Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

Biden-Harris Administration, House Democrats working to attract more foreign students, workers for American technology jobs

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

American tech workers not happy, say policy change “destroys the career prospects of young American graduates”

By Allen D. Payton

President Biden and Vice President Harris issued a statement on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, announcing actions and policy changes their administration is taking to make it easier to attract foreign scholars, students, researchers, and experts to ultimately fill American technology jobs. In addition, on Tuesday, Biden issued a statement announcing his support for the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 3593).

In addition, according to an announcement issued today by the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 28, the Biden administration will make 20,000 additional temporary nonfarm, H2-B work visas available for hiring through March, delivering on a demand from business groups.

“The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 13,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 6,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras,” the joint statement reads. “The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States.”

Also, according to a Bloomberg Law article, published yesterday, Democrats have included a new entrepreneur visa in a House bill.

“Nonimmigrant visas for owners and key employees of start-ups as well as their family members and other STEM-boosting measures are part of legislation introduced by Democratic House leaders this week. The Senate last year passed its own version of the legislation, which President Joe Biden’s administration has identified as a key priority,” the article reads. “The bill, which also exempts immigrants with doctorates in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields from annual green card caps, is part of a broader legislative package released Tuesday that seeks to strengthen U.S. competitiveness with China in research and development.”

American Tech Workers Not Happy

But an organization of American technology workers, U.S. Tech Workers, which describes itself as a “nonprofit representing the voices of American workers harmed by the H-1B visa program and pushing Congress for reforms to protect workers”, are not happy with the Administration’s policies nor the Democrats’ legislation.

In a post on the group’s Twitter feed on Monday, Jan. 24, they wrote, “employers lobbied the US government for the ability to hire foreign workers via guest worker visa programs so they could rig the free-market in their favor.”

The group is also opposed to the changes in the H-2B visa and OPT programs. They said the changes will encourage companies to discriminate against American job applicants.

“This is exactly the kind of policy that destroys the career prospects of young American graduates,” the group posted on their Twitter feed. “USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is incentivizing employers to discriminate against US grads because the OPT program provides employers who hire foreign students: – FICA tax exemptions – No wage standards.”

An article on the group’s website written by Joe Guzzardi, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration issues, and joined Progressives for Immigration Reform in 2018, reads, “STEM OPT’s expansion…is significant since the thousands of new foreign-born workers entering the labor pool will adversely affect employed U.S. tech workers or recent U.S. STEM graduates whose prospective careers could be jeopardized.”

In addition, the U.S. Tech Workers tweeted, “Exempting a certain category of foreign workers counting towards numerical Green Card caps is a deceptive & crafty tactic of INCREASING overall immigration numbers. It basically means there’s an unlimited supply of GCs for PhDs & their family (spouse/kids).”

In another tweet about Biden’s statement on the America COMPETES ACT of 2022, the U.S. Tech Workers wrote, “House version of America COMPETES Act of 2022 sneakingly adds immigration provisions: – Exempts PhD foreign students & their family from counting towards Green Card cap – Creates new visas for entrepreneurs.”

According to a 2021 Bloomberg article, “Businesses that hire foreign students are exempt from paying Medicare and Social Security taxes, amounting to a discount of 7.65%.”

Biden-Harris Foreign STEM Talent Statement

The statement from the White House reads as follows:

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Actions to Attract STEM Talent and Strengthen our Economy and Competitiveness

JANUARY 21, 2022

“The Biden-Harris Administration believes that one of America’s greatest strengths is our ability to attract global talent to strengthen our economy and technological competitiveness, and benefit working people and communities all across the country.

In the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – fields that are critical to the prosperity, security, and health of our Nation – our history is filled with examples of how America’s ability to attract global talent has spurred path-breaking innovation. This innovation has led to the creation of new jobs, new industries, and new opportunities for Americans across the United States. Our commitment as a nation to welcoming new talent has long provided America with a global competitive advantage, and we must continue to lead in this effort.

Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are announcing new actions to advance predictability and clarity for pathways for international STEM scholars, students, researchers, and experts to contribute to innovation and job creation efforts across America. These actions will allow international STEM talent to continue to make meaningful contributions to America’s scholarly, research and development, and innovation communities.

