Friday, August 19, 2011

US will focus on deporting criminals

Obama move aims to free up courts; some immigrants may stay for review

By Maria SacchettiBoston Globe Staff Writer

The Obama administration declared yesterday that it would grant an indefinite reprieve to an estimated thousands of immigrants facing deportation, allowing them to stay and work legally so officials can more quickly deport convicted criminals and other serious cases.

Federal officials said they are launching a review of each of the roughly 300,000 cases in the nation’s immigration courts to ensure that new and existing ones reflect the administration’s priorities to detain and deport criminals and threats to public safety.

The move is likely to inflame political tensions with immigration looming as a campaign issue in 2012, and it has major implications for Massachusetts, which has the second-longest immigration court backlog in the United States. All manner of immigrants in the courts’ pipeline could stand to benefit, from factory workers detained in the 2007 New Bedford raid, to same-sex couples about to be separated, to youths facing deportation.

“The president has said on numerous occasions that it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low-priority cases,’’ Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote yesterday to Senate majority leader Harry Reid, outlining the policy.

Doing otherwise, she added, “hinders our public safety mission - clogging immigration court dockets and diverting DHS enforcement resources away from individuals who pose a threat to public safety.’’

Administration officials said they do not know how many immigrants will receive a stay on their cases, though they estimated that thousands could be affected.

Susan Long, codirector of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which studied the issue in 2007, said most cases in immigration court appear to be people accused of violating immigration, not criminal, laws.

“It definitely could affect a large number of people,’’ Long said.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, who prosecute immigrants, and the Department of Justice, which oversees the immigration courts, will examine the cases in the coming months and send letters to immigrants who can stay.

Those immigrants would have the chance to apply for a work permit, though they could not obtain legal permanent residency and their cases could be reopened at any time, officials said.

Officials said the shift cements the message in a June memo from the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, urging agents to focus on detaining and deporting priority cases, such as convicted criminals, immigrants who sneak back across the border after having been deported, and recent border crossers.

Officials cautioned that they would continue enforcement efforts, which led to high deportation levels in recent years.

Yesterday, advocates for immigrants rejoiced in what many said was their first victory since President Obama took office promising - and failing - to tackle immigration policy overhaul in his first year.

Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, praised the move as a “humane and rational approach.’’

“This is a huge victory, not just for the immigrant and refugee community, but for all of us as American people, living up to our ideals,’’ Millona said. “It makes no sense to deport innocent children, to deport immigrant families. This is huge for the president. We commend him.’’

But others condemned the decision as a failure to enforce federal immigration laws.

“Everyone who’s here illegally should not be allowed to stay here,’’ said Joseph Ureneck, cochairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform, which favors tougher controls on immigration. “They should be returned to their home country.’’

The Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform called the Obama administration’s move a “huge breach of the public trust’’ and said it would essentially halt enforcement against many illegal immigrants.

The policy shift would affect less than 3 percent of most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, but even that number is clogging the federal immigration courts at record levels.

Nationwide, more than 275,000 cases were pending as of May, with the average case pending 482 days, according the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Boston, which serves all New England states except Connecticut, has more than 8,880 cases pending an average of 617 days, second only to California.

In Massachusetts, the largest groups facing deportation are from Guatemala and Brazil.

Yesterday, the Boston court was so crowded that a judge made immigrants wait in the hall while their lawyers handled the cases, said lawyer Matthew Maiona. He said most cases he sees are not criminals, but people who are accused of violating immigration law.

“I know they’ll be happy,’’ he said.

But he said the new policy would do little for the 11 million here illegally.

“Anything right now is welcome, but I really believe it’s a Band-Aid approach to a gaping wound problem,’’ Maiona said.

Harvey Kaplan, a Boston immigration lawyer, said the policy acknowledges that the federal government cannot deport all 11 million illegal immigrants.

“It just sort of says, ‘Let’s get real. We don’t have the resources. There are many good people out there [so] let’s get rid of the bad people,’ ’’ he said.

Immigrants facing deportation welcomed the news yesterday with a mix of hope and uncertainty, because they will not know if they can stay until the US government sends them a letter.

For Tania Nitch, a 37-year-old immigrant from Guatemala who has lived in New England since she was 14, the news came just in time for her deportation hearing next month. The mother of two said she has been fighting deportation for four years and does not have a criminal record.

“I’m just hoping. I’m keeping my fingers crossed,’’ said Nitch, who lives in Rhode Island.

She said waiting has been agony. “I’m going insane. I mean I don’t know if I’m going to stay or I’m going to leave,’’ she said.

