U.S. immigration officials spread coronavirus with detainee transfers; RLG Immigration Chair Darius Amiri comments

Public health specialists have for months warned the U.S. government that shuffling detainees among immigration detention centers will expose people to COVID-19 and help spread the disease.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has continued the practice, saying it is taking all necessary precautions.
It turns out the health specialists were right, according to a Reuters review of court records and ICE data.

“ICE’s practice of transferring detainees while the COVID-19 pandemic is at its height is reckless and unnecessary. These captive populations are particularly vulnerable to the virus by virtue of crowded living conditions and limited access to sanitary products, on top of that many carriers are asymptomatic or not showing symptoms yet when they are transferred to a different facility. What is needed is a common sense, humane approach is to the treatment of ICE detainees, many of whom are not criminals and are simply detained for jurisdictional reasons, such as parole from these facilities to the custody of family members, with regular check-ins, rather than prolonged detention and exposure to a deadly virus such as this.”

~Darius Amiri, Chair of Immigration Department at Rose Law Group

Mica Rosenberg, Kristina Cooke, Reade Levinson | Reuters


RLG Immigration Chair Darius Amiri Gives Us The Update On DACA


The ICE policy that would expel international students taking online classes is being rolled back; RLG Immigration Chair Darius Amiri Comments

Taylor Borden | Business Insider

The Trump administration issued a directive on July 6 saying that international students attending schools operating entirely online may not remain in the US. Schools, according to the policy, were supposed to report their reopening plans by Wednesday.

But on Tuesday, the White House rescinded the directive in a hearing for a lawsuit that Harvard and MIT brought against Immigration and Customs Enforcement on July 8.

The cancellation of the policy came after a week of nonstop backlash. Harvard and MIT’s suit was supported by more than 200 additional universities. On Monday, 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a separate lawsuit to block the same policy.

“It’s the right move to pull back this new rule, which would have required in-person attendance during a global pandemic or risk the cancellation of student visas. 

This was yet another misguided and ill-conceived attempt by the Trump administration to frustrate our immigration system.

International students contribute billions annually to the US economy and international student attendance is decreasing every year under this Administration. Thankfully, reason prevailed here.”

~Darius Amiri, Chair of the Immigration Department at Rose Law Group



High court ruling ‘a win, but tomorrow is not a guarantee’

Farah Eltohamy and Ellie Borst | Cronkite News via Indian Country Today

PHOENIX – For almost three years, Phoenix resident Jennifer Rodriguez Garcia said she has lived with the fear immigration officials will deport her to a country she has never known and separate her from her 2-year-old daughter.

Until Thursday.

“Today I can breathe again,” Rodriguez Garcia said, after learning that the Supreme Court reversed the Trump administration’s plan to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a 2012 program that has deferred deportation for as many as 700,000 immigrants – like her.

Advocates and DACA recipients across the country celebrated the ruling, which called the administration’s decision to end the program arbitrary and capricious.

But how long that celebration will last is unclear, as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that while the administration did not follow the right steps to end the program, there was no question that it still has the authority to do so.

“Today is a win, but tomorrow is not a guarantee,” said Darius Amiri, an immigration attorney for Rose Law Group in Scottsdale.

Marisol Orihuela, who represented the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the groups fighting to save DACA, said the court’s ruling Thursday could either send the case back to lower courts, or could mean that the program reverts back to its original 2012 mandate.

“We think that the ruling is clear today that the action that took place in September of 2017 was unlawful and therefore, the effect of the ruling is that we go back to life as it was before then,” she said.

That would include the ability for new applicants to the DACA program, something that was halted after the administration announced its plan in September 2017 to “wind down” the program. Since then, only current DACA recipients have been allowed to apply for renewal.

That would be good news for Maria Garcia, an Arizona State University engineering student who was too young to apply for DACA when Trump nixed it in 2017.

“My heart was so full this morning to hear the news that DACA will not be ending,” she said Thursday in a news conference organized by Aliento, a Phoenix-based advocacy group. “But our future is still so full of uncertainty.”

