Friday, August 24, 2012

Napolitano sued over new immigration policy
The author of the strict Arizona immigration law that was mostly shot down by the Supreme Court this summer has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 immigration officials against the Obama administration for its recently revamped deferred-deportation policy.

Kansas Secretary of State and immigration hardliner Kris Kobach filed the lawsuit on Thursday against Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton on behalf of 10 ICE officials, including the head of the immigration agency’s labor union, Chris Crane.

The suit was filed in the District Court for the Northern District of Texas and challenges a new policy announced by Napolitano earlier this year by arguing that it forces officers to break the law.

“We are federal law enforcement officers who are being ordered to break the law,” said Crane in a statement. “This directive puts ICE agents and officers in a horrible position.”

Napolitano issued a directive that allows her agency to exercise its prosecutorial discretion for certain illegal immigrants who are under 30 years of age and who wish to defer their deportation from the country for two-year periods in order to work.
Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have strongly opposed the administration’s move, applauded the lawsuit on Thursday.

“The Obama administration makes it impossible for ICE agents to do their jobs,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) in a statement issued along with fellow Texas Republicans Reps. John Carter and Louie Gohmert.

“Instead of enforcing the law, the Obama administration requires ICE agents to release illegal immigrants,” Smith said.

Congressional Democrats have ferociously defended the administration’s move, calling it a key step towards fixing a broken immigration system that penalizes many young people who were brought into the United States illegally by their parents.

The announcement by Napolitano was made in June and bypasses Congress in the face of stalled efforts to pass a bill with similar provisions. For several years, Republicans have blocked the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, saying that it provides “amnesty” to illegal immigrants and could threaten to take away the jobs of U.S. citizens.

Under the administration’s new system, ICE and DHS officials are allowed to prioritize the deportation of people in the country illegally who have existing criminal records.

The young illegal people who are eligible to delay their deportation must have a clean criminal record, be enrolled or graduated from an education program and demonstrate a financial need to work, among other requirements.

Kobach’s lawsuit on Thursday was not the first threat of legal action against the administration over the recent deferred deportation changes.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has repeatedly said he plans on filing his own lawsuit against Napolitano arguing that the immigration directive is unconstitutional because it bypassed Congress’s authority.

On Thursday, King’s office told The Hill that he would be filing the lawsuit “in the coming weeks,” and pointed to comments he issued last week.

“I said that I would bring a lawsuit against the President and that process is underway,” said King. “With just a few puzzle pieces to get in the right place, I will soon file that lawsuit.”

Kobach came into the public eye recently for his role in crafting Arizona’s strict law that would have allowed the state to bring criminal charges against an immigrant who was stopped by authorities without his or her legal papers. It would have also have made it a state crime for illegal immigrant to try and work in the border state. 

In June the Supreme Court struck down the most stringent of the Arizona law’s provisions, serving a blow to Kobach and his supporters. But the court ruled in favor of the state implementing a strict provision that requires law enforcement officials to verify the legal status of anyone they stop who they suspect of being in the country illegally.

Opponents of the provision say it is tantamount to racial profiling, but supporters say it will help cut down on illegal immigration. A federal judge in Arizona began hearing arguments this week from attorneys trying to block the provision’s implementation.


Australia Increases Refugee Quota in Broad Immigration Reform

 Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday ordered an immediate increase in the number of refugees that her country accepts yearly, part of an immigration reform package aimed at encouraging migrants to use official channels for asylum rather than long and dangerous boat journeys.

The increase in the annual refugee intake — to 20,000 from 13,700, the biggest increase in 30 years — caps two weeks of bruising debate after the release of an expert report on immigration commissioned by the Australian government. The debate has led Ms. Gillard’s governing Labor Party to reverse its longstanding opposition to reopening remote offshore detention centers that were closed when the party came to power in 2007.

“This increase is targeted to those in most need: those vulnerable people offshore, not those getting on boats,” Ms. Gillard told reporters. “Message No. 1: If you get on a boat, you are at risk of being transferred to Nauru or P.N.G.,” she said, referring to a small Pacific island nation and to Papua New Guinea.

She continued, “Message No. 2: If you stay where you are, then there are more resettlement places available in Australia.”

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced that the camps would cost 150 million Australian dollars, or $157 million, through the 2012-13 fiscal year. Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea could begin accepting detainees within days, he said, depending on negotiations.

But Mr. Bowen told reporters that the Nauru center would house only 1,500 people when fully operational, while Manus would hold 600 refugees, raising questions about their efficacy as deterrents. A total of 8,439 asylum seekers have arrived by boat in Australia this year, according to local news reports.

Graham Thom, an expert on immigration at Amnesty International, said that while the increase was a positive step, given the complex factors driving people to seek asylum, it was far from clear that camps of the type outlined Thursday would actually deter desperate refugees.

“For people fleeing violence and persecution, how they move and where they move is a complex interplay of both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors,” Mr. Thom said. “With the situation in countries like Afghanistan likely to continue to force significant numbers to flee, whether or not they choose to continue to try and reach Australia, even with the reintroduction of offshore processing, remains to be seen.”

Thousands of people try to reach Australia each year on rickety, overcrowded vessels, leading to accidents at sea that have killed more than 600 people since late 2009. Around 90 asylum seekers are believed to have died in June when their boat capsized south of the Indonesian island of Java, reigniting a debate that has smoldered for more than a decade.

Australia has tried for years to formulate a policy that would deter would-be immigrants from trying to reach Christmas Island, a territory in the Indian Ocean that is Australia’s closest point to Indonesia. Ms. Gillard had proposed sending asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing, but the plan was rejected by Australia’s highest court and negotiations over a replacement plan broke down.


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