Maria Caguana, a young mother of three in Milford, said she hoped it would help her husband, Manuel Simon Caguana, an immigrant from a rural village in Ecuador who is in a New Mexico detention center pending deportation.

She said he had been arrested in the past for minor offenses such as driving without a license, but was an otherwise hard-working laborer who had lived here for 10 years. A few months ago, he was picked up for a deportation order he did not know he had, and she has not seen him since.

“I hope it happens’’ for him, she said of the stay.


Is this a pardon or a parole for those who were being held strictly for immigration violations rather than participating in serious criminal activity? They will be given an opportunity to apply for a temporary work permit which will, most likely, have to be renewed periodically. This will allow the authorities to closely monitor their activities and their whereabouts. They will not be able to obtain permanent residency status and their work permits can be revoked at any time and their deportation cases reopened. The clear winners in this arrangement are the immigration courts who will now have the ability to schedule these cases at any time they see fit. The only positive aspect for those being “paroled” is that they will not be incarcerated but will certainly be very closely monitored in a “prison without bars”.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Illegal Irish forced out of jobs in US crackdown

Eoin Reynolds in California - Sunday August 14 2011

UNDOCUMENTED Irish in America are being forced out of their black market jobs by tough new measures to clamp down on illegal workers, according to the Immigration Rights Commission (IRC) in San Francisco.

IRC chairman Angus Mc-Carthy said new e-verification forms had forced thousands of illegals to quit their jobs.

He said: "The e-verification number has changed the game for workers here. Under this system you have to prove you are legal to keep your job so workers are being given the option of complying, or leaving their jobs."

E-verification requires a worker to provide documents to an employer that are then compared to Homeland Security files to assess if the person is legally entitled to work in the US. Anyone whose documents do not match up is likely to be arrested and deported.

At present it is only mandatory for employers working on federal contracts to e-verify their workers.

However, a number of industries have taken it upon themselves to implement the rules, fearing that they will be penalised in the future if they are found to be employing illegals.

The Latino community has been hardest hit as the fast-food and hotel industries have been the most rigorous in implementing the system.

But Irish workers who are "caught up in the crossfire" are also struggling and there is currently a bill before the house to make e-verification mandatory for all sectors.

Sponsored by Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, Bill S1196 would force all employers to fully comply with e-verification within one year.

Felix Feuntes, of the Immigration Rights Commission in San Francisco, said the construction sector was also beginning to comply with the regulations.

Construction has long been one of the most important employers for illegal Irish in the US but it now faces a major overhaul.

Employers, fearing a backlash from future governments, are becoming increasingly likely to let go of any illegals on their books.


This legislation, if enacted, could have a devastating effect on the undocumented Irish communities in the U.S. The tragedy is that it would, most likely, make a very limited number of steady jobs available to persons with work authorization. The reason is that small independent contractors hire workers for short periods as the work load dictates. They may only need somebody for a few days and then let them go. This is a way of life that would not be either suitable or acceptable to authorized workers looking for steady employment. The small contractors would not have a source of temporary workers available when they are needed. The economy would lose the money that undocumented workers spend on goods and services and the necessities of life. The sum total would be a “lose, lose, situation for everybody involved” Senator Grassley’s time would be much better spent in trying to find a real solution to our broken U.S. immigration system.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The case of Brendan Lillis

“Brendan Lillis is a former republican political prisoner who served a life sentence as a result of his involvement in the North’s violent political conflict. He served around 16 years for possession of explosives and firearms. In 1992 he was released on license. In 2009 he appeared in court on a robbery related charge, a charge which is no longer to be proceeded with. Shortly after his arrest the British Secretary of State withdrew his licence which reactivated his life sentence….There have been concerns raised about the state of his health. It seems that he is being detained within a regime which can easily be described as one of medical neglect. It was reported that he is suffering ‘from the debilitating arthritic illness ankylosing spondylitis, which leads to a curvature in the spine and causes the body to produce excess bone mass.’” - Anthony McIntyre 13th March 2011

There are two immediate legal issues in this case. Firstly, the reactivation of Brendan Lillis’ licence engages a number of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights; Article 5 Right to Liberty and Security, specifically the duty the state owes to inform the detainee of the reason for their detention, and Artcle 6 the Right to a Fair Trial in that the detainee has the right to a fair and public hearing for the determination of the detainee’s civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him. The second legal issue surrounds the positive obligations that the state owes Brendan Lillis in regard to the Provision of Medicial Services that arise under Article 2 the Right to Life.

