New York Passes Law to Protect Immigrants Against Fraud
On August 6, 2014, New York enacted the Immigrant Assistance Service Enforcement Act to protect individuals against immigration fraud and punish perpetrators. The law ensures that only attorneys and representatives accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) can provide immigration legal services, strengthens translation requirements, increases civil penalties for immigration fraud violations, and creates two new immigration assistance fraud crimes – a felony and a misdemeanor. The legislation also institutionalizes the New York State Office for New Americans, an entity created by the Governor last March to offer immigrant communities legal services, civics and English as a Second Language classes, and other services. This law will serve as a model for other state legislatures around the country. Congratulations to Catholic Charities of New York which worked with other allies to get the bill passed.
Colorado Begins Issuing Licenses to Undocumented Drivers
Starting August 1, 2014, undocumented residents of Colorado began applying for driver’s licenses at five Department of Revenue locations across the state. Colorado’s law permits residents who cannot demonstrate lawful presence but have a federal Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to apply for a three-year driving license. However, the license is distinguishable from the standard license in that it has a black banner on the front reading “Not Valid For Federal Identification, Voting or Public Benefit Purposes.” An estimated 45,000 people are expected to be eligible. Colorado was one of eight states that passed laws last year permitting undocumented residents to apply for driving privileges. Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, and Vermont have already begun granting licenses. California and Connecticut will start in January 2015. The implementation of Oregon’s driver’s license law is on hold pending the outcome of a voter referendum in November.
According to Appeals Court, Arizona Must Grant Driver’s Licenses to DACA Recipients
On July 7, 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Arizona’s policy of denying driver’s licenses to state residents with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). According to the court, the plaintiffs succeeded in showing that they were likely to suffer serious harm as a result of the state policy. The Appeals Court ordered the lower federal court in Phoenix to issue an order prohibiting the state from refusing to accept DACA recipients’ employment authorization documents as proof that they are authorized under federal law to be present in the United States and, therefore, eligible to receive a driver’s license. However the lower court has not yet issued the order because the state of Arizona has asked for a rehearing. The only other state that continues to deny driver’s licenses to DACA recipients is Nebraska.
Boston Becomes the Latest Major City to Limit Police Cooperation with ICE
On August 20, 2014, the Boston City Council unanimously passed an ordinance limiting the instances in which police will detain immigrants for possible deportation. The Boston TRUST Act prohibits law enforcement from holding someone pursuant to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer unless the individual in custody has been convicted of a violent crime; has been convicted of a felony in the past ten years; is a registered sex offender; is on the federal terrorist watch list; or is the subject of a criminal warrant. Advocates claim the measure will improve relations between police and immigrants who often fear that reporting crimes will result in deportation. According to federal statistics, nearly half of the 757 individuals deported from Boston and Suffolk County from 2008 through March 2014 had no criminal record. The act will also protect Boston from civil lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of detaining immigrants. Boston’s Mayor believes the ordinance will uphold immigrants’ rights and preserve public safety, family unity, and due process, and has expressed his intent to sign the measure into law. Boston joins more than 200 municipalities across the country that have adopted anti-detainer measures.
Maricopa County Agrees to Stop “Self-Smuggling” Prosecutions Under Arizona Law
In late July, Maricopa County agreed to settle a lawsuit challenging its controversial policy of prosecuting undocumented immigrants for the felony of conspiring to “smuggle themselves” into the United States. According to a 2005 law, it is a state crime to smuggle unauthorized immigrants into Arizona. While this law was passed to target human smugglers, Maricopa County was using it to also charge migrants – i.e. individuals who had paid to be smuggled into the country. Since 2006, the county convicted approximately 14,000 individuals of felony conspiracy to smuggle themselves. This conviction made them ineligible to legalize their immigration status and become lawful permanent residents in the future. Last year, a U.S. District Court in Phoenix found these prosecutions were an unconstitutional attempt by a state to regulate immigration, which is a federal matter. However, Maricopa County appealed the court’s ruling. Now, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has decided to end the litigation, pay $675,000 in attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs, and cease the practice.
San Francisco and Alameda Counties Provide Free Representation to Immigrants Facing Deportation
New York City was the first jurisdiction in the country to create a functioning public defender system for immigrants facing deportation. In June, the city announced that its municipally funded Immigrant Family Unity Project would guarantee legal representation to all detained immigrants in deportation proceedings. Recently, the public defender offices in San Francisco and Alameda counties have each hired an immigration lawyer to provide free representation to noncitizen public defender clients who face subsequent deportation proceedings. These immigration experts will also advise their fellow public defenders about the complicated intersection between criminal law and immigration law. Both counties hope that this model will inspire other county public defender offices to develop similar programs which can play a critical role in ensuring due process for immigrants. In the words of San Francisco Public Defender, Jeff Adachi, “Even a minor brush with the law can trigger devastating consequences for…families. This collateral damage is far worse than a jail sentence and includes losing the right to work, to support one's children and to stay in the country.”
New State-Level Data on DACA Applicants and Recipients
It has been 2 years since the Obama Administration implemented the DACA program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released statistics on the characteristics of DACA applicants and recipients, including the number of applicants and recipients and the application approval rates based on state and metropolitan area. The Brookings Institute took a closer look at the metropolitan data. Finally, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) issued a profile of DACA applicants containing the application rates in the 15 states with the highest number of DACA-eligible residents as well as an interactive map with detailed state profiles of the DACA-eligible population.
This document was prepared in August 2014 for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For questions, please contact State & Local Advocacy Attorney Jen Riddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 565-4807.