These announcements build on the Biden Administration’s efforts to remove barriers to legal immigration, such as under Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, and to promote educational exchange, such as under the recent Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education issued by Secretaries Blinken and Cardona.

Today’s agency announcements include:

  • The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is announcing an “Early Career STEM Research Initiative,” to facilitate non-immigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through research, training or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses. ECA is also announcing new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa for periods of up to 36 months.
  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas is announcing that 22 new fields of study are now included in the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The program permits F-1 students earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in certain STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months to complete Optional Practical Training after earning their degrees. Information on the new fields of study will be communicated to schools and students in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. The added fields of study are primarily new multidisciplinary or emerging fields, and are critical in attracting talent to support U.S. economic growth and technological competitiveness.
  • DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual related to “extraordinary ability” (O-1A) nonimmigrant status regarding what evidence may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria.
  • O-1A nonimmigrant status is available to persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, business, education, or athletics. In this update, DHS is clarifying how it determines eligibility for immigrants of extraordinary abilities, such as PHD holders, in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields.
  • The new update provides examples of evidence that may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations that are relevant to evaluating such evidence, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of the evidence often submitted.
  • The update also emphasizes that, if a petitioner demonstrates that a particular criterion does not readily apply to their occupation, they may submit evidence that is of comparable significance to that criterion to establish sustained acclaim and recognition. Additionally, it provides examples of possible comparable evidence that may be submitted in support of petitions for beneficiaries working in STEM fields.
  • With respect to immigration, DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual on how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a DHS component, adjudicates national interest waivers for certain immigrants with exceptional abilities in their field of work.
    • The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that an employer can file an immigrant petition for a person of exceptional ability or a member of the professions with an advanced degree. The INA provides that USCIS may waive a job offer requirement, allowing immigrants whose work is in the national interest to petition for themselves, without an employer.
    • The USCIS policy update clarifies how the national interest waiver can be used for persons with advanced degrees in STEM fields and entrepreneurs, as well as the significance of letters from governmental and quasi-governmental entities. This update will promote efficient and effective benefit processing as USCIS reviews requests for national interest waivers. This effort is consistent with the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to restore faith in the legal immigration system.

Biden Statement on America COMPETES Act of 2022

Following is the statement by the President Biden on the America COMPETES ACT of 2022 issued on Tuesday:

Statement by President Biden on the America COMPETES Act of 2022

JANUARY 25, 2022

The House took an important step forward today in advancing legislation that will make our supply chains stronger and reinvigorate the innovation engine of our economy to outcompete China and the rest of the world for decades to come.

The proposals laid out by the House and Senate represent the sort of transformational investments in our industrial base and research and development that helped power the United States to lead the global economy in the 20th century and expand opportunity for middle class families. They’ll help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, and they’re squarely focused on easing the sort of supply chain bottlenecks like semiconductors that have led to higher prices for the middle class. Building on the historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that I signed last year – and on signs of progress like last week’s Intel announcement and today’s GM announcement – comprehensive competitiveness legislation will power our economy to create good-paying jobs for all Americans, no matter where you live or whether you have a college degree, and will help tackle the climate crisis.

I’m heartened by Congress’ bipartisan work so far, and its commitment to quick action to get this to my desk as soon as possible. Together, we have an opportunity to show China and the rest of the world that the 21st century will be the American century – forged by the ingenuity and hard work of our innovators, workers, and businesses.”

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to conduct free virtual information sessions Nov. 3-30

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

In multiple languages

By Sharon Rummery, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

SAN FRANCISCO — Officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will present six virtual information sessions from Nov. 3 to 30, including citizenship preparation sessions presented in Spanish and Thai. Those who need an accommodation should contact  SFSJ.CommunityRelations@uscis.DHS.gov.

What & When

Immigration Overview

Wednesday, November 3, 4 to 4:30 p.m.

