Tag Archives: Immigration

Court Sides with Immigrants Expelled by Italy

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The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that it is a violation of human rights for a State to expel migrants intercepted on the high seas.

The case was brought by thirteen Eritrean and eleven Somali migrants rescued at sea in 2009 by the Italian Coastguard and forcibly returned to Libya.

The UN office for Human Rights and the UN Refugee agency said the action by the Italian authorities exposed the migrants to the risk of arbitrary return to countries where they face persecution or serious harm.

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Sins of the Parents Keep American Students out of Florida Schools

In the race to see which state can provide the most degraded and dehumanizing environment for undocumented immigrants, Arizona and Alabama have grabbed the headlines. Largely unnoticed is Florida, home to nearly one million Cuban refugees and their descendants, which has come up with the most bizarre anti-immigrant policy of all.

Beginning last year, Florida’s higher education authorities have treated American citizens born in the U.S. as non-residents for tuition purposes if they can’t demonstrate that their parents are in the country legally.

The government can’t single out citizens for disfavored treatment without a good reason. The Supreme Court even ruled unanimously that an Illinois village violated a homeowner’s Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection by demanding from her a bigger easement than it required of her neighbors as the price of connecting her home to the municipal water supply.

A few feet of land may not have made a life-changing difference to the plaintiff, but consider the difference between in-state and non-resident tuition at the University of Florida: $5,700 a year versus $27,936. It is the difference between a college education and none.

It seems unfair, as the Supreme Court acknowledged 30 years ago in Plyler v. Doe when it held that Texas could not deprive undocumented children of a free public K-through-12 education, to blame children for the wrongdoing of their parents. As Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. observed in his concurring opinion, it is also self-destructive, creating a permanent underclass of uneducated people.

The Supreme Court has never extended Plyler to give undocumented children rights to higher education. Alabama and South Carolina bar them entirely from its public universities and colleges. Other states let them enroll; a dozen states, including Texas, treat them as residents, entitled to in-state tuition rates.

The Florida situation is worse. Its victims are, after all, American citizens, as American as Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, who said that the state’s universities should focus on “practical” subjects, not on political science, psychology, or anthropology. (“We don’t need them here,” Governor Scott said of anthropologists. University students in Florida are circulating petitions to have the governor’s name kept off their diplomas.)

The students who filed a lawsuit last month challenging the policy are as American as Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is leading a campaign to amend the Constitution. He would repeal, for the children of undocumented immigrants, the Fourteenth Amendment’s grant of “birthright citizenship”. The Florida policy (it’s not a statute, but a rule adopted by the state’s Board of Education and its University System) amounts to repeal of birthright citizenship by regulation.

“Corruption of blood” was a familiar feature of the common law in England. A person found guilty of treason would be barred from passing his estate on to his children, who would inherit nothing but the corrupted blood line.

The framers of the United States Constitution considered and rejected the concept. Article III, the judiciary article, contains this sentence: “The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attained.” As James Madison expressed the thought more directly at the time, the purpose was to prevent Congress “from extending the consequences of guilt beyond the person of its author.”

Nor were the founders content to leave the matter there. Congress enacted a law in 1790 to provide that “no conviction or judgment . . .  shall work corruption of blood or any forfeiture of estate.” Although not in so many words, the principle that guilt is not inheritable lay behind the modern Supreme Court’s gradual recognition of rights for children born out of wedlock, deemed by society to be “illegitimate.”

The lawsuit filed last month in Federal District Court in Miami by the Southern Poverty Law Center asks the court to do the obvious: rule that Florida’s “policy and practice of classifying dependent United States citizen students who reside in Florida as ‘non-residents’ based on their parents’ federal immigration status denies these United States citizens equal protection of the laws in violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of “all past, present, and future United States citizens” affected by the policy, names five individual plaintiffs. Two were forced for financial reasons to withdraw from Miami-Dade College when the policy took effect. Two others can’t afford to take all the credits necessary to complete their degrees on time, and one, who would have received a full scholarship as a resident, couldn’t enroll at all. Four were born in Miami and one in Los Angeles. All are eligible to be President of the United States.

