President Obama’s address today focused on broad immigration reform, but his platform on legal immigration was shaped by Silicon Valley notables who’ve focused on the status of foreign-born tech workers and entrepreneurs. (more…)
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Recently the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, announced a new immigration policy that will stop deportations of people under the age of 30 who came to the United States as children younger than 16. In addition, young people in this category could be eligible for temporary status. The news sparked a lot of questions about what this new policy would mean for young people, and who qualifies. To help understand the details of DHS’s immigration plan, we reached out to Abigail Trillin, managing attorney at Legal Services for Children in San Francisco.
Youth Radio: Can you give me the main headlines young people should know about this change in immigration policy for people who came to the U-S as children?
Abigail Trillin: This policy may provide temporary help. A lot of the details are not clear yet. You should consult an attorney before doing anything.
YR: Who will qualify for status under this new policy? Do you have to be currently in school or the military? How will you be able to prove the age you came to the U-S?
AT: All the requirements are in the memo (released by DHS this week.) My guess is you will need to show things like school records to prove length of time in U-S.
The following criteria should be satisfied before an individual is considered for an exercise of prosecutorial discretion pursuant to this memorandum:
•came to the United States under the age of sixteen
•has continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and is present in the United States on the date ofthis memorandum;
•is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces ofthe United States;
•has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and
•is not above the age of thirty.
Via Department of Homeland Security. Read the rest of the memo from DHS
YR: Do you have to be in the process of deportation to apply?
AT: No, but there is a question about whether applying will be risky for those not in deportation because they will be alerting immigration to their presence here.
YR: What will this mean for young people facing deportation now?
AT: For young people who qualify this may mean a temporary halt to their deportation.
YR: People who are against the new policy say it’s only a way to slow down a young person’s deportation. Do you agree with that? What’s your perspective on that criticism?
AT: If the policy remains as it is, it will only be a short-term solution.
YR:What will the new status allow young people to do? (Work legally? Vote? Get a driver’s license? Other privileges?)
AT: Work legally. Avoid deportation.
YR: What advice do lawyers have for young people who are currently undocumented?
AT: Seek legal advice from an attorney before proceeding. There may be risks in applying.
YR: Do you recommend young people apply or wait and see if the policy changes to allow young adults to gain permanent status?
AT: It will be on a case-by-case basis but for a large number of youth it will be a good idea to apply.
YR: If you apply and then the policy is reversed under a new president if Mitt Romney wins the election, is it possible young people who apply may later get deported?
AT: Yes-that is a risk.
YR: Once you’ve gotten accepted in the new immigration policy, does that mean you’re legal or just safe from deportation?
AT: Just safe from deportation and authorized to work.
YR: What will happen to those applicants after the policy ends? Will they still face deportation or be eligible for another status?
AT: It’s only two years and what happens after that is totally unknown at this point.
s1 Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Individuals Who Came to Us as Children1 (2)
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Turnstyle on Friday, Jun. 15th
The millions of young people celebrating President Obama’s immigration announcement this morning include the digital activists who, under the broad canopy of the “Dreamers,” launched dynamic social media campaigns to advocate for undocumented youth.
His speech on the matter (streaming live at the time of this post) says he asked his administration to change his immigration policy ”to make it more fair, more efficient, and more just…specifically for certain young people sometimes called Dreamers…They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one — on paper.”
He clarified that the policy to decline to deport undocumented youth brought here as children is not amnesty.
Check out Turnstyle’s coverage of some of the young activists who’ve comprised this movement. And Turnstyle contributor Favianna Rodriguez is live Tweeting this morning’s events.
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How much is poor communication between the agencies that handle immigration and border security a factor in costly mistakes that affect immigrants in the system? A lengthy report based on an investigation by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General doesn’t directly answer that question, but it does make a good case that improvements are needed.
More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks prompted a massive reorganization of the agencies that oversee the immigration system, inter-agency communication remains far from optimal at various steps along the way, from the agencies that monitor immigrants’ arrival to those that enforce their exit.
The report is especially relevant given some recent erroneous deportations that have received attention, most recently that of a young Honduran-born man from Los Angeles who had been pursuing a “reasonable fear” asylum claim in hopes of avoiding deportation, fearing his gang affiliation might get him killed if he was sent back. Twenty-year-old Nelson Avila-Lopez’s deportation was suspended last fall, but soon afterward, he was sent to Honduras by mistake.