Webex Link: https://uscis.webex.com/uscis/j.php?MTID=m63b4d5bc6ab478be3c96c4840fc7e8c8

Meeting number (access code): 2761 682 5187

Meeting password: CIS1234!goCA

Naturalization Information – How to Become a U.S. Citizen

Thursday, November 4, 5 to 6:00 p.m.

Webex Link: https://uscis.webex.com/uscis/j.php?MTID=me33ac665f22d8fc68daff3b52ef1572d

Meeting number (access code): 2763 827 2230

Meeting password: 6mXFBvJBU$34

ข้อมูลการแปลงสัญชาติ วิธีการเป็ นพลเมืองสหรัฐฯ

K̄ĥxmūl kār pælngs̄ ạỵchāti wiṭhī kār pĕn phlmeụ̄ xng s̄h̄rạṭ̄h‡

Naturalization Information – How to Become a U.S. Citizen (Thai language)

Sunday, November 7, 1:30PM to 3:00PM (Presenter: Jeff Hilliard, San Diego)

Webex Link: https://uscis.webex.com/uscis/j.php?MTID=m5fac5fbf94519a1111b0311c2c61fd64

Meeting number (access code): 2764 254 4630

Meeting password: JJbCU4GDM95*

Naturalization Information – How to Become a U.S. Citizen

Tuesday, November 9, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Webex Link: https://uscis.webex.com/uscis/j.php?MTID=m3a3a7bb871d91993144ca57cf0e1bc7b

Meeting number (access code): 2764 823 6756

Meeting password: Sfrsnjsacfre123!

Como Convertirse en Ciudadano Estadounidense (Spanish only)

Viernes, 19 de noviembre, 5 a 6 p.m.

Webex Link: https://uscis.webex.com/uscis/j.php?MTID=ma5817ca55e2061eec5bb69b3f0ecf03c

Meeting number (access code): 2762 810 5758

Meeting password: 5iGixJbmN4$4

Options for Victims of Crimes

Tuesday, November 30, 3 to 4 p.m.

Webex Link: https://uscis.webex.com/uscis/j.php?MTID=m303d806b5b1626bc1e709aaba69159a0

Meeting number (access code): 2760 844 8368

Meeting password: CIS1234!goCA

How – Instructions for participating:

We encourage you to join 10 minutes early. Call in at 1-415-527-5035 and use the Meeting Number to join.

  1. If you are using a computer, use Google Chrome. Click on “Join from your browser” to join the meeting.
  2. If you are using a phone or tablet, it is best to download the Cisco WebEx Meeting App

(it is free).

  1. To request a disability accommodation, please contact us no less than 3 days prior to the event. USCIS strives to meet accommodation requests whenever possible.

www.uscis.gov USCIS Contact Center: 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833)

To find all USCIS webinars, go to https://www.uscis.gov/outreach/upcoming-local-engagements.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on TwitterInstagramYouTubeFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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Antioch, Contra Costa residents become U.S. citizens during ceremony in Pittsburg Thursday

Monday, November 1st, 2021

Antioch resident Sergio Roque Henriquez from El Salvador, Concord resident Roya Yousefelahiyeh from Iran, and Pittsburg resident Suku Varney from Liberia (right) take their oaths of citizenship on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Photos by Sharon Rummery, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

By Allen Payton

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) San Francisco field office joined with the City of Pittsburg to present a special naturalization ceremony at the council chambers on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. At the event, 25 immigrants from 13 nations became U.S citizens. (See Zoom video – begins at 5-minute mark)

Pittsburg resident Suku Varney from Liberia, shows his U.S. citizenship document following the ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Photo from his Facebook page.

Nine the new U.S. citizens were from the Philippines, three from Mexico, two each from India and the United Kingdom, and one each from El Salvador, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Pakistan.

Four of the new citizens shared about themselves. Antioch resident Sergio Roque Henriquez came here from El Salvador at age 16, speaking no English.

“I had a goal, to go to school,” he said.

His cousins helped him get an exception and enter the local junior college’s English as a Second Language classes. Now, he’s married, dad of two, ages 16 and 11 and works as a chef.

