Although it inexplicably escaped much attention, the Supreme Court finally issued its ruling on Jennings v. Rodriguez late last month. In a 5-3 decision, the high court ruled that non-US Citizens are not entitled periodic bond hearings while being detained by the Department of Homeland Security. The impact of this ruling is momentous and will have enormous ramifications for immigrants-both legal and undocumented-who are apprehended and detained by ICE.
Late last month, some media outlets reported what is sure to be alarming news to privacy-minded individuals. It appears that Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") has finalized a contract with Vigilant Solutions, a private company, to obtain access to license plate information. According to an article in The Verge, the company has a database of more than two billion license plates photos, gleaned from vehicle repossessions agencies, other companies, and cameras stationed in police cars as well as bridges and toll booths.
Two weeks ago, the Portland Mercury reported that immigration enforcement officers in that state were allegedly texting undocumented immigrants in order to entrap them into disclosing their immigration status and other crucial information. The article can be found here. If true, this practice is perhaps the latest tactic that ICE is employing to carry out President Trump's enforcement mandate. It also underscores to what lengths the government is willing to go to apprehend people suspected of being in the country illegally. Not only do these latest methods come across highly invasive, there is something fundamentally unconscionable about it that violates any sense of fair play. One shudders to predict what is next. Will ICE agents resort to impersonating others and reaching out to people through fictitious Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts? Given the direction that things appear to be going, this is certainly possible. As mentioned earlier in a previous post, the government quietly passed a new rule that allows the Department of Homeland Security to monitor immigrants' social media and internet searches. Notwithstanding that, both legal and illegal residents are reminded that individuals have the right not to speak (or communicate) with government enforcement agents. An ICE agent reaching out to someone by text or telephone is no different than a street encounter. The officer is free to talk and ask questions of the subject; however, if the subject is not under arrest, he/she is equally free not to answer questions and just walk away. Similarly, one is not legally required to answer a text message nor provide information that may incriminate oneself. If the recipient does not recognize the texter or does not feel comfortable communicating, he/she is free to terminate the interaction. The right to remain silent and not incriminate oneself is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and covers not only oral communication but presumably any words or actions testimonial in nature. (This could include emails and texts.) The issue is whether the answers were compelled or voluntarily given. If an individual freely provides information pertaining to his/her immigration status and country of origin, such information may be used during immigration court proceedings to satisfy the government's burden of proof.
One of the most common concerns that undocumented and "illegal" people have is what are their rights when being questioned or stopped by immigration agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"). For purposes of this article, we are confining our discussion to encounters within the interior of the United States. If a person is apprehended/questioned by the Department of Homeland Security at the border, he/she will ordinarily be dealing with someone from Customs and Border Protection (or "CBP").
In previous blog posts, we have touched upon some of the consequences triggered by the use of fake social security numbers or driver licenses by undocumented immigrants. Although the two credentials are entirely different from one another, they are both highly coveted and used by those without status to gain jobs, keep jobs, and carry as a form of identification. While there is always a small contingent of people who will procure and use these documents out of self interest and for unscrupulous purposes (ie., identity fraud, hindering apprehension, to name a few) the vast majority of people with immigration problems who use them are merely trying to survive and support their families. As our society and governmental institutions become increasingly document reliant and begin making basic privileges contingent on those documents, the fringes of the underground economy continue to shrink, pressuring more and more desperate immigrants beyond its outskirts.
Few people may be aware that the much-vilified Secure Communities Program has actually been discontinued and replaced by a purportedly more focused Priority Enforcement Program, or "PEP." The death knell of Secure Communities was actually heard in November of 2014 when DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson released a memo about it, but only recently have ICE officers received training in the implementation and application of PEP.
President Obama's Executive Order on Immigration not only provided a reprieve to millions of undocumented aliens in the US, but also signaled a change in enforcement priorities. Under a new November 2014 memorandum entitled Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security has been ordered to re-prioritize whom it should be actively seeking to remove. This policy wide guidance applies to all immigration arms of DHS including US Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE), US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It also, importantly, rescinds and replaces previous memoranda including the famous 2011 Morton Memos that paved the way for Prosecutorial Discretion Requests. People who applying for DAPA relief should also be aware of this memo, as deferred action will not be extended to those who are considered enforcement priorities.
On August 23rd Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) released an administration policy directive entitled "Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities." This memo serves to supplement as well as complement already existing memoranda relating to prosecutorial discretion and enforcement priorities. This memo in particular focuses on policies that affect alien parents, including placement, monitoring, accommodation, detention and removal. It states that "particular attention" should be given regarding any proposed action that involves 1) parents or legal guardians who are primary caretakers; 2) parents or legal guardians who have a direct interest in family court proceedings involving a minor or child welfare proceedings in the United States; and 3) parents or legal guardians whose minor children are U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents.
On August 9, 2012, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issued a Withdraw of Notice to PC Tech, thereby stripping the school of its ability to enroll foreign students. (PC Tech does have a right to appeal the decision.)
The link can be found here: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/alerts/pc-tech.htm.
It also released guidance to foreign students currently enrolled at PC Tech Learning, many of whom--up to now--were still understandably confused as to what their status is and what their options are. Fortunately, unlike the way in which the Department of Homeland Security aggressively rounded up (sometimes arresting) and summarily ousted students enrolled at Tri Valley University in California, the government seems to be taking a more measured approach to the general student body here, who in all fairness, don't seem to be involved in the activities PC Tech's officials are accused of.
Just a few weeks ago, a school in Iselin, New Jersey, was "busted" by DHS for allegedly running a scam involving foreign students. This only underscores again how important it is for prospective foreign students to be aware of what schools are and are not allowed to do, as well as what their own obligations and limitations are as a foreign student. While the school has not been proven guilty and will certainly be entitled to its day in court with a presumption of innocence, there have been scandals involving schools that directly affect their students. Even when students are innocent of any wrongdoing and actually victims, many have been forced or pressured to leave, some even deported. Students need to make sure that they are enrolled in schools approved by immigration, of course, to enroll foreign students. They also need to be cognizant of their obligations with respect to classroom time and hours and carry a full course load. Those who do not will fall out of compliance and be reported by SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System). From there, it is only a matter of time before ICE is made aware of the violations.