Amiri said he believes that the future should include the DACA program going “back to the way it was originally conceived.”

“So I would argue that new applicants or first time applicants could benefit from the DACA program as well,” he said.

But what experts like Amiri think should or could happen did not appear to be what the administration was thinking Thursday.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles DACA renewals, said in a statement from Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow, that the court’s ruling “has no basis in law and merely delays the President’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program.”

“The fact remains that under DACA, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens continue to remain in our country in violation of the laws passed by Congress and to take jobs Americans need now more than ever,” Edlow said. “Ultimately, DACA is not a long-term solution for anyone.”

The DACA program was introduced by President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children from deportation. Besides protecting them from deportation, it allowed them to apply for work permits, drivers licenses and more.

President Donald Trump campaigned on ending the program and made good on that promise just months after taking office. That decision was quickly blocked by courts, but DACA recipients – also known as “Dreamers” – were left to wait anxiously for the case to reach the Supreme Court for a final ruling.

It was during that time in limbo that Rodriguez Garcia was wracked with worry about being separated from her daughter. “It’s not only me that I think about – it’s my daughter mostly,” she said.

Rodriguez Garcia was just 11 months old when she was brought to America, and said she had no idea she was not a citizen until she was 6 and couldn’t join her younger siblings, who were born in America, when visiting their family in Mexico.

“Having my brothers being from here, they never saw the struggle that I have gone through with the DACA program,” she said.

She could have applied in 2012, when she was a senior in high school, but fell into depression that year and dropped out, after realizing she couldn’t afford college or the fee to apply for DACA. But after encouragement from her mother, Rodriguez Garcia got her high school diploma and began working at a medical office to save up money to apply for DACA – which she did in 2014.

She got pregnant in 2017, “and that’s when Trump announced that he wanted to end DACA.”

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen? Am I going to have my baby in Mexico? Like what am I going to do?” she said. “At that time they said that DACA renewal wasn’t happening anymore, and my renewal got denied. So I didn’t have any DACA for at least five months.”

Eventually, she was able to get her DACA status back and, after today’s ruling she said she feels “more confident to keep fighting and keep going.”

“I do see a positive outcome out of this with the positive momentum that we have,” said Rodriguez Garcia, who admits to being gloomy while awaiting Thursday’s decision.

While advocates welcome the ruling, Amiri said DACA has never been seen as a long-term solution but as more of a Band-Aid.

“We all agree that DACA has always been temporary,” Amiri said. “No one is looking at this decision with any kind of finality, and I think Dreamers have never been content with just having DACA because all it is is deferred deportation and work permits in intervals of two years.”

Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said that Dreamers should begin consulting with immigration attorneys so they can stay informed and be prepared for any “potential risks” if the Trump administration takes action.



RLG Immigration Chair Darius Amiri Comments On SCOTUS DACA Decision


Arizona DACA Recipients at Forefront of COVID-19 Response

The Center for American Progress estimates that 202,500 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) work in jobs on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Arizona had the sixth most DACA recipients working on the front lines, with an estimated 6,800 individuals. These include sectors such as health care, food services, and education.

Maria Leon Peña is one of the individuals that is working on the front lines in response to COVID-19. She is a Phoenix nursing assistant and is one of an estimated 29,000 health care workers in the U.S. who are undocumented but have remained in this country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program.

Peña, now 23, came to Arizona from Mexico with her mom and a brother when she was 5. Her role involves 12-hour days in a Phoenix hospital, three days a week, where she works one-on-one with patient’s post-surgery.

People like Maria are the reason why four Arizona lawmakers wrote the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in April, urging officials there to automatically extend work authorizations for DACA recipients.

Rep. Greg Stanton of Phoenix, one of the lawmakers on the letter, said the pandemic shows just how important DACA recipients are to the Phoenix community. “We need them,” Stanton said. “We can’t successfully win this fight against the coronavirus without these essential workers, and so many of them are DACA recipients.”