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Sin Barreras is actively advocating on the following issues.
Immigration Bail (June 6, 2019)
Sin Barreras condemns the Administration’s proposed policy to deny asylum seekers the possibility of posting bond so as to hinder their developing their asylum petitions with U.S. resources.
The recently appointed Attorney General has now rescinded asylees’ right to bail after they are apprehended crossing the border, a policy that could jail thousands of adults for months or even years. His ruling reversed a 2005 Board of Immigration Appeals court decision that said asylum seekers should have a right to bond hearings once they set foot on U.S. soil. The A.G. contends the case “was wrongly decided.” The decision came days after a federal judge in Washington State ordered the Administration to give detained asylum seekers bond hearings. His decision sets up another legal battle as the Administration contends with a crush of asylum seekers which is at a 12-year high. Most current asylum seekers, because they are families with children and toddlers and babies, are quickly released, frustrating Administration efforts to reduce the number of immigrant arrivals.
“This is a disaster, and it is intentional,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii.) “[The A.G.’s] decision to deny bond hearings is another attempt by the Administration to use indefinite detention as a deterrent for people who are exercising their right under U.S. and international law to seek asylum. It’s creating a crisis of capacity on purpose.”
Many immigrant advocates agree, seeing the ruling as an attempt to detain immigrants indefinitely in the United States and discourage people fleeing violence and poverty from seeking protection.
Sin Barreras calls on its supporters to comment in massive numbers at https://www.regulations.gov/ against this new attack —yet another—on basic human fairness to recently arrived asylum candidates seeking our protection.
More Attacks on Asylum (June 6, 2019)
Sin Barreras strongly condemns newly proposed Administration policies that target asylum seekers. These new rules would limit options for relief, create new fees for an asylum application, and eliminate work permits for most asylum seekers. None of these mean-spirited measures address root causes that are forcing people to flee their homes; instead, they would make the process worse for everyone.
Charging a Fee to Apply for Asylum
Applying for asylum protection has been free since the modern system was created almost 40 years ago. Since many asylum seekers flee with only the clothes on their back, charging people asking for protection flies in the face of America’s promises to protect the vulnerable. No one should be charged for safety from persecution.
Requiring an asylum application fee would be even more devastating for the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers held in immigration detention while they pursue their cases who are paid virtually nothing for “voluntary work.” This financial obstacle would cause more people to abandon their asylum claims—and, of course, have been designed for that purpose
Banning Work Authorization
Six months after applying for asylum, people have the right to apply for authorization that permits them to work legally while they wait for a court decision on their application.
Under the new rules, asylum seekers who enter the United States between ports of entry would be banned from getting work authorization. Since asylum cases can take years, many people could go hungry or face homelessness under such a policy.
“Asylum-Only” Immigration Court
The Administration also proposed two new regulations affecting the immigration court process itself. One would place asylum seekers who pass the credible fear interview into “asylum-only” immigration court proceedings, which would limit their options for protection. Asylum-only proceedings would mean either you win asylum or you are deported. Unlike regular immigration court proceedings, other options for staying in the country would not be available.
Accelerated Court Hearings
A fourth proposed regulation calls for all asylum cases to be heard within six-month except in “exceptional circumstances.” Now, due to a large immigration court backlog, non-detained asylum seekers may wait years for their cases to be heard. Requiring all asylum cases to be heard within six months would place a huge strain on the system. For those without asylum applications, waiting times could increase by years. It would also make it harder for asylum seekers to get a lawyer, knowing that cases would move on such an accelerated time frame.
Taken together, these changes risk turning the asylum process into a sham. Rushed court proceedings, fees, and limits on work authorization would do nothing to fight supposed “fraud.” Instead, these changes would hurt the most vulnerable, those who are fleeing everything to seek protection in the U.S. Sin Barreras rejects these punitive proposals and calls on all Americans to lobby your Senators and Representative to object to them.
ICE Raids (June 6, 2019)
Sin Barreras objects strongly to the recent 4th Circuit decision interpreting that ICE agents are allowed to break into anyone’s house without fear of judicial review.
