Safe Passage Project Press Release in Response to Immigration Policy Memos

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

SAFE PASSAGE PROJECT STATEMENT ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY’S MEMORANDA IMPLEMENTING INTERIOR ENFORCEMENT AND BORDER SECURITY EXECUTIVE ORDERS

New York, NY – February 21, 2017 – Safe Passage Project is concerned that two policy memoranda dated February 20, 2017 and signed by John Kelly, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will put unaccompanied children from Central America and other countries at risk of serious harm and will prevent children from obtaining immigration relief they qualify for.

The memoranda would, for certain children, eliminate protections under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, and would subject children to the horrors of expedited removal. The memorandum entitled “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies” (the “border security memo”) suggests that the government may seek to remove the designation “unaccompanied alien child” from children who have parents or legal guardians in the United States, even if they are in fact unaccompanied at the time they cross the border and face DHS officials.

Imagine an 8-year-old who crosses our borders seeking protection. Unless she is able to convince a Department of Homeland Security officer that she has a fear of returning to her home country or intends to apply for asylum, she will be removed from the U.S. on an expedited basis. She will not have the opportunity to talk to a lawyer or see a judge; she will simply be sent back. This is an unjust process that should never be employed against a vulnerable child, and yet the memoranda propose doing just that.

The border security memo also provides that DHS may direct enforcement resources toward the parents of children who made the dangerous journey to the United States to flee violence and persecution in their countries of origin. Specifically, the memo seeks to initiate removal or even criminal proceedings against parents that have directly or indirectly assisted their children to enter the U.S.

While these provisions purport to “protect alien children from exploitation and prevent abuses of our immigration laws,” we are concerned that these policy changes will have the detrimental effect of discouraging parents from claiming their children who arrive at our borders seeking protection from violence and other abuses. It may discourage the reunification of a child with a parent or legal guardian in the United States who is available to provide adequate care. By keeping parents away from children, these policies may deprive children of caretakers who would be best positioned to care for and assist them in the preparation of their legal claims. It may also result in an increased number of unaccompanied children who are forced to remain in detention indefinitely.

Implementation of the two new policy memoranda needlessly puts vulnerable unaccompanied children and their families at risk. Parts of the memoranda purport to be aimed at the elimination of child trafficking, but in fact, the result will be increased fear and child exploitation.

 

Attorney General Issues Urgent Fraud Alert on “ICE” Immigration Scams

Please see below for the latest updates from Attorney General Scheiderman pertaining to the “ICE” Immigration Scams.

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2017

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-776-2427
[email protected]
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ISSUES URGENT FRAUD ALERT ON “ICE” IMMIGRATION SCAMS

Attorney General’s Alert Follows New Reports Of Fraudsters Posing As ‘ICE’ Agents, Threatening To Detain Immigrants Unless They Pay Up

Schneiderman: ICE Agents Will Never Ask For Money

NEW YORK – Today, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued an urgent fraud alert, warning immigrant communities of potential scams in light of recent reports that fraudsters have been posing as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents scams and demanding money in order to avoid deportation. The Attorney General’s office has received an increased number of reported scams along these lines following the ICE deportation raids that have taken place over the last few days.

“It is unconscionable for scam artists to prey on heightened fear in our immigrant communities by pretending to be ICE officers and demanding that families pay up in order to avoid deportation,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I urge communities to protect themselves by learning about these potential scams – and contacting my office if they suspect fraud. We will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal and bring to justice those who commit fraud against our immigrant communities.”

The Attorney General’s office has received a number of reports of unsolicited calls or in-person inquiries from fake immigration officials. For example, one immigrant living in Queens was approached by four men dressed as ICE agents. The purported ICE “agents” told the man that he was going to be detained unless he gave them all of his money.

To report potential fraud or other issues regarding immigration services, contact the Attorney General’s Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline at (866) 390-2992 or email [email protected]. The Attorney General’s office will never ask for your immigration status or share immigration information with federal authorities if you contact the Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline.

Attorney General Schneiderman also reminded immigrant communities of the New York resources available to those seeking immigration and naturalization-related support. Managed by Catholic Charities Community Services, the New Americans hotline is a toll-free, multi-lingual hotline that provides live assistance in receiving immigration and naturalization information and referrals, regardless of citizenship or documented status. All calls to the hotline are confidential and anonymous. Call 1-800-566-7636 (toll-free) anytime between 9:00am to 8:00pm Monday through Friday.

