March 14, 2017

Controversial 'sanctuary cities' bill advances in House

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@ByKristenMClark

Communities in Florida that are considered “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants, such as Broward and Palm Beach counties, would have to do away with those practices or risk fines and other penalties from the state, under controversial legislation that passed its first legislative committee on Monday.

If the bill becomes law, county and local law enforcement agencies would also be required — at their taxpayers’ cost, with no guarantee of reimbursement — to comply with federal immigration detention requests, which are currently only optional.

Although the proposal (HB 697) easily advanced out of the House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee by a 9-5 vote, it drew unanimous opposition from at least 20 audience members who spoke — including immigrant advocates.

More here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

March 10, 2017

Miramar mayor proposes 'safe zone' policy in response to Trump immigration enforcement

Messamandclinton

@amysherman1

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam has proposed that the city create a "safe zone" for undocumented immigrants in response to President Donald Trump's immigration ban.

Messam brought up his proposal during a March 8 commission meeting to require federal immigration agents to have a warrant to enter city-owned facilities and voluntary pre-kindergarten schools for immigration enforcement purposes.

"We want to make sure that our parents at least, regardless of their immigration status, that is one less fear that they have -- in regards to the prospect of their child being disrupted due to what we have seen going on across the country," Messam said at the meeting.

The commission didn't vote on his proposal but no one objected to Messam's request for city attorneys to draft the resolution. It wasn't clear when the commission will vote on the resolution but the next meeting is March 29.

The city resolution follows a vote earlier this week by the Broward school board to become a safe zone for immigrant students and their parents and the Miami-Dade school board plans to vote on a similar resolution March 15. Broward County approved a resolution showing support for diversity without mentioning immigration enforcement or creating any sanctuary policy. 

Such safe zone policies being pursued by Broward politicians, many of them Democrats, are in response to immigration enforcement actions and promises by Trump

The safe zone policies may not lead to any practical changes for federal officials because many such facilities aren't known for immigration raids -- U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement already has policies that generally protect school sites from enforcement actions. But the policies allow politicians to go on record opposing Trump's immigration plans.

Messam, the son of Jamaican immigrants, was elected in 2015 as mayor in Miramar, a city where about 44 percent of the population is foreign born. A Democrat, Messam was a surrogate to Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign in Florida and South Carolina.

Photo by Gregory F. Reed of former President Bill Clinton, center, and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, right, attending a September meeting of faith and community leaders at the Miramar Cultural Center and a tour of city hall.

March 09, 2017

Curbelo files new DREAM Act in Congress

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@PatriciaMazzei

Bolstered by the White House’s apparent interest in protecting at least one group of unauthorized immigrants, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Thursday re-filed legislation that would allow people brought illegally as children to remain in the country.

The “Recognizing America's Children Act” would offer an eventual path to U.S. citizenship to immigrants who entered illegally before Jan. 1, 2012, and were 16 years old or younger.

The legislation is essentially a new version of the DREAM Act, which failed in the Senate in 2010. Curbelo first proposed the bill last June, as he was running for reelection to Florida’s swing 26th congressional district.

He said he’s bringing it back because President Donald Trump, in his executive order on immigration, left in place the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — known as DACA — which shields so-called DREAMers from deportation.

“This White House has sent a very strong message by preserving the executive order that protects these young people,” Curbelo said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “We know that they’ve been very aggressive when it comes to immigration policy, so it certainly stands out that they have left the DACA executive order untouched.”

More here.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

March 01, 2017

Miami-Dade's Trump-friendly detention policy faces first legal challenge

James Lacroix mugshotvia @DavidOvalle305

Haitian national James Lacroix pleaded guilty Tuesday to the minor crime of driving with a suspended license, ending his criminal case after more than seven weeks spent behind bars.

But Lacroix didn’t walk out of a Miami-Dade jail.

Instead, jailers kept him in custody under the county’s controversial decision to detain immigrants slated for deportation by federal authorities, even if their sentences have been finished. Lacroix has been ordered deported to Haiti, not for any violent crimes, but apparently because of a long history of driving without a valid license

In the latest ripple effect from the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, a Miami-Dade judge has set a Thursday hearing to explore the legal authority the county jail has for keeping Lacroix behind bars.