On April 26, 2019 a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Virginia and nearby) held that ICE agents may violate clearly-established constitutional rights, and that U.S. citizens and noncitizens victims have no legal remedy.
The Tun-Cos case involved so-called "Bivens claims” for damages against federal officials for violations of constitutional rights. Although the U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that such lawsuits may be brought against federal law enforcement officials who commit unconstitutional searches and seizures, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit found that immigration enforcement presented a "new context" and that the plaintiffs had no right to bring a Bivens claim against ICE agents.
According to Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center's Immigrant Advocacy Program: "The decision flies in the face of established Supreme Court precedent providing that victims of unconstitutional home raids by law enforcement can sue… The effect of this decision is to treat ICE agents differently from FBI agents and other federal officers, granting ICE agents complete impunity if they commit egregious constitutional violations - a troubling result that should alarm all of us… This decision allows ICE agents to go from door to door, invading U.S. citizens' homes without a warrant or probable cause, based instead on racial profiling, and those citizens will have no ability to hold them accountable, no matter how flagrant the conduct. This decision affects every single person, citizen and noncitizen alike."
The Legal Aid Justice Center and other pro bono co-counsel are reviewing the decision for further review, including a petition to the full Fourth Circuit to rehear the case en banc. Sin Barreras roundly objects to this interpretation of the U.S. constitution and joins with Legal Aid Justice Center in calling for a review of this decision by the entire 4th Circuit Board.
Details of the case are available at: https://www.justice4all.org/wp-content/uploads/ 2019/04/58-Fourth-Circuit-Opinion.pdf>
Public Housing Cuts (May 25, 2019)
Sin Barreras strongly condemns new, racially motivated Administration policies that target U.S. citizen children living in public housing.
An estimated 25,000 families in public housing are of mixed-status, meaning that at least one family member is a citizen, legal permanent resident, or refugee and another is undocumented. Under current Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations, if an undocumented family member lives in public housing with the eligible applicant, the family receives subsidies which cover only the family members who are eligible citizens or qualifying immigrants, ensuring that undocumented family members do not receive any public housing assistance benefit.
The proposed regulation would make any family currently receiving a public housing benefit or subsidy, including Section 8 vouchers, ineligible for any housing benefit even if only one member of the family living in the house is undocumented. Under the proposed system, every family member’s immigration status would be screened through the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements system, a clear worry to many Sin Barreras clients.
The new rule could affect as many as 35,000 children in mixed-status families. These children’s parents would have to choose between being evicted or breaking up the family. HUD argues these evictions will reduce wait-lists for public housing, but low-income housing advocates disagree. Very few, if any, apartments would open because many mixed-status families will opt to split up rather than lose their benefits. We believe this is another mean-spirited Administration attempt at addressing a major issue by attacking immigrant families.
Sin Barreras calls on its supporters to comment in massive numbers at against this proposed change —yet another— at https://www.regulations.gov/, citing your concerns with basic human fairness to immigrants and to U.S. citizen children.
Border Crisis (May 1, 2019)
Sin Barreras condemns Trump administration policies toward migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border. There is, indeed, a crisis, but one caused by President Trump- not by the number of migrants.
- One Trump policy is a daily limit on the number of migrants processed at ports of entry, forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed at great risk of violence to them and their children.
- Another is a change to the asylum process in favor of detention instead of allowing immigrants with “credible fear” to stay in the U.S. until their case is heard in court. This policy unilaterally abrogates the U.S.’s signed commitment to an international treaty over forty years ago respecting people’s right to seek asylum.
- Another destructive policy was the heinous Jeff Sessions “zero tolerance policy” that separated thousands of parents from their children, several hundred of whom are perhaps “lost” in the system, never to be reunited. Recent news reports suggest the President is considering reinstating this policy.
- The administration is inexplicably cutting its development assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, despite the fact that this assistance has been focused on improved law enforcement and resulted in a drop of 42% and 52% in murder rates in El Salvador and Honduras respectively, while helping to reduce El Salvador’s immigration by over 50%.