Upon his return, he was placed in a prison that burned down in February, killing him and more than 350 others. Afterward, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials attributed the deadly mistake to “probably the product of a breakdown in communications between the agency and the local immigration court.”
According to the Homeland Security OIG report, the completion and tracking of asylum cases and how the results are communicated to other agencies is just one of many things that needs improvement within the immigration system.
For more on the report, visit KPCC’s Multi-American.
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Leslie Berenstein Rojas on Monday, Mar. 5th
One post earlier this week mapped the top 10 states with the biggest foreign-born population growth since 1990; another post took a look at the states that since 2010 have enacted anti-illegal immigration laws. Among these are five states that since then have enacted strict laws similar to Arizona’s SB 1070, which the U.S. Supreme Court is set to weigh in on next month.
Put the data in both together and you have this: A list of the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations that have recently enacted Arizona-style immigration laws. And as it turns out, of the five states with new laws similar to SB 1070 since 2010 – Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and Indiana – all but one are on the top 10 list.
Here are the four states, all of which have seen more than 280 percent growth in their foreign-born populations since 1990, according to the Migration Policy Institute map above, and a brief synopsis of what’s happening with their immigration laws, all of which face legal challenges:
Alabama: Considered the nation’s strictest state anti-illegal immigration law, the measure known as HB 56 took partial effect in September. Among its many provisions was one blocked in court that would have required public schools to check the immigration status of students. The measure has driven many Latino immigrants to leave the state, prompting a labor shortage. A panel of federal judges in Atlanta this week decided to hold off on ruling on legal challenges to this and a similar law in Georgia until the Supreme Court decides on SB 1070.
Georgia: The state approved a measure last spring that is similar to the Alabama law, if not quite as strict. But with a component that requires employers to verify work authorization, similar to what has happened in Alabama, Georgia’s agricultural industry has been affected by a reduction in its labor force after the law took effect. Attempts to bring in convicts to work the fields have not worked out as planned. As with the Alabama law, federal judges are to decide on the law’s fate after SB 1070 is decided on by the Supreme Court.
South Carolina: Approved by state legislators in June, the state’s SB 1070-inspired law would have required law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of people suspected to be in the country illegally, a provision common to the laws modeled after Arizona’s. This and other controversial provisions were blocked (as was the same provision in Arizona) by a federal judge last December, before the law took effect in January.
Read the rest of the entry at Multi-American blog.
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Robyn Gee on Wednesday, Feb. 29th
A couple recent cases of undocumented young people committing or attempting suicide while being held by immigration services have sparked discussion around the mental health issues that these young people face.
Dr. Roberto Gonzales, of the University of Chicago, specializes in the experiences of undocumented young people in their twenties and early thirties here in America. Listen to an interview with Gonzales above.
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Robyn Gee on Wednesday, Feb. 22nd
At Turnstyle, we’ve been looking into the issue of mental health concerns that undocumented people face in the United States–something that is slowly creeping into the national immigration conversation because of recent high-profile cases of undocumented people committing suicide.
The National Immigrant Youth Alliance even launched a site, Undocuhealth.org, in honor of 22 year-old Yanelli Hernandez Serrano, who attempted suicide twice in the United States and then was deported back to Mexico. The site tries to connect undocumented people to resources, and to build a network for people to share resources and success narratives.
For young people in particular, transitioning from childhood into young adulthood can trigger mental health problems, because as a child, one often does not realize the barriers that they will face as an undocumented adult.
Turnstyle spoke with two undocumented young people who have internships with the organization 67 Sueños, in San Francisco, CA, which highlights the voices of migrant underprivileged youth. These young people shared their stories about struggling with mental health.
Lucia, 25, came to the U.S. from Mexico City at age 9, with her family. They came on a visa, but it expired.
Being undocumented didn’t affect me a lot [as a kid] because I was sheltered from a lot of things growing up. But when I wanted to go to college is when it really hit me. I can’t do certain things, I can’t get my license, I can’t afford to pay a four year institution because my parents don’t have the money.
It made me mad. It depressed me to a point. I felt like I was limited from pursuing things that I wanted to do. I wanted to study abroad, but I can’t do that either. Some of my friends, they went to Spain, or they went to Central America, and they had really good experiences and I always wanted to have that. But I haven’t had the opportunity.