It will be the first legal challenge to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s much-derided decision to begin cooperating with federal agents who have been empowered under President Donald Trump to dramatically step up deportations — actions that have generated protests across the nation, including in Miami-Dade, where Gimenez in January cited the threat of losing federal funding as a reason to cooperate with immigration agents.

“We don’t believe the federal government has the right to tell the state of Florida to spend money to keep someone jailed, to spend money to enforce their unconstitutional policies,” Lacroix’s lawyers, Philip Reizenstein and Kristen Kawass, said in a statement.

More here.

February 28, 2017

At least one Miami Republican is 'ready' to work with Trump on immigration reform

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@PatriciaMazzei

When news broke Tuesday that President Trump had told television news anchors he might be open to comprehensive immigration reform legislation -- including granting legal status to some of the unauthorized immigrants already in the country -- one Miami Republican steeped in the issue quickly praised the president and offered to help.

"I am very encouraged by President Trump's recent comments on immigration reform," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said in a statement.

In 2013, Diaz-Balart helped lead the effort to pass immigration reform in the House, but the legislation was never taken up for a vote.

"It is no secret our country has a broken immigration system," Diaz-Balart continued. "I have said many times that we must come together from both sides of the aisle to find a commonsense solution on immigration reform. It is extremely disappointing that many from both the left and right extremes are quick to criticize the President's willingness to work with Congress to fix our immigration system. This kind of political gimmickry is unnecessary and unhelpful to a bipartisan, legislative solution.

"I continue to believe this legislation must strengthen our borders, adhere to the rule of law, offer a permanent and humane solution to those living in the shadows, bolster our economy, and modernize our antiquated visa system. I remain committed and ready to work with the White House and congressional colleagues from both sides of the aisle."

Photo credit: Matias J. Ocner, Miami Herald

February 27, 2017

Worried about potential deportations, Miami Venezuelans write to Trump

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via @jimwyss

An association of Venezuelan exiles in Miami on Monday asked the Trump administration for “migratory relief,” saying that sending their members back to Venezuela could be “condemning them to death.”

In a letter sent to President Trump and to the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security, the organization, called Politically Persecuted Venezuelans Abroad, or Veppex, said Venezuela’s political situation needs to be taken into account when considering deportations.

“The chaotic situation in Venezuela, where human rights are not respected and criminals control the institutions, has turned Venezuela into a failed state whose authorities are the main threat against its citizens,” Veppex Vice President Henry Clement wrote.

Clement also asked the Trump administration “to study the possibility of a migratory relief for the thousands of Venezuelans who are in the United States seeking refuge and asylum fleeing from the ferocious dictatorship that rules the country.”

As of 2013, some 248,000 Venezuelans lived in the United States, according to the PEW Research Center, amid a migratory wave driven by that nation’s economic, political and social chaos. Since then, the economic crisis in Venezuela has worsened, with continuing food and medicine shortages. And earlier this month, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s vice president accusing him of being a major drug trafficker.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

February 26, 2017

Here's why it's so difficult to be a Syrian refugee in South Florida

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@PatriciaMazzei @NickNehamas @karadapena

For decades, South Florida has welcomed wave after wave of people fleeing political and economic unrest in their home countries. Cubans. Haitians. Nicaraguans. Colombians. In a region awash with exiles, you would think it would be easy to accommodate the latest swell of refugees.

Tell that to a Syrian.

The number of Syrian refugees coming to Florida has spiked in recent years, as the U.S. has started to accept more people escaping the war-torn Middle Eastern nation. But resettling these newest immigrants has proven challenging for aid agencies, charities and volunteers who help the new arrivals. Syrians don’t have a large community of their countrymen awaiting them — or many Arabic speakers with whom they can communicate.

“Life without language is very hard,” Kamar Byrkdar, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who arrived in Broward County five months ago with her husband and two children, said through an interpreter. “We want to be able to improve our English so that we’re able to stand on our own two feet.”

