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The Week in Immigration News

A roundup of the top immigration stories of the week:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that defendants in criminal cases are entitled to immigration advice, especially how their plea could affect their immigration status.
  • After RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s meeting with immigration activists and leaders from several national organizations, the two sides had very different accounts of what happened. Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a coalition of pro-immigration organizations, put out a press release after the meeting saying Steele had assured them he would commit to finding Republican support for a comprehensive immigration bill. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights had a similar story. But the RNC later rejected those claims. Writes The Wall Street Journal: “Asked about the statement, RNC spokesman Doug Heye said ‘none of it is right’ and said the meeting was an opportunity to listen to concerns and discuss the GOP’s ‘strong support of legal immigration’…’Any claim that the RNC made any policy commitments is a clear misrepresentation,’ Heye said in an email.”
  • Last month, Arizona’s state senate passed bill 1070, which is now going to the full House and would give more power to police to enforce immigration laws. It would require police officers to inquire about legal status as part of their duty when “practicable” and make it a crime to fail to carry documentation of residency status and or to harbor or transport illegal immigrants. After committee hearings to discuss the language of the bill, the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee passed an amended version of it Wednesday. But critics of the bill are now questioning its constitutionality. A writer from News Junkie Post wonders, “What would give law enforcement officials the probable cause they would need to suspect someone of being an illegal immigrant? They would either need to racially profile, because Latinos make up the vast majority of immigrants during this recent wave into America, or they would need to check everyone. Either way, the bill appears to be in direct conflict with our protection against unreasonable searches and seizures guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.”
  • Utah is taking major steps toward verifying the legal status of its residents. Utah’s three largest counties have now joined a new federal program, called Secure Communities, that will check the fingerprints of anyone who is arrested against a national immigration database to determine if they are in the country illegally. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has said that this program is aimed at the most dangerous immigrants who have committed crimes in the past. And next month, the governor of Utah will call the legislature into a special session to alter a bill that would require employers to use E-Verify, an electronic database that checks employees’ citizenship and residency, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill into law on Wednesday, but he wants to revise the legislation to make it optional for the first year before it goes into effect on July 1. As is, the bill would make the system mandatory and penalize business that don’t comply. E-Verify is the same program that fails to identify illegal immigrants 54 percent of the time.
  • A recent study has documented mistreatment of mentally ill immigrants in detention centers at every stage of the deportation process. The study, by Texas Appleseed, an advocacy group, with counsel from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, ultimately determined that there is a “lack of adequate system-wide policies or data regarding detainees with mental disabilities.” Steven Schulman, of the legal firm, said, “Immigrants with mental disabilities are being detained in a system ill-equipped to care for them and often arbitrarily transferred away from their communities, denied basic due process in a complex immigration court system, and released from detention or removed from the U.S. with little concern for their safety and well-being.” According to the Houston Chronicle, ICE is reviewing the report and is set to publish new detention standards on mental health care of detainees. Read more about this story here.
  • Although John McCain is leading in the polls for U.S. senate in Arizona, the race is heating up, especially on issues like border security and immigration. McCain’s GOP challenger, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a staunch anti-immigrant conservative, criticized McCain on those two issues during a Tea Party rally on Sunday. From Fox News: “Hayworth, a popular radio talk show host who is actively courting the backing of many Tea Party voters, said he wants to reintroduce The Enforcement First Act, a bill he sponsored during his tenure in the House to enforce existing immigration laws. In an interview with FoxNews.com, Hayworth said he’s also calling for increased manpower to patrol the border, including the National Guard and standing military. The influx of illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border has become a growing point of contention between Arizona residents and state and federal lawmakers — and an issue the Tea Party movement says could well determine the outcome of the Aug. 24 primary.”
  • The only Hispanic U.S. senator, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, talked to the staff of The Star-Ledger about a range of issues earlier this week. On immigration, Menendez said Latinos view this issue as “the civil rights issue of their generation.”

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