[With regard to mental health], I am bipolar. That was diagnosed at the age of 15. Here in the United States, they tell you, ‘Okay it’s treatable, we can help you out.’ But really, if you don’t have insurance, the medicine is like $150 and you’re not just taking one medication, you’re taking two medications. I was hospitalized a couple of times, and I’m still paying the bills from when I was in the hospital.
I learned to live with [the bipolar]. I don’t have the money for the treatment. I’m not taking medication, but I do try to go to therapy.
When you have bipolar, you don’t produce lithium and that’s what stabilizes your emotions. I had to learn to be really aware of that. What I’m feeling is not necessarily what I think it is. Sometimes I’m aware of it, and I’m trying to control it, but a little thing can just set everything off. It mostly happens to me when I’m really stressed out.
I don’t like to tell people that I’m bipolar because sometimes people don’t really understand what bipolar is and they just label you as being crazy.
My brother is going through immigration process, and I get paranoid. I feel like immigration (authorities) could come to my house any day. It’s scary. There was a time when I wasn’t sleeping. Because I felt like if I slept and they come to the house, I wouldn’t be prepared.
So my bipolar was like interfering. I felt like I was going out of my mind, I would get up and look out the window. And I wouldn’t go to sleep unless all the doors were locked.
At Walgreens they sell medication over the counter that makes you sleep. I would take half of it, and it would help me sleep and the next day I would be more relaxed.
It’s not easy. Because when you have bipolar sometimes people don’t understand and sometimes you don’t even understand yourself. But imagine if you went to Mexico or Central America… people in our countries are still very closed-minded when it comes to mental health.
When you have depression or bipolar, or even if you don’t have a mental health illness, but you’re going through an immigration case, it’s really stressful. You never know when you’re going to walk into the courthouse and wake up in another country.
Maria, 18, came to the U.S. at age 6, because there weren’t enough resources in her small town in Acapulco, Guerrero.
I was in the first grade – I remember my first day I came to school I couldn’t understand the teacher and the students – I came to school. and I remember kids would say something to me and I couldn’t understand. I was scared…
As I grew up, I knew I was from a different place, but I never really heard the term undocumented or illegal. I started to see there was a lot of prejudice against undocumented people. When you start seeing something, you start seeing it all around you. I asked my mom and [she said] I was undocumented.
But growing up, you’re a little kid you don’t know what’s going on… I guess you could say my mom tried to cover it up, but once you are growing up, it hits you, and it’s there, and it’s not going away.
I’m the type of person that is like, ‘Oh, nothing is going to happen.’ But a couple years ago, my brother got deported. He was the first in my family to get deported. I’ve gotten scared. A couple months ago, my dad got deported.
With my brother, all of my family took it really bad. It’s like someone passing away.
Then, a couple months ago, it was my dad [who got deported]. None of us wanted to accept it. I guess that we were trying to act numb to it.
You can’t really run away from the reality. When you’re in a car, or driving or anywhere, you don’t want to get stopped because you might get deported.
My mom, she was angry. My other siblings didn’t want to talk about it, and I guess I was just angry at everybody. I took it upon myself to get angry, because I couldn’t do anything.
I didn’t want to do anything, and I was like, ‘What’s the point of me doing anything, going to school, if I’m undocumented and at any moment I could get deported?’
[Turnstyle: When you were depressed, did you think about going to counseling, or seeing a doctor?]
A doctor, in my family, is not an option. You only see the doctor when you’re to the certain point when you feel like you’re gonna die. And I know that it’s a lot of money.
A month ago I had a big pain in my back. When I laid down and when I breathed it was hurting me. I didn’t want to tell my mom. She was like, ‘I’m going to take you to a doctor. I was like, ‘No don’t take me to a doctor, I know it’s going to be a lot of money, and they’ll just say nothing’s going on with me.’
To undocumented people, going to a doctor or hospital, it’s to a point when you really can’t take it no more.
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Robyn Gee on Friday, Feb. 17th
Tracking 11 million undocumented persons in a country is tough. But one professor, Dr. Roberto Gonzales, tried to do exactly that. And he found some surprising trends.
