UMass Law Review Hosts an Immigration Law Symposium

Immigration has become a divisive issue for our nation. At the end of 2016, NBC news identified immigration as one of eight issues that would shape politics in 2016. After the election of President Donald J. Trump, immigration became a hotly debated issue as the President threatened to withhold federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities. The problem is that sanctuary city is not defined in law. Nonetheless, it prompted hundreds of cities and towns, including several in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to offer “sanctuary” for immigrants who came to this country illegally. These cities vowed not to prosecute otherwise law abiding immigrants. Meanwhile, President Trump moved quickly once in office to institute a travel ban barring refugees from seven Muslim countries for 120 days and suspending travel from these countries for 90 days. The order was effective against foreign visitors and permanent U.S. residents. A day later, a federal judge in New York issued an emergency stay of the order allowing for the release of travelers with visas at U.S. airports and stopping deportations of travelers. Following this, several states took legal action against the President claiming that the ban will cause “irreparable harm.” On February 3rd, a federal judge out of Washington issued a temporary restraining order suspending the ban nationwide. On February 9th, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals heard the appeal and refused to reinstate the travel ban arguing that the government had not shown that irreparable injury would be caused by the stay.

The back and forth continued in March as the President signed a new executive order, but it met a similar fate at Federal District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland. Then a few weeks later, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge ruled that the order was justified. The order is currently in limbo right now but it is very possible that it may go before the Supreme Court.

As a result, the University of Massachusetts Law Review has decided to take on this topic for our annual law school symposium. The event entitled, The Immigration Symposium: Beyond the Wall, is scheduled for April 6th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will not only discuss the legal intricacies of this complex topic but it will also mark the American Bar Association’s Law Day which focuses on the 14th Amendment this year. It will also mark a milestone for the University: the 15th anniversary of the Immigration Law Clinic, which provides free legal assistance to individuals with immigration matters.

The event will start with a light breakfast at 8 a.m. This will be followed by an alumni panel from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. featuring local immigration attorneys who graduated from the University of Massachusetts School of Law and participated in the Immigration Clinic. At 10 a.m. the discussion will continue as we zero in on the topic of sanctuary cities featuring Sheriff Hodgson, Mayor Curtatone of Somerville, Councilwoman Emily Norton of Newton, and Sarand Sekhavat, the Federal Policy Director for Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. This has been a hotly debated issue in Massachusetts and has made headlines in both the Boston Globe and the New York Times. Mayor Curtatone, most notably, being one of the first mayors to announce that his city would be a sacntuary city and forego federal funding if it came down to it. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials like Sheriff Hodgson of Dartmouth, Massachusetts shot back saying we should prosecute illegal immigrants to the full extent of the law. The panel promises to be lively as well as informative and balanced.

The third panel of the day (11:30-12:30) will feature three subject matter experts on the Middle East and refugees discussing issues surrounding the travel ban. We will talk to immigration attorney Subhan Tariq about practicing in the field as a Muslim attorney. He will also weigh in on the legal implications of the travel ban. We will also check in with Dr. Joseph Roberts of Roger Williams University. Dr. Roberts is a Middle Eastern expert who will discuss the implications of the travel ban in an international context. Lastly, a representative from the Massachusetts Bar Association will join us to discuss local efforts to overturn and challenge the travel ban.

The keynote speaker at the event will be former Congressman Barney Frank. Congressman Frank will weigh in on both the President’s policy on sanctuary cities and his recent executive orders concerning immigration. He will discuss the future of our nation and immigration as well as some of the circumstances leading up to President Trump’s immigration crackdown. Congressman Frank will speak at 12:45 p.m. Then the event will conclude with lunch and refreshments.

Recent SJC Case Will Aid Immigrant Children Between the Ages of 18 and 21 in Massachusetts

Since 2014, the United States has seen over 160,000 unaccompanied immigrant children reach its borders. (See Improving the Protection and Fair Treatment of Unaccompanied Children September 2016, available at: https://supportkind.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/KIND-Protection-and-Fair-Treatment-Report_September-2016-FINAL.pdf.). These children face multiple challenges and horrors that force them to flee their home countries. According to the legal representation organization Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), there is a particularly large flow of unaccompanied children from Central America. From gang and drug related violence, to sexual assault and rape, children from this region often make their way to the U.S. hoping to just find a place to feel safe. Countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are among some of the most dangerous and violence-ridden countries in the world.

So, what happens to such a child once they reach our borders? Well, Congress enacted the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and included a provision that created a path for citizenship for immigrant children. The journey begins with obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). To acquire SIJS, the child must first be found by a state juvenile court to be: (1) a dependent on the juvenile court; (2) her reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment; and (3) it is not in her best interests to return to her country of origin. Once these findings are made, an application for SIJS may be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency. An application for SIJS must be submitted before the child’s twenty-first (21) birthday.

It is at this juncture that some immigrant children face a huge issue in most states, including Massachusetts. Children seeking SIJS must first obtain an order from the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court. However, the Probate and Family Court usually only has jurisdiction over children under the age of eighteen (18), while the INA provides relief for children under the age of twenty-one (21).

What about children falling in between the ages of eighteen (18) and twenty-one (21)? Previously, these children would have to find another way of acquiring lawful admission into the U.S. or face deportation. However, in March 2016, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) provided an equitable remedy so that children falling within this age gap have a fair chance at citizenship. In the case Recinos v. Escobar, the SJC found that the Probate and Family Court does have broad equity powers that it may invoke when encountering an immigrant child between the ages of eighteen (18) and twenty-one (21). Recinos v. Escobar, 473 Mass. 734, 740. (2016). In other words, it gives the Probate and Family Court jurisdiction over children older than eighteen (18) but younger than twenty-one (21) for the purpose of making the required findings needed to apply for SIJS. This case now sets the precedent in Massachusetts that children who are in this this age gap can now attain SIJS. Given the large number of unaccompanied immigrant children still fleeing to the U.S., this important decision will now enable a previously over-looked group of children in Massachusetts the opportunity to feel secure and safe in the U.S.

Repealing the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act; An Inhumane Approach to Immigration

American foreign and migration policy should reflect Cuba in 2016, and not 1966, and there is a fairer and more human way of expediting the immigration process for Cubans as well as other foreign natives. Ninety miles of water is the only thing that stands in the way of Cuban migrants from the shores of Key West, Florida. In 1966 the United States in response to Cuba’s communist political association loosened up the rules of their current immigration system and created the Cuban Adjustment Act.

This act also known as the wet foot/ dry foot policy allows a native or citizen of Cuba, who has been inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States and has been physically present in the United States for at least one year, to apply for permanent residency in the United States. In reality this law means that if a Cuban native can reach United States land they are allowed to stay. If they are captured at sea they are sent home, just to embark on the same journey the next week.

The United States Coast Guard in 2015 stopped 4,462 Cubans who attempted to illegally enter the United States by sea. Coast Guard officials in Florida are alarmed by the increasingly drastic, and violent, tactics Cuban migrants are threatening, or using, to reach freedom. This law invites Cubans to take greater risks to reach U.S. shores, and is increasingly endangering the lives of the Coast Guardsmen charged with standing in their way. Desperation has caused men and women to severely injure themselves when the United States Coast Guard approaches so they are flown to a nearby United States hospital.

No other immigrant community is afforded the same on-arrival treatment. A number of Governors and State Representatives have called for action, including Mark Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, who stated “the special treatment afforded to those fleeing Cuba must be re-examined in light of outrageous abuse of the existing law.”

The United States Immigration Service has in place a system that grants refugee status or asylum to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. This process allows for additional security measures, such as a fingerprinting and background checks, to ensure that the United States is affording the opportunity for migration while ensuring the safety of the Country. Ultimately this process ensures that applicants across the world who are really are in need of asylum are afforded it.

Therefore, repealing the Cuban Adjustment Act is the first step to create a working, fair, and human process to an immigration policy that allows equal protection to all.

Sources:

8 U.S.C. § 1255 (2006)

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2016/04/21/fearing-end-wet-foot-dry-foot-cubans-fleeing-to-us-in-record-numbers/

https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-through-refugee-or-asylee-status

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/12/marco-rubio-bill-cuban-immigrants-federal-benefits-prove-persecution