Roya Yousefelahiyeh, of Concord, came here from Iran to study, and now works as a civil engineer in wastewater treatment. Pittsburg resident Suku Varney, from Liberia applied, as do millions of others, for the diversity visa. He was selected at random and got the golden opportunity to immigrate to the U.S. As a student at San Francisco State, he’s doing an internship in Superior Court, and hopes to go to law school.

Concord resident Liswana “Celilia” Judanu, formerly of Indonesia takes her oath of citizenship on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Photo by Sharon Rummery, USCIS

Concord resident Liswana “Celilia” Judanu, formerly of Indonesia. She came here in 1978 to join her brothers after being rejected by the State Department for a visitor visa. Back home, Celilia had studied English, so she did well and wound up as a long-time employee of Wells Fargo, working now as a credit associate.

The keynote speaker was Pittsburg Mayor Merl Craft and opening remarks were presented by Councilwoman Shanelle Scales-Preston USCIS San Francisco District Chief of Staff Joseph Hamilton administered the Oath of Allegiance, and Assistant Director of Economic Development & Recreation Kolette Simonton sang the National Anthem.

“We are so proud to have hosted Pittsburg’s first-ever naturalization ceremony alongside USCIS,” said Melaine Venenciano of the Pittsburg Community Services Department.

“It was a wonderful event, and it went so smoothly,” said Joseph J. Hamilton, Chief of Staff, District 42, USCIS. “I have no doubt that our 25 newest citizens will forever have fond memories of their naturalization ceremony and the City of Pittsburg.”

USCIS naturalized approximately 625,000 people in fiscal year 2020. Many of them applied using USCIS online tools. More than seven million people have applied online for immigration benefits. To file online, individuals must first create a USCIS online account at USCIS naturalized approximately 625,000 people in fiscal year 2020. Many of them applied using USCIS online tools. More than seven million people have applied online for immigration benefits. To file online, individuals must first create a USCIS online account at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/.

USCIS encourages new U.S. citizens to share their naturalization photos on social media using the hashtag #NewUSCitizen.

Facts on Naturalization

Since our founding, the United States has welcomed immigrants from all over the world who have helped shape and define our country. During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed more than 7.3 million new citizens into the fabric of our nation. Despite extended office closures and the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic, USCIS naturalized approximately 625,400 in fiscal year (FY) 2020.

Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is a personal decision and an important milestone in an immigrant’s life. Individuals who naturalize demonstrate a commitment to the principles that unify us as Americans and, in return, enjoy the rights and privileges that are fundamental to U.S. citizenship. We are committed to making the naturalization process more accessible to everyone who wants to start their citizenship journey.

About the Naturalization Process

People age 18 or older seeking to become U.S. citizens apply for naturalization by submitting Form N400, Application for Naturalization. The N-400 application is available for online filing. An applicant must meet all the eligibility requirements in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to naturalize.

These general eligibility requirements specify that the applicant must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age when they submit the N-400 application;
  • Be a lawful permanent resident (have a Green Card) for at least five years;
  • Demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for at least five years immediately before applying for naturalization;
  • Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months;
  • Be a person of good moral character;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the English language including the ability to read, write, and speak basic English;
  • Have knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics);
  • Demonstrate attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution; and
  • Be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance 

Special naturalization provisions modify these requirements for certain applicants or exempt them from one or more of these requirements. Among the applicants exempt from some of these requirements are spouses of U.S. citizens or members of the military.

  • Individuals may apply for naturalization as the spouse of a U.S. citizen just three years after they receive a Green Card, instead of waiting five years. They must have been physically present in the United States for at least 18 months.
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens stationed abroad may not have to meet any particular residence or physical presence requirements.
  • Members of the military who served honorably during certain periods of conflict may be eligible for naturalization even if they do not have a Green Card and even if they are under the age of 18.
  • Members of the military who served honorably for at least one year, at any time, and apply for naturalization within a certain time after their military service, are also exempt from the general residence and physical presence requirements.