Attorney General Schneiderman reminds New Yorkers of these common forms of immigration fraud:

Being Approached by Fake ICE Agents. Official Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will never ask you for money or threaten detainment or deportation if you do not pay them. ICE agents also do not have the authority to enter your household without a warrant signed by a judge.

Unsolicited Calls From Fake Officials: One of the most common immigration services scams are unsolicited calls or text messages from someone claiming to be a government official or law enforcement officer that make threats such as deportation. Often times the number on caller ID may look like a legitimate government number. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will never request payment over the phone, so immigrants should be wary of scammers that ask for any sensitive or personal information, demand payment and threaten deportation if you do not comply.

Notario Fraud: In many Latin American countries a “notario” refers to someone who has the authority to render legal services. Unscrupulous “notaries” who are not attorneys often rely on this misunderstanding to exploit immigrants. They charge immigrants excessive application fees without ever submitting applications to the immigration authorities or may induce deportation by submitting applications for relief for which the immigrant is not eligible for or did not request.

Misrepresenting Legal Credentials: Individuals may falsely claim to be attorneys or wrongly suggest that they are able to appear before the immigration agencies or court. They take advantage of immigrants who will unknowingly pay exorbitant fees for their services. By misrepresenting their qualifications, these individuals can have a detrimental impact on the immigrants with whom they work. For example, immigrants who take advice from and work with these individuals may waive their right to obtain legal residency, be unnecessarily deported, or become subject to civil and/or criminal liability for the filing of false claims.

Fraudulent Promises to Expedite Process: This type of fraud concerns individuals who contend that they know employees at immigration offices who can expedite the processing of their clients applications. Accordingly, they request high fees for this special service, but fail to provide it.

Misinformation Fraud: Under this type of fraud, a provider will typically provide inaccurate or false information to the immigrant concerning his or her eligibility for an adjustment of status under a particular law. In these cases, the immigrant is usually not aware that they have been a victim of fraud until they receive a letter of ineligibility from immigration authorities. The provider knows the immigrant is not entitled to relief, or ineligible, but will file the application with immigration authorities regardless.

Immigration Affinity Fraud: Some providers target immigrants belonging to their same ethnic or racial group. Accordingly, they seek to gain advantage over other providers by claiming to identify with the ethnic, racial, national origin or community-based affiliations of the immigrant group.

Unauthorized Practice of the Law: Individuals may not be licensed to practice law but present themselves as attorneys or immigration law experts capable of providing legal advice and services.

Attorney General Schneiderman provided these key tips to avoid getting scammed:

·         Only work with a licensed lawyer or an authorized provider.

·         Never sign blank applications or documents you do not understand.

·         Do not make payments over the phone or via email.

Last month, anticipating changes to federal immigration enforcement, Attorney General Schneiderman provided local law enforcement agencies with legal guidance to protect their immigrant communities and improve public safety by becoming “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Additional resources can be found on the Attorney General’s website, including Know Your Rights: Immigration Services Fraud and Don’t Be a Victim of Immigration Fraud brochure. All authorized attorneys will be registered with the New York State Court. To verify an attorney, see here.  

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Suffolk County Family Court Updates!

There are updates to Family Court procedures in Suffolk County, effective 01/31/2017:

1) Fingerprinting of household members is no longer a prerequisite to getting a first hearing date in Suffolk County Family Court! All cases will get calendared within 90 days of filing. Attorneys should still complete the OCFS household information, so that the court can run the necessary background checks. However, fingerprinting of household members will be at the discretion of the family court judge, on a case-by-case basis.

2) Again, Suffolk County Family Court “strongly recommends that attorneys file the OCFS with the guardianship petition. Failure to include a completed OCFS upon initial filing can cause delays and adjournments to allow for the OCFS results to come back. There is a risk that without the OCFS results, your case will be dismissed.

3) In considering whether to request fingerprinting, each judge will make determinations on a case-by-case basis, at their discretion, by considering the “totality of the circumstances.” Moreover, judges may also request home visits, which are now conducted through the probation department, but this is not a default requirement.

If you have questions, please contact your Safe Passage Project mentor attorney!

Safe Passage Project Dives into an Unprecedented Immigration Law Challenge

We are very proud and inspired by our colleagues Alex Rizio, Claire Thomas and Founder Lenni Benson for the roles they have played in response to the recent executive orders on immigration and refugees.

The following post appeared originally on New York Law School’s website. Click HERE to read it there. Since this posting, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) has been issued against key components of the executive order and is currently making its way through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Claire Officers

Claire R. Thomas speaking with officers at JFK January 28th.


 

It was late Friday, January 27 when their phones lit up with emails and calls. As New York Law School’s nationally recognized immigration law Professor Lenni Benson and Adjunct Professor Claire R. Thomas ’11, who lead the School’s immigration law courses, sifted through urgent notifications, they learned that dozens—possibly hundreds—of international travelers were in detention and facing deportation at JFK International Airport and other airports throughout the country. News of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order halting immigration from seven countries—Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, and Somalia—was rapidly spreading through New York City’s network of immigration lawyers.

Across campus, Professor Deborah N. Archer, who co-directs the School’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law, teaches its Civil Rights Clinic, and leads its Racial Justice Project, began hearing from students who were eager to help. There was barely any time to plan as the names of affected families began to trickle into Professor Archer’s Facebook and email inboxes.

NYLS has long been active in legal advocacy and representation involving the nation’s most pressing immigration law issues, which often affect New York City. This time was no different, except for the glare of international media.

By Saturday, the situation intensified. Travelers from the seven countries whose flights had been in transit when the Executive Order was signed continued to arrive at JFK Airport. Thomas threw her phone charger and a hard copy of the Immigration and Nationality Act into her bag and hopped onto the A train, bound for the airport. The Air Train was eerily devoid of travelers with luggage; instead, Thomas found herself surrounded by sign-carrying protesters. She kept Professor Benson on speed-dial.

Soon after she entered JFK Airport’s Terminal One, Thomas began fielding questions from Yemeni and Iranian families anxiously awaiting news about relatives detained after landing. She connected with representatives from the New York City Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs and shared immigration law knowledge with volunteer attorneys drafting habeas petitions on behalf of those detained. Soon after, Professor Vicki Eastus and Justin Meeks 4L Evening, who are also part of the Impact Center, arrived and set to work answering family members’ questions and connecting them with attorneys. Professor Benson fielded calls all day and throughout the following night, sleeping with her cell phone under her pillow.

Meanwhile, from points throughout the city, Professor Archer and her students were relaying the names and contact information of affected families to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing many of the detainees. The group was also working closely with detainees’ relatives, including a man whose wife was refused entry to the U.S. and sent back to Qatar, where she had been visiting family. Throughout, Professor Archer and her students kept in close touch with Thomas and others at JFK Airport, performing research and rapidly proofing habeas petitions remotely.

That night, when a federal judge from the Eastern District of New York issued an order halting some portions of the Executive Order, the NYLS team scanned the first copy they could get—a photograph of the decision posted to Twitter.

Six habeas petitions and countless legal questions later, Thomas left the airport. It was around 2 a.m. on Sunday. Shortly after, she learned that one of the detainees she’d worked with, a green card holder from Iran, had finally been released. After a brief respite, the NYLS team was back at work drafting petitions and making referrals. The pace of work is unlikely to slow: news reports reveal that more than 100,000 visas have been revoked since the Executive Order was issued. ~

Safe Passage Project with the NYC Bar Association: Central American Refugee Crisis

On January 26, 2017, Safe Passage Project took place in a pro bono fair following a program at the NYC Bar Association entitled “The Central American Refugee Crisis: Human Rights Challenges and needs in the United States and South of the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Director of Training, Claire R. Thomas, spoke on the panel, along with Luis Canales, a Honduran refugee who is now a law student at Villanova School of Law.

To view a recording of the event, please click HERE.

At one point in the evening, Thomas quoted Warsan Shire’s powerful and timely poem titled “Home.” Read that poem in its entirety HERE.

Panelists, Including Claire Thomas

Panelists, Including Claire R. Thomas

Safe Passage Wins 5 Year Legal Battle on Behalf of Teenage Boy

Daniel Pulla Pilco Photo 4Earlier this month, Safe Passage won Legal Permanent Residence for a young client after over 5 years of hard work in three different New York Courts. Safe Passage met Danilo in 2012, when he was just 14 years old.  Danilo’s family could not support him adequately and protect his best interest in his home country. He made the perilous journey on foot to the United States in search of safety, support, educational opportunity, and his mother.

Safe Passage went to Family Court, Immigration Court, and appeared before USCIS on behalf of Danilo in helping advocate for Danilo and his stable future in the United States. Thanks to the support of Safe Passage, Danilo has also successfully enrolled in school and is loving being a new New Yorker.