- In the last few weeks the President (again) threatened to shut down the border if migration does not stop, though that would halt legal travel and commerce without stopping people from claiming asylum.
Through much of 2018, the Trump administration portrayed the border situation as an emergency despite migration levels near historic lows. In February 2019, migrants apprehended by Customs and Border Protection reached an 11-year-high (66,450), but this figure doesn’t begin to reach levels the U.S. saw from 1983 to 2006, one million per year for 19 years through the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush regimes. Contrary to administration rhetoric, today’s migrants are no longer mostly Mexican men seeking work, but are largely families with children and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum.
Sin Barreras urges the Trump Administration to reverse the misguided policies listed above; abandon the misleading characterizations of the current situation and the people arriving at our border seeking our help; and develop coherent policies to deal with the current crisis based on a rational evaluation of the root causes of migration.
"Remain in Mexico" Policy, Asylum Seekers, and Existing Asylum Law (4/15/19)
In January 2019, the Department of Homeland Security issued new policy guidance for "Migrant Protection Protocols." Under the “Remain in Mexico” policy, certain asylum seekers, including families, are sent back to Mexico to wait throughout the duration of their immigration court proceedings in the U.S, which can take months or years, during which time people are living in inadequate and very dangerous conditions. Moreover, support and resources to make an asylum seeker’s case is far more likely in the US. If asylum seekers are forced to stay in Mexico, they will not have access to that support, which is extremely detrimental to their case.
Sin Barreras affirms the inherent dignity of every person and the ability of families to seek security and safety for themselves and family members. For this reason, we oppose the "Remain in Mexico" policy as contrary to U.S. international treaties, and we ask that the Department of Homeland Security revoke the policy and provide immediate protection and the authorization to remain in the United States to asylum seekers while they apply for adjudication of their asylum claims, as has been U.S. practice for over forty years.
Anti-immigrant bills vetoed (3/19/2019)
Sin Barreras warmly supports Governor Northam’s veto of the anti-immigrant bill SB 1154 saying that it posed “an unnecessary and divisive requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws” which would “send a chilling message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety.” He also vetoed HB 2270 saying “local and regional correction facilities should … retain discretion to determine how they … engage with federal immigration agencies” and that “the safety of our communities requires that all people, whether they are documented or not, feel comfortable, supported and protected by our public safety agencies.” Sin Barreras applauds the Governor for these decisions.
Statement on Presidential National Emergency (03/15/18)
Call to Continue TPS Status (01/14/18)
The 300,000 nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and Nicaragua who have lived peaceful, productive lives in the United States are now in limbo. Each of these countries was designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) based on long-approved Congressional criteria. Nicaraguans who fled Hurricane Mitch, and 50,000 Hondurans and 195,000 Salvadorans who escaped from indescribable violence in their home countries are about to lose their permission to stay.
Such families’ losing legal status is troubling and un-American on many fronts. More than 50 percent of Hondurans and Salvadorans have lived in the U.S s for over 20 year, building lives, educating their children, buying homes, starting businesses. They have 270,000 U.S. citizen children. A May ‘17University of Kansas survey shows:
- TPS holders are hard-working: 94% of men and 82% of women.
- Their average monthly income is $2,910, and 32% live in owner-occupied homes.
- Their average educational level was 7.6 years and half have furthered their education in the U.S.
- 30% of survey respondents volunteered in civic organizations or community groups.
- 80% of survey respondents pay income taxes, including 79% who are self-employed. They have contributed to Social Security for an avg. of 15.4 years and 90% file taxes every year.
- Reconstruction efforts from hurricane and wildfire devastation will be hampered when 50,000 TPS construction workers lose their employment. Similar losses are being felt in Virginia and throughout the U.S. in agriculture and construction.
- TPS beneficiaries are good people. Hondurans, for example, have had background checks conducted 13 times.
These families’ return to their countries—ones they haven’t known in nearly two decades that are now wracked by violence— could result in their being extorted or even killed. Meanwhile, their U.S. citizen children have never known anything but growing up in the U.S.