Everyone filing an N-400 application who submits a complete application with all required documents will have an interview with a USCIS officer. Applicants we approve for naturalization are scheduled for a ceremony before a judge or with USCIS. They do not become U.S. citizens until they have taken the Oath of Allegiance 

Naturalization Statistics

  • Since 2005, USCIS has welcomed approximately 730,000 citizens each year during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world.
  • In FY 2020, 70 percent of all naturalized citizens lived in 10 states: California, Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, Georgia and Virginia.
  • In FY 2020, the leading metropolitan areas of residence were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (10 percent), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (8 percent), and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (7 percent).
  • In FY 2020, the top five countries of origin for naturalized citizens were: Mexico (82,700), India (47,900), Philippines (33,100), Cuba (31,000), and China (23,000). Since 2002, we have naturalized more than 139,000 members of the U.S. military, both at home and abroad. We have held naturalization ceremonies in more than 30 countries from Albania to the United Arab Emirates. In the last five years (FY 2016-20), we naturalized almost 30,000 service members. In FY 2020, we naturalized more than 4,500 service members, about the same number as the previous year.
  • More than 40% of those we have naturalized since FY 2016 have been service members born in the Philippines, Mexico, China, South Korea and Jamaica—the top five countries of birth among citizens naturalized in that time span. Another 17% of military naturalizations from FY 2016-20 have been immigrants from the next five countries of birth: Nigeria, Nepal, India, Ghana and Kenya.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on TwitterInstagramYouTubeFacebook, and LinkedIn.

There are three U.S. immigration agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Following are the responsibilities of each agency:

USCIS

  • Adjudication of applications to gain immigrant status, based on family or work petitions, refugee or asylee status or through the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Adjudication of naturalization applications
  • Adjudication of asylum and refugee applications
  • E-Verify employment verification
  • Help with foreign adoptions
  • Adjudication of work-related non-immigrant visas
  • Adjudication of T and U visas (victim visas)
  • E-Verify

ICE

  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Preventing Terrorism
  • Illegal Movement of People and Goods
  • Immigration Enforcement
  • Fugitive Operations
  • Detention and Removal Management

CBP

  • Inspections involving customs law
  • Inspections involving immigration law
  • Border Patrol
  • USDA-APHIS agricultural quarantine inspections program

Sharon Rummery, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services contributed to this report.

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DA Becton updates immigration policy to avoid deportation of defendants to comply with state law

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

By Allen Payton

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton issued a new policy for the DA’s Office focused on immigration. In order to comply with state and federal laws, the office has updated its immigration policy.

“It is important to have a standardized process in place to ensure we meet our obligations under the law. I am confident that with this new policy we can fairly review all options for a disposition while at the same time ensuring we meet the demands to protect the public and victims,” said DA Becton. “Moving forward, cases will be evaluated by our state legislative mandate to ‘consider the avoidance of adverse immigration consequences in the plea negotiation process as one factor in an effort to reach a just resolution.’”

Last July, for the first time ever, the entire DA’s office staff received an in-depth immigration training which focused on the role of prosecutors in considering adverse immigration consequences, i.e. deportation.

The law was changed in California in 2016 and now Penal Code Section 1016.3(b) mandates, “the prosecution … consider the avoidance of adverse immigration consequences in the plea negotiation process as one factor in an effort to reach a just resolution.”

The legislature enacted the law after finding “the immigration consequences of criminal convictions have a particularly strong impact in California. One out of every four persons living in the state is foreign-born. One out of every two children lives in a household headed by at least one foreign-born person. The majority of these children are United States citizens. It is estimated that 50,000 parents of California United States citizen children were deported in a little over two years. Once a person is deported, especially after a criminal conviction, it is extremely unlikely that he or she ever is permitted to return.” (Cal. Penal Code Section 1016.2(g)).

Following are aspects of Becton’s updated policy, under governing law, “consideration of immigration consequences during the plea negotiation process is mandatory” and “victim’s rights must also be included and considered in the plea negotiation process.”

The policy notes that “These internal guidelines are not intended to create any new procedural rights in favor of criminal defendants or to be enforceable in a court of law. Nor shall these guidelines be construed to create any presumptions that a previously sentenced defendant would have received any offer other than that which has already been extended and accepted.

The policy further states, “Prosecutors do not have an obligation to independently research or investigate the adverse immigration consequences that may result from a plea or criminal conviction.” But, they “shall consider adverse immigration consequences presented by the defense.”