“They recounted numerous instances of not being able to get out of bed, having ulcers, being stressed out, worrying all the time about getting caught, toothaches, headaches, problems sleeping, trouble eating and thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide,” Gonzales said in an interview with Turnstyle News.
The mental and emotional health of undocumented people is slowly making its way into the national immigration conversation. In recent cases, lawyers have tried to use mental health concerns as grounds for a judge to permit a client to stay in the U.S.
One of these cases involved 22-year-old Yanelli Serrano Hernandez, an undocumented young person, who attempted suicide twice in the U.S. Her defense lawyers argued that not only was she not a threat to her community, but that sending her back to Mexico put her life at risk. Nevertheless, she was deported on January 31, 2012.
Marco Saavedra, 22, is also undocumented and struggled with depression growing up, as did his mother and sister. But he was inspired by Hernandez’s case to get involved in immigration rights issues. He is currently a youth organizer at the National Immigration Youth Alliance (NIYA) in Ohio, in a neighboring county to where Hernandez was detained.
Saavedra found that organizing with other youth actually helps him deal with his depression. “It’s true of me and a lot of our youth organizers at NIYA, that we suffered depression because we couldn’t wrap our minds around what our futures looked like. Through organizing I found a way to address the preoccupation of depression. By just living in the struggle day to day you get lost behind your own needs… you forget to see the bigger picture,” said Saavedra.
Saavedra, along with other organizers from NIYA, started a website called Undocuhealth.org, in honor of Hernandez. The goal of the site is to create a network for undocumented people to find resources and realize that they are not alone in their mental health struggles.
Oftentimes, undocumented people are unaware of mental health resources, according to Saavedra. And one of the website’s campaigns is to get people to provide their narratives of successful treatment. “If they’re a cancer survivor, or have been treated for dialysis, if they’re willing to write down their story and explain where they got help, they could share knowledge and resources with others,” he said. The site does not offer professional help, but offers informal advice, resources and support.
Saavedra hopes that in future, some sort of “health asylum” will exist for undocumented people. “Now if your life is in mortal danger, then you will be allowed to stay in the U.S. Maybe the argument can be made if your health is in really severe peril, if you get deported… it could be another avenue. We’ll just see…” said Saavedra.
Dr. Gonzales thinks a health asylum is a good place to start. He says that there are around 1.2 million undocumented children growing up in the U.S. right now, in arguably harsher immigration conditions than in previous generations, referring to new laws in Alabama and Arizona. “With some of these very negative contexts, we’ll see a greater number of young people who are at risk for negative mental and physical health outcomes,” he said.
Gonzales said that undocumented status is not something that is talked about in childhood and because of this, undocumented children often grow up in a bubble of normalcy. “They go to prom, they grow up watching Barney and the Power Rangers, they eat pizza… but our laws treat children and adults very differently, and don’t account for the continuity of children becoming adults,” he said.
Gonzales conducted 150 life-history interviews with young adults between the ages of 20 – 34, called the West Coast Undocumented Young Adults Research Project. The goal was to paint a fuller picture of the growing-up experiences and adult trajectories of young people who arrive in the U.S. without citizenship.
He found that the critical point that triggers mental health issues for a young undocumented person is when they transition out of childhood. “This transition is a movement from feeling a sense of belonging and inclusion in childhood and early adolescence to an adult life that is saturated with barriers and possibilities for apprehension and deportation,” he said.
Once a young person hits their late teenage years, several rites of passage are blocked off, like getting a driver’s license, finding summer jobs and applying for college financial aid. “It doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens at the same time their friends are moving forward,” said Gonzales. At this point, their daily routines become secrets from some of their closest friends. “They are continually having to swallow disappointment and also come up with excuses — why they weren’t going out with their friends, why they are taking the bus instead of driving,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales said as more information slowly surfaces about the undocumented population, he hopes to see these mental health issues addressed.
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Leslie Berenstein Rojas on Wednesday, Feb. 15th
A Homeland Security budget proposal released yesterday recommends what seems to be a gradual phase-out of a program known as 287(g), a voluntary federal-local immigration enforcement partnership that preceded the more controversial, but less costly (and mandatory) Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program. The proposed budget recommends cutting $17 million from 287(g), discontinuing it in some jurisdictions, and suspending consideration of new requests from agencies wishing to participate.