Why would the Trump administration suddenly render undocumented hundreds of thousands of people who have maintained a lawful, productive immigration status for many years?
Sin Barreras calls on political leaders of all persuasions and all citizens to reject this unnecessary and punitive policy.
Statement on Albemarle County Regional Jail Policy
Sin Barreras joins with numerous Charlottesville community organizations in denouncing the Albermarle County Regional Jail's policy of informing ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) of non-citizen’s released date 48 hour beforehand. This policy has resulted in direct seizure of these people on completion of their sentence and deportation proceedings against at least two-dozen Charlottesvillians in 2018. We find this enormously prejudicial to the exercise of justice and harmful in the extreme to the Hispanic community’s trust of Law Enforcement. We again call on the Regional Board to rescind this damaging (and unjust) policy.
Statement on Driver’s Licenses for All Virginians
Sin Barreras is dedicated to helping Hispanic immigrants adjust to full life in the United States, and contribute to U.S. civil society through their hard work, their cultural and linguistic heritage, and their desire for a better life for their children.
Through numerous workshops and conversations, Sin Barreras is convinced that driver’s licenses for all Virginian no matter one’s immigrant status is the Number One issue for Charlottesville Hispanics. We know by name friends deported for two convictions of running a stop sign or minor speeding while driving without a license; and we attest to hundreds of law-abiding, hard-working family breadwinners who drive to work every day terrified of their next interaction with the Police for fear of such an outcome. We have numerous clients who have prepared Powers of Attorney transferring their children’s care to neighbors if such a thing were to take place. This is a terrible way to drive that brings additional risks to all Virginians on the road—as well as a terrible way to live.
For these reasons, Sin Barreras congratulated the Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the Virginia House of Delegate, the Honorable Ron Villanueva, for his commissioning an in-depth study of the driver’s license issue for all Virginians. We also congratulated the Department of Motor Vehicles for its coherent, comprehensive proposal to the Chairman how to move this issue forward. In general, we found the document contained many powerful, well-argued recommendations.
We were highly disappointed that several Driver’s License bills did not make it out of the Sub-committees of the Virginia House of Delegates or the Senate in the 2019 Legislative session. We strongly endorse that such measures be allowed to be voted on in the 2020 session.
Statement on Proposed Public Charge Legislation
Building on the traumatic separation of families at the border, the Trump administration now wants to block immigrant families from having a permanent, secure future in the United States and scare them away from seeking access to health care, nutrition and housing programs. In the proposed regulations, a “public charge” will be defined as an immigrant who receives any public benefits at all, even if they are not primarily dependent on benefits. These non-cash benefits will now include:
- Benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
- Section 8 housing assistance or rental assistance.
- Medicaid benefits (except for emergency Medicaid or certain school or disability-based benefits for children).
- Premium and cost-sharing subsidies under Medicare Part D.
- Subsidized housing under Housing Act of 1937.
Immigrants can currently avoid being deemed a public charge if their sponsor—often a family member with U.S. citizenship or a green card—submits an “affidavit of support” agreeing to financially support them. The proposed regulations would no longer automatically prevent an immigrant with such a sponsor from being declared a public charge.
Our lives should be defined by how we contribute to our communities, not by what we look like of how much money we have. If this regulation moves forward, only the wealthiest immigrants could build a future in the United States – and then only if they never suffer the slightest financial setback. This regulation is part of the Trump administrations’ ongoing efforts to divide the country and vilify immigrants that Sin Barreras decries with all intensity.
The proposed regulation would make – and has already made—Sin Barreras’ immigrant families afraid to seek programs that support their basic needs. The proposal will likely prevent immigrants from using the programs their tax dollars help support, preventing access to healthy, nutritious food and secure housing. Because one in four American children have a least one immigrant parent, this could and will impact millions. It would make us a sicker, poorer, hungrier nation.
Sin Barreras calls on the Department of Homeland Security in the strongest possible terms to repeal this proposed regulation.