Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’
Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Associate Deputy Attorney General Juan Osuna speaks at a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the state of immigration courts. (photo by Channing Turner / Main Justice)

Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday named Juan Osuna as Acting Director for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

EOIR is responsible for adjudicating immigration cases and overseeing immigration courts in the United States through the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge.

Osuna currently serves as an Associate Deputy Attorney General for immigration policy.

In 2000, then-Attorney General Janet Reno tapped Osuna for the Board of Immigration Appeals. He was named board chairman by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey in September 2008.

In a statement, Holder said, “Juan has been with the department for more than a decade and has developed an extensive knowledge of immigration litigation, and earned a reputation as a diligent and thoughtful advocate and manager.” Holder added, “I am confident he will lead the office with the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and dedication.”

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez on Monday defended a Justice Department’s lawsuit that seeks to preempt the enforcement of an Arizona law that critics say could lead to discrimination against Hispanics.

“Under our system of government, there is one quarterback and only one quarterback when it comes to issues of immigration, and that is the federal government,” Perez told an audience gathered for a American Constitution Society event in Washington D.C.

Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez (file photo by Channing Turner / Main Justice)

States getting involved in immigration could complicate the federal government’s operations in a number of areas, Perez said.

“You cannot have a system of 50 quarterbacks in the immigration system because immigration includes issues of law enforcement, it involves decisions with implications in foreign policy, it involves incidents with humanitarian implications, and you can’t have 50 states making immigration law and have a coherent system,” Perez said.

The law at issue allows authorities to question an individual if law enforcement officials have a “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally. It also criminalizes the “willful failure” to carry immigration documents. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit last week against Arizona and its governor, Republican Jan Brewer, seeking to invalidate the state’s immigration law on the grounds that it is preempted by federal immigration laws.

Justice Department lawyers traveled to Arizona to listen to what various group thought about the law before deciding to file the suit, Perez said.

“We didn’t simply sit here inside the beltway and figure out what was best for Arizona or what was constitutional under that circumstance, we went out and listened,” Perez said. “And it’s very noteworthy to me to see that officers who are on the front lines, police chiefs who are on the front lines, talk about how if you want to get smart on crime, you should focus on the most serious and violent criminals and you shouldn’t be focusing your first attention on the day laborers, and that’s precisely what this bill among other things does.”

In an interview with CBS that aired Sunday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department “wanted to go out with what we thought of our strongest initial argument and to focus on what we thought is the most serious problem with the law as it now exists.” He suggested that a second lawsuit which focused on racial profiling grounds could be possible if the first suit were to fail.

On Monday, Perez encouraged people to read the pleadings in the case.

“What you will find is not only are there declarations from federal officials in that case, but you’ll also find there are declarations from the police chief or Phoenix, the police chief of Tuscan, the police chief of Flagstaff, and the sheriff of… one of the counties that borders Mexico,” he said.

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft will campaign Thursday for his former Justice Department protege who went on to help write the controversial Arizona immigration law.

John Ashcroft (photo by Andrew Ramonas / Main Justice)

Kris Kobach, who advised Ashcroft on immigration and border security at the Justice Department, is running for Secretary of State in Kansas. He is a constitutional law professor at University of Missouri Kansas City and has been the architect of several immigration laws, including the recent Arizona law. President Barack Obama has criticized the law and the Justice Department is considering whether to challenge it in court.

Ashcroft will speak at two events Thursday on the topic “Defending America Against Radical Islamist Terrorism.”

“As my counsel at the Justice Department, Kris Kobach had a tremendous impact,” Ashcroft told radio station WIBW. “He saw what needed to be done, and succeeded in making dramatic reforms quickly. His service to his country in the wake of 9/11 was extraordinary. He is exactly the kind of person that Kansas needs in the Secretary of State’s office. He is a resourceful man of principle who will protect the integrity of the election process. And he knows how to cut red tape to bring new jobs to Kansas.”

Kris also has a $300-an-hour contract to teach sheriff’s deputies in Maricopa County, Arizona about immigration policy.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is also at the center of an ongoing investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

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Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Roberto Villasenor, Chief of Police in Tucson, Ariz., discusses his opposition to the recent Arizona immigration law (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

Police chiefs and sheriffs with the Police Executive Research Forum met for over an hour with Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday morning to discuss their opposition to Arizona’s recently enacted immigration law.

The meeting came after a team of lawyers recommended Tuesday that the Justice Department challenge the Arizona immigration law in federal court, Fox News reported. The Attorney General’s office and several other offices are reviewing a draft of a legal challenge.

A representative from the association described the meeting as candid and frank.

“When you enact legislation that makes any subset of that community feel like they are being targeted specifically or have concerns about coming forward and talking to the police, that damages our capability to obtain information to solve the crimes that we need to work with,” Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said.

Members of the delegation told The Washington Post that they believe the Arizona law would boost crime.

“This law is the culmination of a very broken immigration system,” Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris told USA Today. “It doesn’t fix the immigration problem, it only diverts our scarce resources.”

Video of the news conference outside of the Justice Department is embedded below.

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Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

As the Justice Department weighs a court challenge to the Arizona’s new immigration law, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that inaction at the federal level has given way to state immigration policies that undermine American values and threaten public safety.

Holder’s remarks, some of his strongest yet on the issue of immigration reform, came during a speech at the Anti-Defamation League’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

The speech was largely overshadowed by the arrest of a suspect in the failed bombing attempt in Times Square and an afternoon news conference at the Justice Department announcing details of the fast-moving investigation.

In his second speech to the ADL in less than a year, Holder said the Arizona law pointed to a dangerous void created by a federal immigration system that “quite simply…must be fixed.”

“It is clear that a failure to act on the federal level is resulting in state policies that undermine our most cherished values and, quite frankly, our safety,” Holder said.

Holder’s speech comes on the heels of a New York Times/ CBS News poll showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans think immigration policies need to overhauled, and that a slim majority support the Arizona law.

The Arizona law gives police wide latitude to detain people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally and check their legal status. The law is already facing several legal challenges.

Holder’s prepared remarks on immigration are below:

[T]he Department is working with agencies across the federal government, and with Congress, to support comprehensive immigration reform in a way that “keeps faith,” as President Obama has said, “with our heritage as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”

Our commitment to preserving that heritage is one reason why we are so concerned about the immigration law recently passed in Arizona.  It is clear that a failure to act on the federal level is resulting in state policies that undermine our most cherished values and, quite frankly, our safety.

I have serious concerns about the law and its effect on the people of Arizona, citizens and noncitizens alike.  I know that, over the past few days, many of you have been encouraging your elected officials to reform our flawed immigration system – and I commend you for this work.  Quite simply, our immigration system must be fixed.

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that he has concerns about Arizona’s recently passed immigration law, calling it “unfortunate.”

Speaking at a press conference announcing the AstraZeneca settlement, Holder said he was worried that the Arizona law — which makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and goes into effect in July — could lead to potential abuse and create a wedge between law enforcement and the community.

The law was signed by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday, and President Barack Obama ordered the Justice Department to review it for potential civil rights violations.

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

The number of federal criminal cases filed in fiscal 2009 surged to its highest level since 1932, with immigration, drug and fraud cases seeing the biggest increases, according to a news release by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The annual report, which details federal filings and caseloads for the 12-month period between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, was released Tuesday, the same day as the Judicial Conference of the United States met for its biannual meeting in Washington D.C.

According to the 38-page summary of the report, the number of criminal federal cases filed in U.S. District Courts in fiscal 2009 jumped 8 percent to nearly 77,000, up from about 71,000 the year before. That number represents a 22 percent increase since 2000.

The areas that saw the largest increases include immigration, fraud, marijuana, traffic and sex offenses. (Appendix with offenses by category here)

Immigration offenses topped the list with a 21 percent increase in filings — from 21,313 in fiscal 2008 to 25,804 in fiscal 2009. Of the immigration offenses, 80 percent of the cases dealt with improper re-entry by illegal immigrants.

Drug offenses, the second large category, saw a minor increase overall. But offenses involving marijuana increased 22 percent, from 4,418 to 5,411. The rise in drug cases occurred mainly in several districts along the Southwest border with the District of Arizona, Southern District of California and Southern District of Texas all seeing a surge in drug case filings.

Fraud filings also reached a new high in fiscal 2009, with more than 8,000 new cases — an 8 percent increase over fiscal 2008 — making it the third-largest category of offenses, after immigration and drug-related offenses.

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Dennis Burke, the new U.S. Attorney in Arizona, said the immigration system in the United States is “broken” and “does not reflect economic reality.”

In an interview for a cover story in Arizona Attorney magazine, Burke also said:  ”We’ve created a market for human smuggling that accompanies an already-existing drug-smuggling industry, which flourishes in Arizona. What we have here is a third-world economy next to the most prosperous economy in the world.”

Burke is a former top aide to Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor who is now the Homeland Security secretary. Burke is also chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee border and immigration law enforcement subcommittee.

In Arizona, “we have a combination of very intense border issues that can be violent and drive a lot of the immigration debate in this country,” Burke told the magazine.

More from the interview:

“I’ve believed for a long time that a lot of it boils down to an immigration system that’s been broken. It’s less broke than it has been in the past, because resources have gone into it. But we have a visa system and caps on the number of individuals allowed into this country that have been arbitrary. The result is that the trade for and the smuggling of actual humans in and out of the country becomes an incredibly profitable business. And since it’s an illegal business, it ends up becoming very violent.”

Burke said he hopes his office can help advance comprehensive immigration reform. “We have an obligation to show that we can secure our border under the current system, so that reform can be achieved through Congress. I think the District can… lay a predicate for the fact that overall comprehensive reform can be accomplished because we’re doing our best to secure the border here.”

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Criminal prosecutions since 1989. (Courtesy of TRAC)

Federal prosecutions soared in the 2009 fiscal year, reaching a record high of 169,612.

The 9 percent increase over the previous year was driven by cases filed against immigration violators, according to Justice Department data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Immigration prosecutions shot up 15.7 percent, and amounted to more than half of all criminal cases brought by the federal government.

Meanwhile, drug, weapons and white-collar cases were up only slightly or declined.

Experts told The New York Times the jump stems from efforts during the Bush administration to step up immigration enforcement and expedite prosecutions. In addition to increasing the number of Border Patrol agents, the Bush administration launched Operation Streamline, which promoted mass processing of plea deals in immigrant cases. The Obama administration has continued the policy. The Obama administration was in power for more than two-thirds of fiscal 2009.

Immigration cases are disposed of in an average of two days, and they are rarely turned down by prosecutors. White-collar cases typically linger for about 460 days, and prosecutors reject about half those referred to them by law enforcement agencies.

In Arizona, where nearly a quarter of the immigration cases were processed, Operation Streamline has run into trouble. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over the state, recently held that the process of mass pleadings violates the federal rule that shields defendants from being coerced into a guilty plea, according to the Times.

Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who was confirmed by the Senate in September, has said border enforcement is a top priority.

Arizona is also home to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose tough enforcement of immigration laws have led to the arrest of thousands of illegal immigrants. He has been accused of unfairly targeting Latinos in his crime sweeps, traffic stops and immigration raids. Arpaio denies wrongdoing, saying his officers are simply enforcing the law.

The Justice Department has set up a telephone tip-line as part an investigation of Arpaio, known as “Sheriff Joe.”

Click here for the full NYT story, and click here for a summary of TRAC’s findings.

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Alan Bersin (gov)

Alan Bersin (gov)

President Obama on Tuesday nominated a former U.S. Attorney to head the Customs and Border Protection agency at the Department of Homeland Security, according to a DHS news release.

Alan Bersin, who is now DHS Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs, was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California from 1993 to 1998.

The CBP commissioner is responsible for leading DHS efforts to secure America’s borders. In addition, the agency oversees the enforcement of immigration, customs and drug laws. Before joining the Obama administration, Bersin in December 2006 was chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority board. In 2005, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) appointed Bersin as California’s Secretary of Education, a job he held until 2006.

While serving as a U.S. Attorney, Bersin from 1995 to 1998 was the DOJ’s special representative for the southwest border. In this role, Bersin oversaw the coordination of border law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border. He was appointed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano applauded Obama’s nomination of Bersin. “Under Alan’s leadership over the past several months, we have forged new international and domestic partnerships along our borders to strengthen security,” Napolitano said, adding, “I look forward to continuing to work with Alan in his new position, where he will lead the Department’s efforts to implement practical, innovative solutions to protect our country from threats to our national and economic security and facilitate legitimate travel and trade.”