At his case closing meeting earlier this week at New York Law School, Danilo thanked his Legal Team of Jordan Harlow, Gui Stampur, Rex Chen, Stephanie Gibbs, Nillie Pajoohi, Carlos Valenzuela, Lenni Benson, Desiree Hernandez and Claire Thomas.

Thank you UNICEF

image2Safe Passage stands with refugee children and will continue to advocate for all of our Safe Passage clients. The Safe Passage team is grateful to UNICEF for sharing these wonderful peace bracelets. Our team will wear them with pride.

Safe Passage Project Opposes the Nomination of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General

Safe Passage Project has joined dozens of other New York organizations in a letter to Senators Gillibrand and Schumer to oppose the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States. Sessions’ confirmation vote has been pushed back to Tuesday, January 31st. The full text of the letter may be read below.

Dear Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand:

The undersigned New York-based organizations urge you to vigorously resist the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General of the United States. We hope you will consider using any and all methods available to you to prevent Senator Sessions from being confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Much of New York’s vitality and prosperity is owed to the more than four million immigrants who call our State home. Together they account for a fifth of the State’s population and a quarter of its economic output. As organizations that serve New York immigrant and refugee communities, we are very disturbed by the prospect of Sen. Sessions leading the Department of Justice.

The Attorney General is the single most powerful figure responsible for this country’s immigration laws. In addition to being in charge of the nation’s immigration courts, the Attorney General is empowered to create new regulations, require particular forms of bonds or other documentation, issue new instructions, review past administrative determinations in immigration proceedings (including Board of Immigration Appeals’ decisions), amid a whole host of other duties. Sen. Sessions’ record on immigration and his affiliations with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations prove he is too extreme to be this country’s top lawyer and law enforcement officer.

SENATOR SESSIONS’ DANGEROUS ANTI-IMMIGRANT RECORD

Sessions has proven himself to be the most dangerous ally of the anti-immigrant movement in Congress since his election in 1996. He has received awards from the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR and has invited members of anti-immigrant organizations to testify at numerous Congressional hearings.

During his twenty-year tenure in the U.S. Senate, Sessions has consistently opposed any efforts to reform the country’s immigration laws, referring to the bipartisan 2007 bill as “terrorist assistance.” He has long been a champion for draconian immigration enforcement laws (self-deportation) that break families apart. He has railed against the DREAM Act (and DACA) and has been a fierce proponent of stripping citizenship from children born in this country to undocumented parents. Sessions has also advocated for greatly reducing legal immigration limits citing “cultural” concerns: “The numbers cannot be too great or it takes jobs from Americans and can, in fact, create cultural problems that wouldn’t occur if it was a little slower.”

SENATOR SESSIONS’ CONNECTIONS TO ANTI-MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONS

Sessions has a disturbing relationship with anti-Muslim extremists and organizations. He has received numerous awards from the anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Center for Security Policy, both of which promote vicious conspiracy theories and animosity towards American Muslims. Sessions has not shied away from blaming an entire religion for the actions of few, “We need to use common sense with the who-what-where of the threat. It is the toxic ideology of Islam.”

The United States Attorney General has immense power over the lives of immigrants and refugees–Sen. Jeff Sessions’ has demonstrated through his voting record, associations with extremist organizations and his public statements that he is not the person for the job.

In addition to his views and actions impacting immigrants and Muslims, Sen. Sessions has a deeply disturbing track record on women’s rights, racial justice, voting rights, gun reform, criminal justice, LGBTQ rights, environmental justice and the rights of people with disabilities.

By any measure, Sen. Sessions is grossly unqualified to be the nation’s top law enforcement office. We urge you to publicly and loudly oppose his nomination to be Attorney General.

Safe Passage Project Joins 850+ Organizations in Affirming the Value of DACA

Safe Passage Project has joined over 850 other immigrants rights organizations nationwide in a letter sent to President Trump prior to his inauguration.

The letter details the impact and importance of the DACA program and urges the President to preserve the program for the benefit of the economy, the public, and national security. It also mentions DACA’s importance in light of the BRIDGE Act proposed by Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

This is one of many ways Safe Passage Project is working to ensure the rights of immigrants under the new administration.

The original letter may be read at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s website HERE.

Immigration Advocates Network Podcast on UAC

This interview with Claire R. Thomas with the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) introduces two common forms of relief for Unaccompanied Children: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Asylum. The interview compares these two options and offers guidance on advising UAC clients.

To listen to the podcast, please click HERE.

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