It’s not clear what defense Florida will come up with. Bills to overturn the policy were filed within the last few weeks in both houses of the Florida Legislature. If the state is lucky, one will pass. The State Senate sponsor, Rene Garcia of Hialeah, is a Republican and chairman of the Florida Hispanic Caucus. “When you’re an American citizen, you’re an American citizen,” he said.

Via The New York Times.

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Federal Government Sues South Carolina over Immigration Law

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

The federal government filed suit against South Carolina on Monday to block a state law that would require the police to check the immigration status of every person they detain.

The Justice Department argued in the suit that South Carolina’s law, which takes effect on January 1, undermines federal authority on immigration. The department has filed similar challenges to immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona.

“Pushing undocumented immigrants out of one state and into another is not a solution to our immigration challenges,” Tony West, assistant attorney general, said in a news conference.

A spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley said the state would continue with plans to carry out the law.

Via NYT.

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Alabama Law Creates “Chilling Effect” on Education

The champions of Alabama’s immigration law say it is intended to drive illegal immigrants from the state but promise that “[n]o child will be denied an education based on unlawful status.”

It is, however, a first step in a strategy to topple a Supreme Court ruling that all children in the United States, regardless of immigration status, are guaranteed a public education.

Section 28 of the immigration law requires schools to record the immigration status of incoming students and pass that data on to the state.

Critics say it is trying to scare immigrants away from school. Weeks of erratic attendance and a spike in withdrawals show that this has worked.

Michael M. Hethmon, general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington, who wrote the provision, insists that its goal is much more ambitious.

The target, he said, is the 1982 Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe. The case concerned a Texas statute that withheld funds for the education of illegal immigrants and allowed districts to bar them from enrollment. The court ruled that this violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause, saying that the statute “imposes a lifetime hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable” for their immigration status. The court also said that the state had not presented evidence showing it was substantially harmed by giving these children a free public education.

Over the decades, measures have been passed in defiance of this ruling but have been struck down in the courts.

The Alabama law directs schools to learn the immigration status of incoming students, through a birth certificate, other official documents, or an affidavit by the child’s parents.

That information is passed to the State Board of Education to prepare a report with the data and to find the costs, fiscal and otherwise, of educating illegal immigrants.

Because no one is barred from attending school, and the data is not passed to law enforcement, the provision passes constitutional muster, Mr. Hethmon said.

Critics dismiss this as a ruse. They say that it instills fear in immigrant families, leading to such erratic attendance that it belies any claim that the state is seriously attempting an accurate measurement.

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DOJ Asks Federal Court to Block Alabama Immigration Law

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The Department of Justice has asked a federal appeals court to block enforcement of Alabama’s controversial new immigration law.

The law allows police officers to check the legal status of people, detain them, and turn them over to federal authorities. Supporters and opponents of the law describe it as the strictest state immigration law in the nation.

Since the law came into force, more than 2,000 Hispanic children have been pulled out of school, according to the Alabama secretary of education.

Friday’s action comes after a federal district judge in Alabama on Wednesday denied an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups aimed at blocking parts of the new law.

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Illegal Immigration Cases Will Be Determined Individually

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The Department of Homeland Security announced it is going begin reviewing all 300,000 pending deportation cases in federal immigration courts to determine which people meet criteria for removal.

DHS Security Janet Napolitano said the review will enhance public safety. Immigration court dockets are clogged, putting public safety in jeopardy, costing money, resources and time.

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Justice Department Challenges Alabama Immigration Law

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The Justice Department has challenged Alabama’s new immigration law  set to take effect September 1. Several civil rights groups have already filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the law, which was signed by Governor Robert Bentley in June.

The Justice Department alleges that HB 56 undermines the federal government’s immigration enforcement objectives, saying the law is designed to affect “virtually every aspect of an unauthorized immigrant’s daily life, from employment to housing to transportation to entering into and enforcing contracts to going to school.” It also said the law will result in harassment of foreign visitors, legal immigrants, and even U.S. citizens.

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