within the Department of Homeland Security that the Trump administration has added to “the more restrictive list,” after the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, according to Irvin McCullough, national security analyst with the Government Accountability Project.
The memo was provided to The Nation by a CBP contractor who requested anonymity to avoid professional reprisal. “Designating all of CBP a Security Agency exempt from OPM’s disclosure policy is simply absurd. There’s no need for the average CBP employee to have their name and position redacted from FOIA requests. This is another example of the current administration making it even more difficult to obtain pertinent information via official channels and claiming it’s related to security in some way,” the contractor said. It’s part of a general move on behalf of DHS agencies to become classified as intelligence agencies. The Nation
U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia invited Migue Perez, a formerly deported veteran who is now a citizen as a guest for the state of the union address. Perez served two tours in Afghanistan while he was a legal resident. He was deported to Mexico for a nonviolent drug conviction. Last year, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker pardoned him which allowed him to return to the U.S. Congressman Garcia invited him to represent fellow veterans who were deported to their country of origin. Newsy