In addition, the new policy requires that “the supervising prosecutor…determine based upon the totality of the circumstances if an appropriate disposition can be reached that neither jeopardizes public safety nor leads to disproportionate immigration consequences based on the information provided by the defense.”

According to the new policy, alternative considerations include, “Devising an alternative plea agreement that is factually honest and of a similar nature and consequence to the originally charged offense, but minimizes the defendant’s exposure to adverse immigration consequences; and Allowing language to be stricken from a charging document or plea colloquy while maintaining the truthfulness of the remaining charging language.”

Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the Contra Costa County District Attorney contributed to this report.

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BREAKING NEWS: DeSaulnier reports proposed detention center “has been halted”

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Screenshot of a tent city-type detention center from TIME.com

Washington, DC – Today, Wednesday, June 27, 2018, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) issued the following statement in response to news that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed that it will not be moving forward with a detention center at the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

“I am pleased the effort to turn Concord Naval Weapons Station into a detention facility has been halted. As we advised the Administration, the Concord Naval Weapons Station is an unsafe and inhabitable environment, and to propose housing almost 50,000 people there was both dangerous and immoral. We fought this proposal along with our local officials and dedicated community and will continue to fight against the inhumane and unjust policies proposed by this Administration. It is important not to let our guard down as one tweet can change things.”

Congressman DeSaulnier voiced concerns to the Administration about creating a detention facility on Concord Naval Weapons Station and led an effort of California Members in asking for the release of a proposal identifying Concord Naval Weapons Station as a possible detention site. News of Concord making the list of proposed facilities first broke in Time Magazine and Congressman DeSaulnier immediately contacted local officials to work with them to fight this effort. He also held a Facebook town hall to answer questions from area residents.

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Former Concord Naval Weapons station possible site for 47,000 immigrant detention center

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

The former Concord Naval Weapons Station. Photo by Concordreuseproject.org

By Allen Payton

It was revealed on Friday that according to a copy of a draft memo obtained by TIME, the U.S. Navy is considering establishing a detention center for up to 47,000 illegal immigrants at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station. It would be one of four remote bases in California, including at Camp Pendleton, as well as Alabama and Arizona as part of the Trump Administration’s new zero tolerance policy of prosecuting and detaining all those who cross our border illegally, even for the first time.

The immigrants, including families with children, would remain in a “temporary and austere” tent city as the Navy memo describes it, according to the TIME article, until their court hearing, including those seeking asylum. The estimated cost to construct all of the facilities would be $233 million.

It’s not clear where the facility would be located on the former weapons station site. The land south of Highway 4 is now labeled the Concord Reuse Project and includes plans for as many as 12,000 homes in four transit villages, elementary school, office park and open space, with the 500-acre first phase by Lennar Urban planned for 4,400 homes. Attempts to reach Guy Bjerke, Concord’s Director of Community Reuse Planning for more details, were unsuccessful.

Concord Reuse Plan for the former Naval Weapons Station land south of Highway 4.

In the Executive Order he signed on Wednesday banning the separation of families apprehended at the border for crossing illegally, President Trump stated “The Secretary of Defense shall take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary (of Homeland Security), upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law.”

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA11) whose district includes Concord, released a statement on Friday regarding the proposed detention center.

“STOP! The Administration needs to take a time out,” he stated. “This is no way to effectuate intelligent immigration policy, including for those seeking asylum. This is absolute madness and I oppose it wholeheartedly. If the Administration wants to have a rational dialogue about fixing our immigration system, I am happy to do that, but making up immigration policy on the fly is just wrong. We will fight this in every way we can.”

In addition, Margarget Hanlon Gradie, Executive Director of the Contra Costa AFL-CIO Labor Council, released the following statement on Friday opposing the proposed detention center.

“Working families oppose the proposal to jail asylum seekers anywhere in Concord, Contra Costa County, or America.

“We have worked for a dozen years to create a new vision for the Concord Naval Weapons Station that brings benefits to our community — not prisons.  We believe this land – the public’s land, belonging to the people of Concord – should be used for schools, hospitals, affordable homes and good jobs, not the criminal abuse of human rights.

We stand with Rep. Mark DeSaulnier and other elected leaders in their call to reject cynical political posturing. Our federal government needs to restore DACA for our Dreamers and create a path to citizenship in a functional immigration system that supports workers’ rights, family reunification, and the needs of local and global economies.”

Screenshot of a tent city-type detention center from TIME.com

Anna Roth, Director of Contra Costa Health Services also released a politically-charged statement on Friday regarding the proposed detention center.

“Contra Costa Health Services learned through media reports on Friday that the former Concord Naval Weapons Station may soon be used as a detention facility for as many as 47,000 undocumented immigrants.

As principle guardian of public health in Contra Costa County, charged with protecting all people who live here, Contra Costa Health Services condemns this dangerous, immoral proposal – not just the location of this facility, but its existence.

Whether the despicable practice of caging young children separately from their parents continues or family members are imprisoned together, there is no place in Contra Costa or any civilized society for these types of facilities.

We know as health professionals the irrevocable harm caused by family separation, a trauma that leads to higher incidence of addiction, mental illness and chronic disease among survivors. The consequences to the health of prisoners, particularly children, are not hard to predict.

The health impacts of institutional violence against immigrants also extend to residents of our county. As Health Services Director, I hear from patients and employees every day who are under duress because of recent immigration practices.

Many Contra Costa residents live in fear, documented and otherwise. Patients miss appointments because they’re afraid ICE will be waiting for them in the doctor’s office.

This climate of fear adversely affects our community’s health, and would only worsen with this detention facility pitched in the center of our county. For the health of all Contra Costans we demand that a detention camp not be located in our county.

Furthermore, we call for an immediate end to the practice of imprisoning undocumented immigrants, particularly children.”

Sincerely,

Anna M. Roth RN, MS, MPH Director | Contra Costa Health Services”

Immigrants who cross the U.S. border illegally and are detained awaiting their court hearing, are part of a backlog of 700,000 immigration court cases according to a report by Mother Jones, including those seeking asylum. But, according to a Washington Times article, the backlog is closer to one million cases. “James McHenry, the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which handles immigration cases, said Tuesday that the backlog of active cases is over 692,000 and that the courts have an additional 330,000 cases that have been put into ‘administrative closure,’ but that are still before the courts.”

The asylum process takes more time, causing the immigrants to remain in detention longer, which can be extended further if they arrive without documentation. (See requirements for being granted asylum). In order to seek asylum it must be done in the U.S., including at a port of entry, an embassy or consulate in the immigrant’s home country, or in another country, such as Mexico.

Those seeking asylum cannot work while they await the decision by the government until after 150 days have passed, according to information on the U.S.  Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website:

“You cannot apply for permission to work (employment authorization) in the United States at the same time you apply for asylum. You may apply for employment authorization if: 150 days have passed since you filed your complete asylum application, excluding any delays caused by you (such as a request to reschedule your interview) AND No decision has been made on your application.

According to a 2016 report by then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson during the final year of the Obama Administration, there has been an increase in families from Central America crossing the border illegally and being apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

“Unaccompanied children and families have presented new challenges in our immigration system,” he stated.

Those figures show an increase from 15,000 families crossing illegally in 2013 to almost 78,000 in 2016.

The first time an immigrant crosses illegally they are charged with a misdemeanor. Each subsequent illegal crossing it is a felony. Previously, the parents of those crossing as families for the first time have been apprehended, cited and released, pending their court hearing. But, many of them never appeared for their court date. The Trump Administration, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new zero tolerance policy, requires the arrest and detention of even those who cross the border illegally for the first time.

According to the press release by the Department of Justice, the “policy comes as the Department of Homeland Security reported a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings from March 2017 to March 2018, and a 37 percent increase from February 2018 to March 2018—the largest month-to-month increase since 2011.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration Statistics Yearbook for 2016, each year, on average the U.S. allows in one million foreign nationals who are granted lawful permanent residence (i.e. immigrants who receive a ‘green card’), admitted as temporary nonimmigrants, granted asylum or refugee status, or are naturalized.”