The most serious of these legal issues relate to the health issues that engage Brendan Lillis’ Right to life, and the authorities obligations owed to him uder this convention rights. The Right to Life retains it pre-eminent status in International law as the foremost of all human rights and from which all other rights sequentially follow. It is also the cornerstone of the European Convention as it is the foremost of all the provisions in the European Convention. The developing jurisprudence that the European Court on Human Rights considers obligatory on states, under the premise of Article 2, surrounds the provision of medical facilities and services. Such provisions were engaged in the unsuccessful case of LCB V UK, whereby the Court stated that the state had ‘to take appropriate steps to safeguard the lives of those within the jurisdiction.’ This is however, viewed on a case by case basis, in that the more verifiable the risk to the life of a specific individual, the more pressing the corresponding duty on the state to provide the appropriate provision for medical services. In a somewhat similar case to Brendan Lillis, the ECtHR ruled unanimously found that there is an obligation on the state to provide medical treatment to a detainee, in Velikova v Bulgaria. States therefore ought to be under a clear obligation under Article 2, to provide medical provision for those vulnerable persons detained under their supervision and custody. Similarily in Anguelova v Bulgaria the Court found a breach of Article 2, again a seriously ill detainee was denied timely medical assistance in this instance.

The state clearly owes Brendan Lillis an obligation under this right, which would then trigger further analysis into the reasoning and legality of his detention under the obligations owed in regard to Article 5 the Right to Liberty and Security, specifically the duty the state owes to inform the detainee of the reason for his detention, and Artcle 6 the Right to a Fair Trial in that Brendan Lillis has the right to a fair and public hearing for the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him.

Serious legal questions have arisen and need to be answered in relation to the provision of medical services for Brendan Lillis and his continued detention.


I have read with great interest many of the pleas from a wide range of persons asking for the release of Brendan Lillis on humanitarian grounds. I must say that I am in absolute agreement that this man is in grave physical condition, poses no threat to anyone, and certainly should be released “on humanitarian grounds”. However, it has also become abundantly clear that the pleas for his release on “humanitarian grounds” from dozens, if not hundreds, of sympathetic, well meaning petitioners, have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps it is time to abandon that approach and consider a more pragmatic one such as that which is outlined in the article above. This article appeared in a blog a couple of months ago and it very clearly outlines the rights to which Brendan Lillis is entitled. It is time to assert his rights as outlined in this article instead of moving on with a continuous stream of ineffective pleas to an obviously uncaring British government official.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How the TD expenses system works

By Fiach Kelly and David Whelan - Tuesday August 02 2011

THE new system introduced last year splits TDs' expenses payments into two elements, the Travel and Accommodation Allowance (TAA) and the Public Representation Allowance (PRA).


To claim the TAA, TDs must verify their attendance at Leinster House by either electronically fobbing in with a tag at a number of points or by signing an attendance book.

Both methods are recorded, and attendance sheets are uploaded on the Oireachtas website each month. The TAA covers the costs of travel to and from Leinster House, accommodation where applicable, and constituency travel.

No receipts are needed to claim the TAA but TDs have to attend at least 120 days annually. For every day below 120, they have to refund 1pc of their annual total allowance. The attendance days do not have to be sitting days.

Each member is paid an allowance based on the distance from their declared normal place of residence to the Dail.

The Dublin band is for TDs who live 25km or less from Leinster House and is worth €12,000 a year.

For those living between 25km and 60km from the Dail, the allowance jumps to €28,106 a year to allow for overnight stays. The highest allowance is for those living 360km away or more and is worth €37,850 a year.

Cabinet and junior ministers do not get the TAA but are entitled to a second-home allowance so rural ministers could keep a base in the capital.

It has escaped the cuts to political expenses. It applies to houses, rented accommodation and hotels.

In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, 11 ministers claimed €27,231 in tax breaks on second homes, €2,838 on rented accommodation and €20,894 on hotels.


These payments are in addition to the TAA.

The PRA is designed to cover the day-to-day running of a constituency office, such as gas bills, leaflets, newsletters and stationery.

TDs can choose the unvouched system and get €15,000 a year, or the fully vouched system which has a limit of €25,700. Ministers can get €12,000 unvouched and €20,000 if they produce receipts.

All these payments are on top of a politician's salary -- a TD's basic salary is around €90,000 a year.


I am utterly amazed at the unmitigated gaul of these Irish politicians continuing to shower themselves in these outrageous benefits while, on the floor of the Dail, they routinely discuss imposing even further unmerciful cuts in benefits and more tax increases for the ordinary citizens and taxpayers of Ireland. The Celtic Tiger may be long gone but the incredible level of greed that it spawned in Irish politicians is alive and well regardless of what political party is in power.

The imposition of these Draconian cuts in benefits and further tax increases leave Irish families with little choice but to suffer in silence and younger people to choose the “emigrant ship”.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America