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Trump Administration Sued Over Major Shift In Asylum Policy

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Civil liberties groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco to block the Trump administration from returning asylum seekers to Mexico while their cases wind through U.S. immigration courts.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups said in the suit filed Thursday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that the policy puts asylum seekers in danger and violates U.S. immigration law.

Homeland Security officials didn’t immediately comment on the lawsuit, but have said the policy is crucial to manage the crush of asylum seekers at the border.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 asylum seekers from Central America.

It says the new policy is indiscriminately sending people to regions in Mexico experiencing record levels of violence.

Read the lawsuit filed here.

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US Supreme Court Backs Trump In 7-2 Decision On Deporting Asylum Seekers

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USA Today reports:

The Supreme Court handed a green light Thursday to the Trump administration in its effort to speed up the removal of those seeking asylum. The court ruled that asylum seekers claiming fear of persecution abroad do not have to be given a federal court hearing before quick removal from the United States.

The decision was written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito. Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

The case, one of many to come before the high court involving the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration, concerned Sri Lanka native Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam. He was arrested 25 yards north of the Mexican border and immediately placed in expedited removal proceedings.

Read the US Supreme Court’s ruling in DHS v. Thuraissigiam here or below.

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Supreme Court Rules Trump Improperly Ended DACA, Allows Program To Stay In Place

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(HuffPost) — The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, will remain in place, keeping nearly 650,000 undocumented young people safe from deportation, thanks to a ruling on Thursday by the Supreme Court. 

The court ruled that President Donald Trump wrongly ended DACA. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the 5-4 decision. While the ruling leaves the door open for Trump to rescind the program in the future, it leaves it in place for now ― a huge relief for hundreds of thousands of people. 

The decision affects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, often called Dreamers, and are currently able to remain under the Obama-era program. DACA has been life-changing for these undocumented immigrants, removing the looming threat of deportation and allowing them to work legally under permits that must be renewed every two years. But President Donald Trump, along with Republican allies, argued that President Barack Obama had overstepped his authority in creating DACA, and Trump announced plans in 2017 to end the program.

Legal challenges kept the program in place, and in the meantime, DACA recipients were allowed to renew their status. It allowed them to find better jobs, increase their earnings and get driver’s licenses. They pay taxes and buy homes. Some have children who are U.S. citizens. An estimated 29,000 DACA recipients are working in health care, some of them on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, as pro-DACA groups pointed out in a supplemental brief filed with the Supreme Court in April. (Although the justices heard oral argument in the DACA case in November, they agreed to consider this new information as well.)

The court ultimately ruled that the then-acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, violated the Administrative Procedure Act when she terminated the program by failing to consider important matters, including “what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.” Roberts wrote that the decision should be sent back to DHS to reconsider. 

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts writes in the opinion. “‘The wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ … We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. … That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”

Most of the Republican-appointed justices on the court disagreed with the ruling.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent.

Like his predecessor, Trump has taken executive actions on immigration without congressional approval. Early in his presidency, Trump barred people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the country, following up on a campaign promise to ban Muslims from coming to the United States. The Supreme Court ultimately allowed a watered-down version of that ban to go into effect. In April of this year, Trump issued another order limiting legal immigration, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and related economic slowdown necessitated it. 

The inherent argument from the Trump White House seemed to be that a president ― or at least this president ― can do whatever he wants on immigration so long as the end result is keeping people out. 

Obama announced DACA in June 2012 at the urging of Dreamers, Latino organizations and many Democratic lawmakers. The program was an effort to use executive action to grant protections to young undocumented immigrants whom Congress had long failed to protect. It is open to those who entered before the age of 16 and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 (the day the program was created) and does not cover people who have committed a felony or serious misdemeanors. The Obama administration and DACA supporters argued that the program is permissible as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, allowing authorities to focus on deporting others.

While Trump is likely to decry the court for blocking one of his policies, it’s also something of a political gift. The majority of voters back legal status for undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children, meaning throwing them back into limbo ahead of the 2020 election would likely be unpopular. And although White House officials and some Republicans have said they’d act to help Dreamers if the Supreme Court allowed Trump to rescind DACA, there’s plenty of past precedent that indicates they wouldn’t. 

While politicians from both parties have said that people who came to the U.S. as kids shouldn’t be punished, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly blocked measures to help them. The Dream Act, a bill initially proposed in 2001 to give Dreamers a path to citizenship, failed most recently in 2010. In 2013, House Republicans blocked broader immigration reform that would have given many undocumented people the opportunity to gain citizenship, even after the legislation passed in the Senate

Trump’s election in 2016, after a campaign defined by his vilification of immigrants, effectively doomed the chances for progress on major immigration reform. The president has occasionally given lip service to supporting efforts to protect Dreamers, including tweeting in November that if the Supreme Court allowed him to end DACA, “a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”

In practice, though, he has conditioned potential support for Dreamer protections on the passage of his own priorities, such as funding a border wall, limiting access to asylum and changing the legal immigration process. Republicans, even those who state support for Dreamers, also largely back tying protections to broader immigration reform.

Trump has also disparaged Dreamers. In the same November tweet saying he would make a deal for DACA recipients to stay in the U.S., Trump wrote: “Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals.”

During oral arguments last fall in the case known as Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh indicated they might side with the administration. Roberts suggested that the program could be phased out and that ending it wouldn’t put DACA recipients at risk of deportation. 

“The whole thing was about work authorization and these other benefits,” Roberts said. “Both administrations [Trump and Obama] have said they’re not going to deport the people.”

But that was no guarantee. While some Trump administration officials have said DACA recipients wouldn’t be priorities for deportation should they lose their protected status, Trump ended other Obama administration policies prioritizing some immigrants for deportation over others. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has reopened removal cases against DACA recipients, and ICE acting director Matthew Albence confirmed in January that if individuals “get ordered removed and DACA is done away with by the Supreme Court, we can actually effectuate those removal orders.”

In early June, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a longtime advocate for Dreamers, asked the head of ICE’s deportation arm whether it would carry out removal of DACA recipients, should the program be eliminated. The answer was yes. 

Henry Lucero, director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, told Durbin in a hearing that there are no current plans on the matter and that orders for removal come from immigration judges or, in certain cases, agencies that carried out the arrest.

“ICE carries out those lawful orders and will continue to do so,” Lucero said.

The Supreme Court decision comes at a particularly painful time for people of color, especially Black people, in the United States, amid nationwide protests over police violence. While the majority of DACA recipients are Hispanic or Latino, nearly 11,000 people with the protections are from countries in which most immigrants to the U.S. are Black, according to the Center for American Progress.

Read the US Supreme Court’s DACA ruling here or below.

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California Sanctuary Law Will Not Be Challenged By President Trump, US Supreme Court Rules

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WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times) —  The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the Trump administration’s challenge to a California “sanctuary” law, leaving intact rules that prohibit law enforcement officials from aiding federal agents in taking custody of immigrants as they are released from jail.

Only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. voted to hear the administration’s appeal.

The court’s action is a major victory for California in its long running battle with President Trump.

At issue was a clash between federal power and states’ rights.

The Trump administration’s challenge was launched by former Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions. He insisted California was unconstitutionally interfering with federal immigration enforcement. But the Supreme Court, in a decision written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, has said state and local officials are not obliged to carry out federal enforcement. That state’s rights doctrine appears to have prevailed. Even Trump’s two appointees — Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — refused to hear the administration’s appeal.

The court also refused to hear several cases involving gun rights and police immunity. The justices for now appear unready to reconsider past rulings that gave the states ample authority to regulate guns and to shield police from lawsuits.

Trump’s lawyers said the federal government has exclusive authority over immigrants, and they said the state is obstructing federal enforcement of the law.

“Aliens are present and may remain in the United States only as provided for under the auspices of federal immigration law,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in his appeal. “It therefore is the United States, not California, that ‘retains the right’ to set the conditions under which aliens in this country may be detained, released, and removed. As a result of SB 54, criminal aliens have evaded the detention and removal that Congress prescribed, and have instead returned to the civilian population, where they are disproportionately likely to commit additional crimes.”

In response, California’s lawyers argued the Constitution’s 10th Amendment makes clear that state officials need not enforce a federal law. They relied in part on a 1997 opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia which held that federal authorities may not “commandeer” state or local officials to carry out a federal law. In that case, Printz vs. United States, the high court said local sheriffs could not be required to conduct background checks on buyers of hand guns.

The same principle applies when enforcing federal immigration law, said California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra in defense of the law. “SB 54 regulates the use of the state’s own resources. It establishes the conditions under which state and local law enforcement agencies may deploy public funds and personnel to assist with federal immigration enforcement,” he wrote.

California’s lawyers also stressed that the state cooperates with federal agents if they have a judicial warrant or if the immigrants are being held for serious or violent crimes, including prisoners who are serving time in the state system. system.

The case was called United States vs. California. The state Legislature adopted the California Values Act in 2017 after the Trump administration stepped up enforcement against immigrants living illegally in this country. State lawmakers said they were concerned that “local entanglement in federal immigration enforcement threatens trust between California’s immigrant community and state and local law enforcement agencies.” If so, immigrants will “fear approaching police when they are victims of, and witnesses to, crimes, jeopardizing public safety for all Californians,” the state’s lawyers said.

The Trump administration, led by Sessions, filed suit against California seeking to having the state law declared invalid. But a federal judge in Sacramento and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused and ruled state and local officials were not obstructing federal agents. “Refusing to help not the same as impeding,” said U.S. District Judge John Mendez.

While the state’s lawyers rely on conservative precedents upholding states’ rights, Trump’s lawyers rely on a liberal ruling by the Supreme Court in 2012 that sided with the Obama administration and voided much of an Arizona law that would have empowered local police to arrest and detain immigrants in the country illegally.

In Arizona vs. United States, the high court stressed then that immigration enforcement is a federal matter. Quoting that opinion, Francisco said the “supremacy of the national power” in immigration enforcement was “made clear by the Constitution.”

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