What is 287(g)? The federal program derives its odd name from a 1996 amendment to the immigration law that authorized it. From the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website:
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 added Section 287(g), performance of immigration officer functions by state officers and employees, to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This authorizes the secretary of DHS to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of ICE officers.
How it works: Agencies that participate in 287(g) have received federally-funded training from ICE, with officers participating in a four-week training program. ICE in turn authorizes the agencies to identify and detain deportable immigrants encountered by officers in “the course of daily duties,” according to an ICE fact sheet. Each agency enters into a contract with ICE, known as a memorandum of agreement, defining the scope of each particular partnership.
Agencies are able to request training specific to any area of immigration law enforcement, but as used in Los Angeles County (along with Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties), most agencies use it to identify deportable immigrants who land in local jails and state prisons. In jails, the screening is generally done post-conviction, versus on the receiving end, as occurs with Secure Communities.
Read the rest at Multi-American.
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Robyn Gee on Tuesday, Feb. 14th
The Campaign for an American Dream is organizing a cross-country march, that will send four walkers, who are all undocumented and living in the United States, from San Francisco, Ca to Washington D.C. to raise awareness about immigrants’ rights. They’ll be stopping in 200 communities holding various events and rallies, and plan to arrive in D.C. in late October, 2012.
I spoke with 25-year-oldNicolas Gonzalez, one of the four walkers. He came from Mexico to the U.S. with his mom and older sister in 1992. When they arrived, they moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he’s been living ever since. Gonzalez is an immigration activist and shared with us his story and motivation for embarking on this trek.
Turnstyle: Describe your experience growing up in Illinois.
Nicolas Gonzales: When I was 12, my mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which is something that really impacted me and my family. When I was 18, it spread, and she was diagnosed with lung cancer. My mom wasn’t working anymore and my sister wasn’t living with us.
I dropped out of high school and began working. My mom needed that support. My dad had to work to pay for the house, to pay the bills.
My mom passed away two years ago on January 23, 2010. It was the hardest year for me. I saw my mom going to the public hospital, along with many other immigrant women; they would have to sit around and wait for treatment, and switch doctors. I was the one who knew what medication she was taking, who her doctors were, translating for her.
Turnstyle: How did your mom’s sickness impact the work you’re doing now?
NG: My mom died in this country of freedom where she was considered a criminal. It didn’t seem right, and I needed to do something about it. [Me and some other youth] were really tired of living in fear. We said, ‘how can we challenge the system?’
I became part of a group called the Immigrant Youth Justice League in Chicago. When March came around, we had already started organizing an immigrant rights march.
We decided to have an event called a “Coming Out of the Shadows” day on March 10 in Chicago. We went against politicians, organizations, and older activists, saying we want to take the stage and declare our undocumented status. We were tired of people speaking for us. We have a voice. Eight of us went on stage; we told our stories.
Turnstyle: When did you find out, or really notice the impact of being undocumented?
NG: I was 15 or 16 when I realized I didn’t have [a] Social Security number. I wasn’t able to go to [any] summer programs that they offer to students. I was always doing volunteer work because I couldn’t get paid. Everyone else my age was getting paid, but I wasn’t, for doing the same or even more work. That’s when I realized [life] was going to start getting tougher. My parents told me get work, start working.
But [being undocumented] didn’t hold me back. I was always volunteering everywhere. Sometimes they would pay me with gift certificates to Target or to Starbucks; that’s how they would pay me.
My education was through other means, not necessarily by institutionalized ways of getting educated, but through my own terms of getting little training here and there, for domestic violence or trainings that got me to where I got.
Turnstyle: Why are you participating in the CAD walk?
NG: My mom’s passing pushed me in a lot of ways to push other youth to organize. I was asked to do groundwork in Alabama, but a week before I left, I was called and asked to be one of the [CAD] walkers.
I’m looking forward to meeting different people, and really knowing that what we’re doing is powerful. It’s not only going to educate our communities, but our allies. Sharing our stories as a political tool to create change is something I look forward to.
I’m not doing this for myself, but to empower communities, and also to send out a national message of unity. We’ve lived in oppression too long. How do we move forward?
Stay tuned for upcoming coverage on the progress of the CAD walk. Have you heard a story similar to Nico’s? Think the walk is a good idea? Let us know what you think.
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