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Sheriff releases response to DOJ inquiry on immigration law compliance following Herald request

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

Sheriff David O. Livingston. From CCCSheriff website.

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Sheriff-Coroner David Livingston has provided at the request of the Contra Costa Herald a copy of his Dec. 1 letter to answer questions whether the department is out of compliance with federal immigration laws that entitled the Coroner-Sheriff Office to nearly $25 million in federal grants in 2016. CCSheriff ltr to DOJ re 8 USC 1373 Compliance 12-1-17

The sheriff’s letter was due Dec, 8, and he essentially informed U. S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson that the Office of the Contra Costa County Sheriff-Coroner is in compliance with federal immigration policy. That is in spite of the fact that beginning Jan. 1, 2018 California law enforcement agencies must begin to enforce Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act or what is better known as the sanctuary state law.

Livingston included with the letter his department’s draft policy on how it will and won’t cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which was issued Dec. 3, 2013 and updated on Nov. 16, 2017.

In his letter to Hanson, Livingston wrote:

“The California Values Act, with we must comply. That Act provides specifically that it does not authorize information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful of an individual, or from requesting from federal immigration authority’s immigration status information lawful or unlawful of an individual, or maintaining or exchanging that information with any other federal, state, or local government entity.”

Sheriff Livingston missed attending the Dec. 7 meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee meeting, disappointing a number of committee members who wanted to hear him comment and answer questions about the draft policy on ICE-undocumented jail inmates, but obviously were unable to do so.

“I am surprised and disappointed that the sheriff is not here,” said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond at the committee meeting. “I don’t know if this has ever happened before where the sheriff has not appeared at a Public Protection Committee meeting.”

Please see related article.

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Contra Costa Sheriff announces findings in ICE detention complaints investigation

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Sheriff David Livingston, center, speaks with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (to his left) and staff during a tour of the West County Detention Facility in Richmond on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Herald file photo.

Refutes claims made by illegal alien female inmates against West County Detention Facility

The West County Detention Facility. Herald filed photo

The Office of the Sheriff has completed its investigation into complaints raised by several Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) female detainees at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond, California. The complaints were first reported in a local newspaper. The Sheriff’s Office immediately launched an investigation. Investigators interviewed 110 witnesses, with audio recordings and translators where necessary, and viewed hundreds of hours of video surveillance recordings. They also examined log books, computer entries and other evidence. (See related article)

The investigation found that nearly all of the complaints were unfounded and unsubstantiated. Claims of being “locked down” for 23 hours a day were false. The most time any ICE detainee was confined to their dormitory room was one hour and 24 minutes. These “lock downs” are commonly done for facility counts or for administrative reasons. At WCDF the detainees have keys to their rooms and free use of common bathroom facilities.

Sheriff David O. Livingston. From CCCSheriff website.

In one example, the person who complained in the article of being confined to her room for 23 hours was in fact confined for several days in a room with a full toilet and sink. She was confined in such a manner for disciplinary purposes after she assaulted another detainee.

Regarding the use of “red” biohazard bags for toilet needs, there was no evidence that any detainee was forced to use the bags in that manner. In very few cases detainees did use the bags for that purpose in violation of policy. Biohazard bag distribution is now limited to those detainees who are ill or have other medical needs. All inmates are free to use the bathrooms at any time, and even during “lock down” periods of approximately one hour, by notifying a Deputy Sheriff by using the call button in their rooms.

There were two complaints alleging limited access to healthcare that also appear to be unfounded based on detainee interviews. However, Contra Costa Health Services will be reviewing those specific complaints.

“Consistent with independent ICE inspections, we found that the alleged policy violations were largely unfounded,” said Sheriff David Livingston. “In fact, many detainees told us they are well treated at the West County Detention Facility.”

Sheriff Livingston added, “Some issues were identified, such as the use of profanity by a staff member or the quicker replacement of detainees’ room keys when they are lost or damaged. We will use this opportunity to improve wherever we can.”

The investigation will now be provided to the California Attorney General as Sheriff Livingston promised he would do.

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