Immigration

  • January 29, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    President Obama lauded bipartisan Senate work on immigration reform, but went further by calling for a clearer path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, without tying it to rigid border security measures.

    From Las Vegas, the president warned of a pitched battle as reform proposals advance, saying, “We can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate. We’ve been debating this a very long time.”

    The New York Times reported that the White House “is also proposing that the United States treat same-sex couples the same as other families, meaning that people would be able to use their relationship as a basis to obtain a visa.”

    During his speech, Obama said, “Think about it – we define ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are – in our bones. The promise we see in those who come here from every corner of the globe, that’s always been one of our greatest strengths. It keeps our workforce young. It keeps our country on the cutting edge. And it’s helped the greatest economic engine the world has ever known.” (Video of speech available by clickng picture.)

    Longtime advocates of immigration reform like MALDEF sounded a cautiously optimistic note, and offered praise of the president’s speech.

    MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said, the president “directly challenged all of us to put aside exclusionary xenophobia and to recognize our common immigrant heritage and our common mission of serving family and country."

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who will conduct a hearing on immigration reform following the State of the Union Address, said in a press statement that he was “particularly pleased to see that the president’s proposal includes better access to visas for victims of domestic and sexual violence, improved laws for refugees and asylum seekers, an enhanced investor visa program, and the assurance that every family, including binational gay and lesbian spouses, receives equal treatment under the law.”

    Right-wing groups have long fought immigration reform and many aren’t likely to halt their efforts to scuttle reform. Rush Limbaugh, right-wing radio host, said he and Fox News must step up to destroy reform.

  • November 16, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Justice Antonin Scalia, in his concurring/dissenting opinion in last term’s decision on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, offered some unusual statements about Arizona’s need for such a ridiculously rigid immigration law, and even took a swipe at President Obama’s executive policy stopping deportations of some undocumented immigrants.   

    According to Scalia, Arizona was suffering from a deluge of undocumented immigrants. “Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy.” But he did not stop there and advanced another rightwing talking point for justifying wobbly and harmful state action on immigration. It’s all the federal government’s fault, he said. “Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown they are unwilling to do so.”

    It’s this mentality – undocumented persons are flooding states from coast to coast, using up scarce state resources and because the federal government won’t act, state lawmakers will – that undergirds laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 that also promote racial profiling and undermine all citizens’ rights.

    In a just released ACS Issue Brief, Pratheepan Gulasekaram and S. Karthick Ramakrishan not only take Justice Scalia to task for failing to “provide sources for these seemingly crucial truths,” but reveal a study of 50 states and more than 2,5000 localities that show “political affiliation was the most significant factor in explaining” the enactment of laws like Arizona’s SB 1070.

  • November 2, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Elizabeth B. Wydra, Chief Counsel, Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC). This analysis originally appeared on CAC’s Text & History Blog.


    The Supreme Court was in session Nov. 1 for a rare Thursday hearing, after rescheduling the arguments that were originally to be heard this past Tuesday due to Hurricane Sandy. It was odd to be in the courthouse on a Thursday, and it was mostly empty. Which is a shame, because the arguments in Chaidez v. United States are important and were very well made by both advocates in the case (Jeffrey Fisher for Ms. Chaidez, and Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben for the United States).

    But the Justices, of course, were in the house, and we saw Hurricane Ginsburg make landfall (albeit in her usual elegant, well-mannered, and pointed yet respectful way). However, before getting into this morning’s argument in more detail, it is worth briefly recounting the facts of the case. Petitioner Roselva Chaidez, a citizen of Mexico, came to the United States in 1971 and became a lawful permanent resident in 1977. In 2003, Ms. Chaidez, on advice of counsel, pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with an insurance fraud scheme; she received $1,200 from the scheme, and in its entirety the fraud operation netted about $26,000. Ms. Chaidez was sentenced to four years of probation under the terms of her guilty plea. Unfortunately for Ms. Chaidez -- and unbeknownst to her at the time she pleaded guilty -- under federal immigration law, a fraud conviction involving a total loss in excess of $10,000 constitutes an “aggravated felony” for which a non-citizen can be deported. In 2009, after Ms. Chaidez unsuccessfully filed a petition for naturalization (and subsequently disclosed her criminal conviction in the interview, reflecting her lack of awareness of its immigration consequences), the U.S. government initiated removal proceedings based on her conviction.

  • November 1, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Rebecca Sharpless, Associate Clinical Professor, University of Miami School of Law


    Two years ago in Padilla v. Kentucky the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment requires that defense attorneys advise their noncitizen clients about the immigration consequences of a plea. The Court recognized what, for decades, the defense and immigration bars have known: competent defense counsel must advise about immigration consequences of a plea. Today, in Chaidez v. USA, No. 11-820, the Court hears argument on the question of whether Padilla governs cases involving federal convictions that predate that decision.

    Chaidez’s defense attorney failed to advise her that pleading guilty to the federal crime of mail fraud would be deemed an aggravated felony, triggering mandatory deportation.  Before Padilla was decided, Chaidez petitioned for a writ of coram nobis under 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a) to set aside her conviction based on ineffective assistance of counsel. After Padilla, Chaidez relied upon the decision to lend support to her argument that her attorney had breached a duty to advise her about deportation.

  • August 29, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    In its ruling yesterday rejecting several new Texas voting districts, a federal court in Washington, D.C. blasted the efforts of Texas lawmakers as seeking to suppress the vote of Latinos.

    Janell Ross for The Huffington Post noted that the federal court’s opinion provided a “sharply worded” and exhaustive account of “Texas officials’ plans to draw districts for four new congressional seats created by the state’s booming Latino population that were almost certain to elect Congress members preferred by white Republican voters. And it’s a ruling that should serve as a cautionary tale, according to voting rights advocates.”

    Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), told Ross, “For other states thinking of doing anything to dilute the [power] of their minority voters or their fast-growing minority populations, this not just a warning. This is a warning in the strongest terms.”

    Indeed as noted on this blog yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that Texas lawmakers failed badly in proving that their redistricting plans did not violate Sec. 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act applies to states and localities with a history of discriminating against classes of voters, and requires those jurisdictions to get preclearance for redistricting from the Department of Justice or a federal court.

    In State of Texas v. U.S. the federal court said Texas failed to show that its new voting maps would not discriminate against voters on “account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.”

    MALDEF, which intervened on behalf of Latino voters to challenge the state’s new voting schemes, said the federal court had found the state’s congressional plan was created with “discriminatory racial intent,” and its State House redistricting plan undercut “voting strength,” while the state Senate redistricting plan “was enacted with discriminatory racial intent.”