When the Byrkdars arrived, after a three-year wait in Lebanon, they had work permits, Medicaid and an apartment west of Fort Lauderdale. But it took three months, Byrkdar said, for anyone to show them how to enroll their kids in school. She and her husband didn’t know how to buy bus fare, much less how to navigate routes. Byrkdar learned where she could sign up for English classes only three weeks ago. Her children remain anxious around the police, whom they associate with war.

Now they have to contend with the emotional stress of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which barred entry into the U.S. for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees, and prohibited refugees from all other countries for 120 days.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

February 24, 2017

PolitiFact: A look at Trump's progress on immigration promises

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via @miriamvalverde

In his administration’s earliest weeks, President Donald Trump has worked to deliver on major campaign promises that could impact millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

Trump’s immigration policy as commander in chief has mostly been in line with his campaign rhetoric. A flurry of executive orders cast a wide net for people who will become deportation priorities and authorized the construction of a border wall with Mexico.

But Trump has held back on at least one promise for which he pledged prompt action: Recipients of a deferred action program Trump said he would terminate immediately for now have seen no changes.

Here’s a rundown of some major issues outlined in Trump’s executive orders and in implementation memos issued by Homeland Security, the department tasked with enforcing immigration laws.

Border wall planning in early stages

Trump’s promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is In the Works. An executive order signed Jan. 25 directs the DHS secretary to "take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border."

In an implementation memo issued Feb. 20, DHS Secretary John Kelly instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to consult with other executive departments and agencies on the immediate planning, design, construction and maintenance of the border wall. The memo directs the use of materials originating in the United States "to the maximum extent permitted by law."

Border Patrol is assessing priority areas where a wall or similar physical barriers can be built, DHS said. The department has identified locations near El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; and El Centro, Calif., for wall construction as the fencing in place is "no longer effective."

Currently, there are 702 miles of fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. It includes 652 miles of primary fencing, 36 miles of secondary fencing and 14 miles of tertiary fencing, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Keep reading Miriam Valverde's story from PolitiFact.

Miami-Dade and Broward schools to keep transgender protections

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via @KyraGurney

The Miami-Dade and Broward school districts plan to keep protections for transgender students in place despite a change in federal policy.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced an end to federal protections that allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity. The administration is now leaving it up to states and school districts to determine such policies, lifting Obama-era federal guidelines that directed schools to treat students according to their gender identity, rather than their biological sex, or risk losing federal funds.

In South Florida, school administrators say LGBTQ students do not need to worry. Transgender students in Miami-Dade and Broward are still protected under the districts’ anti-discrimination policies, which were put in place before the Obama administration issued its directive last year.

More here.

Photo credit: Elaine Thompson, Associated Press

February 23, 2017

Trump labor pick Acosta espoused moderate immigration views

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@PatriciaMazzei

About a month before Donald Trump — then merely a celebrity real-estate mogul — completed the purchase of the Doral Resort & Spa, the hotel hosted a conference of the Hispanic Leadership Network, a fledgling Republican group created to grow the party’s Latino outreach.

A discussion titled “Immigration Policy and the Hispanic Workforce” featured four prominent Republicans urging lawmakers to pursue comprehensive immigration legislation. One of the panelists was the dean of Florida International University’s law school, Alex Acosta.

“We need someone that’s going to say we have to enact comprehensive immigration solutions,” Acosta said at the Jan. 27, 2012, conference. “Part of that means figuring out what we do with all the individuals that are already in our nation. We need them here. They provide construction jobs. They provide agricultural jobs. We need to figure out a way to address that.

“We need to figure out a way to then have a pathway to further future legal immigration. And if we don’t take it all at once, we’re not going to solve it, because you can’t solve part of it without solving the other part. You can’t address immigration without answering what do you do with individuals that are already in the United States.”

Acosta is now President Trump’s second nominee for labor secretary. And if the experience of Andy Puzder, Trump’s first nominee, is any indication, Acosta’s moderate immigration views could be problematic ahead of his confirmation hearing.

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald