undocumented immigrants

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Homeland Security Casts Wide Net Over Undocumented Immigrants

The new immigration enforcement directive casts a wide net over undocumented immigrants in the U.S. /ICE

The Department of Homeland Security Tuesday cast a wide net over undocumented immigrants in a new enforcement directive that broadened the categories of who is subject to  apprehension and potentially deportation.

The move is likely to exacerbate the fear and anxiety running through immigrant communities since Donald Trump was elected president.

One man at an immigration meeting with newly minted Congressman Darren Soto said it felt like “it’s attack after attack.”

The DHS directive is in response to a January 25 executive order by President Trump, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”

Broad Categories

Because it is so broad just about anybody can be stopped, questioned, detained and deported, including undocumented immigrants who:

 (I) have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(2) have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;

(3) have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(4) have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency;

(5) have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

(6) are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States;

or (7) in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

Categories (2) and (3) make it clear that the directive doesn’t target only undocumented individuals convicted of a crime, as former President Barack Obama‘s previous priority did, but the undocumented can be detained and removed if they are charged but not yet convicted of a crime, a potential opening for lawyers to challenge as that provision may violate due process.

Shift in Approach

The directive represents a wholesale shift in thinking and approach about how to handle the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants in the U.S., many of whom are Latinos. Previous estimates indicated that fewer than 1 million undocumented immigrants remained in the country who had been convicted of crimes which made them deportable.

Under Obama’s eight-year administration, nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants were deported, an unprecedented number, prompting some critics to label him the “Deporter in Chief.”

The new enforcement action aims at all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States – with the exception of the undocumented children and parents who fall under Obama’s “deferred action” programs.

Exemption for DACA and DAPA

The exemptions of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for  Parental Arrivals (DAPA) are the sole bright spots in an otherwise bearish immigration enforcement directive.

DACA and DAPA beneficiaries total about 4 million.

To ensure enforcement, the directive also calls for hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, nearly doubling the current number and boosting the likelihood of a run-in with ICE.

Many Latinos – undocumented or not, citizen or permanent resident or not – have a higher chance of being stopped and questioned as immigration agents search for the undocumented among us.

Immigrant Profiling

Farmworker advocate Tirso Moreno likened it to a form of profiling during Congressman Soto’s immigration community meeting.  Moreno also raised the issue of potential “bullying in the streets” of people stopped at traffic signals, for instance.

“I realize it’s not going to be easy,” Soto replied.

Soto added that lawsuits are likely as there are “many institutions that are ready to step up,” referring to colleges and universities that have indicated they are not going to comply with immigration orders.

Miami-Dade County has taken the opposite course, as its County Commission voted last week to end its status as a sanctuary for immigrants and agreed to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Miami-Dade has the largest population of immigrants in Florida.

Florida Ranks Third in Undocumented Immigrants

According to Pew Research, Florida ranks third in the nation for undocumented immigrants,  placing the state behind California and Texas. The Center for Migration Policy estimates there are over 700,000 undocumented immigrants in Florida.

Plus, about two-thirds of those undocumented did not cross the southern border with Mexico, as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has indicated. They entered the country legally but overstayed their visas, considered a civil offense.

About 66 percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrant adults have been in the country at least a decade, the Pew Research reported, making them long-term residents.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Miami-Dade Pulls Sanctuary Welcome Mat

A border patrol agent watches over undocumented immigrant detainees in a holding facility before they are deported. This is the scenario that awaits many undocumented immigrants in Miami-Dade County now that the county has ended its sanctuary status.  /U.S. Border Patrol

Miami-Dade County officially reversed course on being a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, the first in the nation to do so, a decision that is an affront to the county’s history as a place that welcomes  immigrants.

In a special meeting and by a vote of 9 to 3 – not even close – the Miami-Dade County Commission, itself populated with immigrants and children of immigrants, voted to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, hoping to safeguard millions in federal funds that the Trump administration has threatened to withhold.

Damning of all – six of seven Latinos on the County Commission voted to end sanctuary status. Only former Mayor Xavier Suárez voted against it.

Latinos Vote for No Sanctuary

Of the six who voted fore the measure about four were born in Cuba, whose immigrants until recently enjoyed a privileged status, with the U.S. government providing a direct route to financial assistance, permanent residency and eventually American citizenship. Barack Obama ended the practice, known as “wet-foot, dry-foot,” in one of his last acts as president.

“This is a day that will define Miami-Dade County for the future,” said Commissioner Jean Monestime, who is the board’s first Haitian-American member. “Today cannot be about money, Mr. Mayor. It must be about justice. It must be about dignity,” Monestine said, as reported in the Miami Herald.

Monestime was referring to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who in January initiated the change, arguing that Miami-Dade had never been a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. He further stated that Miami-Dade had never stopped cooperating with federal immigration officials.

Absorb Immigrants

But Miami-Dade is a region that accepted and absorbed – if not exactly welcomed – tens of thousands of immigrants, many of them undocumented. At no time more so than in 1980 when 125,000 immigrants from Cuba’s Mariel port landed on South Florida shores in the span of just a six months. That’s a rate of arrival of 21,000 per month. Anyone who was alive and aware at that time remembers the crisis.

Miami-Dade is 65 percent Latino, of which 54 percent is Cuban, according to census data.  But after Mariel the county also became more ethnically diverse, as political tumult coursed  through the veins of Central and South America.

The county now includes Colombians (7 percent of Latinos), Nicaraguans (6.6 percent), Dominicans and Hondurans (each nearly 4 percent) Venezuelans (3 percent) – to say nothing of Haitians (70 percent of Miami-Dade West Indians), who were turned away at sea even as Cubans were being welcomed to Miami-Dade with open arms.

They were all mostly poor, perhaps persecuted, tired, hungry and yearning to breathe free. This is what makes the Miami-Dade County Commission’s vote galling.

Residents Voice Opposition

Mayor Gimenez feigned his own brand of outrage, saying “Yo soy inmigrante” (I am an immigrant), in answer to the opposition, as if it made the measure easier to swallow.

It did not.

To the credit of Miami-Dade residents, about 150 jammed the County Commission chamber to tell their immigrant stories and denounce the move. According to the Miami-Herald, activists had protested in front of county headquarters for weeks. Only a small number supported the move. Residents at the meeting chanted “Shame on you!” as they left the chamber.

“The last four weeks have been so difficult for me and so difficult for everyone,” said Nora Sandigo, an immigration activist.

Not Personal but Financial

Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, born in Cuba and educated in Puerto Rico, justified the decision. “We’re all immigrants. We all have very sad stories,” said Sosa, according to the Miami-Herald, adding that Miami-Dade’s decision was not personal but financial, affecting only those booked on local charges.

Don’t bet on it.

The no-sanctuary vote will affect many more people. “Every single day something is happening in the neighborhood,” said Sandigo, the immigration activist.

It’s personal.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

2016 Comes to an End with a Bang

The year 2016 is coming to an end with a bang on many fronts. Let’s turn to a few less obvious but newsy items that merit attention for their importance.

Pulse

From the first news of the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, a tug of war erupted between the LGBTQ and Latino communities over who would take the lead in speaking for the 49 victims, most of whom were Hispanic, many of them Puerto Rican.

The LGBTQ community won the struggle, as evidenced by the six-month anniversary of the shooting at the Orange County History Center, where the Hispanic component of the shooting was nearly absent.

As reported in Orlando Latino, the ceremony host  “forgot” to acknowledge the Pulse victims. Not one of the survivors or family members was called to the podium. Not one. The host mentioned only in passing that the history center opened a display of the tributes to Pulse collected from around town.

Government and others have now also buried the grass roots efforts that took place in the Latino community to help survivors and families, where groups such as Somos Orlando offered – and continues to offer – mental health counseling to the affected community.

But the Hispanic community has not been totally forgotten. In an Orlando Sentinel poll conducted before the six-month anniversary, 21 percent said Pulse was an attack of terrorism, an attack against gays and Hispanics (italics mine). That was up from 13 percent in June.

Full disclosure: I was named to the board of Somos Orlando but have resigned this month.

Latinos Elected

Newly elected Cong. Darren Soto

Central Florida has about 11 Latino elected officials as a result of the 2016 elections, including Darren Soto, the first Florida Puerto Rican in Congress. About five are a net gain, meaning a Hispanic did not previously hold the seat.

Here are the winners:  Víctor Torres, former state representative to state senator, District 15; Bob Cortés, re-elected to House District 30; John Cortés, re-elected to House District 43; René Plasencia, re-elected to the State House but representing a new area: District 50; Amy Mercado elected to House District 48 previously occupied by her father Víctor Torres; Carlos Guillermo Smith elected to District 49; Emily Bonilla elected to the Orange County Commission, District 5; Armando Ramirez, re-elected as Clerk of the Court of Osceola County; José Alvarez elected the first Hispanic mayor of Kissimmee; and Olga González, elected to Kissimmee City Commission Seat 1.

Early Voting

An important lesson about early voting in the presidential election:  About 70 percent of all Florida votes were cast before election day but the latest analyses indicate there is no correlation between early voting and higher voter turnout.

Early voting simply changed the way people voted, which is important for organizers to keep in mind for future elections.

Undocumented Immigrants

President Barack Obama will have deported more than 2.75 million undocumented immigrants by the time he leaves office in several weeks, the highest number of any president – and some presidents combined, earning Obama the moniker of “Deporter in Chief.”

Of those deported, 84 percent had criminal records. That leaves over 820,000 of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions. If Trump delivers on his promise, there won’t be as many undocumented immigrants with criminal records to deport.

Obamacare

One of every five people or 20 percent enrolled in Obamacare lives in Florida, the highest percentage of any state. That’s over 1.3 million people, which is going to make it difficult for Washington to undo the Affordable Care Act without causing massive healthcare headaches for millions of people without other health care recourses.

There would be up to 800,000 more Obamacare customers in Florida if the state had expanded Medicaid, a key component of the health care act.

As of December 19, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services reports about, 6.4 million people had signed up for Obamacare for 2017, or about 2 million more than the year before, indicating that Obamacare has become more – not less – relevant.

Puerto Rico Financial Crisis

At year end, the new fiscal control board that’s poised to take over Puerto Rico in 2017 projected the island’s financial predicament is worse than had been reported, which was already pretty bad.

Puerto Rico Gov.-elect Ricky Rosselló.

As reported in Orlando Latino, Puerto Rico’s projected 10-year deficit is $67 billion, or $10 billion higher than originally stated and nearly as much as the island and its public agencies owe bondholders.

Gov.-elect Ricky Rosselló must present a balanced budget, which would be a first in decades, requiring significant government cutbacks as well as deep reforms to keep the island economy from toppling completely.

Bottom line for Florida: The pain is likely to send more economic migrants to the Sunshine State, continuing a dramatic shift in the state’s Latino population. Puerto Ricans number over 1 million in Florida, compared with about 1.3 million Cubans, the state’s largest Latino group.

Zika

The final Zika numbers for Puerto Rico fell short of earlier predictions but are still alarming. The Puerto Rico Health Department reports nearly 36,000 islanders contracted mosquito-borne Zika, accounting for the lion’s share of locally transmitted cases under the U.S. flag.

Only 216 local cases were reported in the 50 states, with Florida making up 210 of those.

Zika can cause birth defects such as microcephaly in pregnant women. About 2,500 island women were infected in 2016, which is significantly below the 43,000 cases per year that were projected for Puerto Rico, as reported earlier in Orlando Latino.

Of those 2,500 cases only seven (7 ) resulted in infants with birth defects. The island has projected 1,000 fewer births this year due to Zika.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor