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Special Reports

Our most in-depth publication, Special Reports provide detailed analyses of special topics in U.S. immigration policy.

The Morton Memo and Prosecutorial Discretion: An Overview

By Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Esq.

On June 17, 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton issued two significant memoranda on the use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration matters.  Prosecutorial discretion refers to the agency’s authority to not enforce immigration laws against certain individuals and groups.  The primary memo (the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion) calls on ICE attorneys and employees to refrain from pursuing noncitizens with close family, educational, military, or other ties in the U.S. and instead spend the agency’s limited resources on persons who pose a serious threat to public safety or national security.  Morton’s second memo focuses on exercising discretion in cases involving victims, witnesses to crimes, and plaintiffs in good faith civil rights lawsuits.  The memo instructs “[a]bsent special circumstances or aggravating factors, it is against ICE policy to initiate removal proceedings against an individual known to be the immediate victim or witness to a crime.”  

A closer look at the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion reveals that it reaffirms many of the principles and policies of previous guidance on this subject.  The memo, however, takes a further step in articulating the expectations for and responsibilities of ICE personnel when exercising their discretion.

Published On: Wed, Jul 20, 2011 | Download File

Revitalizing the Golden State

By Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, Ph.D.

California is home to nearly 10 million immigrants, more than one quarter of the state’s population. Of those, 2.7 million are undocumented, and the vast majority of them have been living in the United States for more than 10 years. California’s immigrant contributions to the Golden State cannot be overstated. From Cesar Chavez, the pioneering agricultural labor-rights leader in the 20th century to Sergei Brin, the Russian entrepreneur behind one of the 21st century’s most revolutionary companies, Google Inc., the foreign born and their descendants are woven into the state’s cultural and economic fabric. 

Still, that reality has not prevented some Californians, frustrated with our broken federal immigration system, to call for an Arizona-style “papers please” approach. The stated goal of this new wave of state-based enforcement legislation is to trigger a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants, by making “attrition through enforcement” the policy of state and local government agencies. The threshold question that proponents of S.B.1070-style legislation have failed to answer is whether that goal serves the economic interests of the state’s constituents.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Apr 27, 2011 | Download File

Debunking the Myth of "Sanctuary Cities"

By Lynn Tramonte

There is much confusion about the term “sanctuary city.”  The term is often used derisively by immigration opponents to blast what are best described as community policing policies.  Critics claim that these cities and states provide “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants, but research shows that the opposite is true.  In fact, community policing policies are about providing public safety services, not sanctuary, to both immigrant residents and the entire community.  Crime experts, including hundreds of local police officers, have found that cities with community policing policies continue to work closely with DHS and have built bridges to immigrant communities that have improved their ability to fight crime and protect the entire community.

Historically, the federal government has enforced civil immigration law, and state and local police have focused on enforcing criminal law.  However, propelled by increased frustration with the nation’s broken immigration system and by growing anti-immigrant sentiment, politicians’ demands for state and local police to take on an increased role in immigration enforcement have grown exponentially.  This culminated in the passage of Arizona’s notorious SB1070 law in 2010, which would turn Arizona state and local police officers into deportation agents. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Apr 26, 2011 | Download File

Q&A Guide to Arizona's Immigration Law

One year after the passage of Arizona’s tough new immigration law (SB1070), both opponents and proponents are attempting to assess the impact the new law may have on residents of Arizona—citizens and immigrants alike.  A federal district court ruling preliminarily enjoined large parts of the controversial law, meaning that those portions of the new law cannot be implemented, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the preliminary injunction.  Other lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the law and have yet to be ruled on, opponents have mounted boycotts, and numerous polls show that a majority of the public both supports the Arizona law and comprehensive immigration reform.  Furthermore, despite criticism of SB1070 from Republicans, Democrats, police officials, religious leaders, and civil-rights leaders, legislators in many states have introduced or are considering introducing similar legislation.
Read more...

Published On: Tue, Apr 26, 2011 | Download File

Second Annual DHS Progress Report

By Royce Bernstein Murray, Esq.

In its second year under the Obama Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—which is responsible for the nation’s three immigration agencies (USCIS, CBP, and ICE)—continues to struggle with its competing missions of providing immigration benefits and enforcing immigration laws, all within the context of an outdated and broken immigration system. Over the past year, while waiting for Congress to act, the Administration has increased its emphasis on enforcement and deportation and denied its ability to provide administrative relief.   This report finds that, while DHS has made significant progress in some areas, there is much room for improvement. The report recommends that DHS act in line with its own stated priorities and exert its executive authority to bring about much-needed reforms that can be done in the absence of Congressional action.

Published On: Tue, Apr 12, 2011 | Download File

Constitutional Citizenship: A Legislative History

By Garrett Epps

Attacks against the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment have picked up in recent months, with legislators at both the national and state levels introducing bills that would deny U.S. citizenship or “state citizenship” to the children born to unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

There are two strands of attacks on birthright citizenship.  One strand arises out of simple nativist anger at the impact of immigrants, legal or otherwise, on society.  The other argues that the current interpretation of the Citizenship Clause as covering the children of “illegal” immigrants is inconsistent with the “original intent” of the Framers of the 14th Amendment.  Originalism is often used as a method to clarify unclear portions of constitutional text or to fill contextual gaps in the document. This is not, however, how originalism is being used in the context to the Citizenship Clause.  Here, originalists use clever arguments and partial quotations to eradicate the actual text of the Amendment.  In essence, they claim the Framers did not really mean what they said. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Mar 28, 2011 | Download File

A Rising Tide or a Shrinking Pie

By Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, Ph.D.

Our national debate over urgently needed immigration reform is now careening through our state legislatures, city halls, and town councils due to political gridlock at the federal level. And nowhere is that debate more contentious than in Arizona, where in April of last year the state’s legislature sought to rid the state of undocumented immigrants with passage of S.B. 1070. The law is specifically designed to trigger a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants from the state by making “attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.”

The economic analysis in this report shows the S.B. 1070 approach would have devastating economic consequences if its goals were accomplished. When undocumented workers are taken out of the economy, the jobs they support through their labor, consumption, and tax payments disappear as well. Particularly during a time of profound economic uncertainty, the type of economic dislocation envisioned by S.B. 1070-type policies runs directly counter to the interests of our nation as we continue to struggle to distance ourselves from the ravages of the Great Recession.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 24, 2011 | Download File

Deeper into the Shadows

By Jeffrey Kaye

Before the onset of the Great Recession, immigrant labor was cited as a boom to the U.S. economy.  In towns and cities across the country, immigrant labor—documented or otherwise—filled positions in growing businesses and industries where demand outpaced the supply of native-born workers.  Since the onset of the economic downturn in 2008 and the rise in U.S. unemployment, some analysts and politicians—looking for a convenient scapegoat—have turned on that immigrant workforce and their employers, arguing that deporting eight million undocumented immigrant workers will create eight million new jobs for the native-born.  This over-simplified equation ignores the complicated and inter-dependent roles that immigrants play in our economy.  A 2010 study by the Fiscal Policy Institute on the economic contributions of immigrants in the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States makes the point well:

The results were clear: immigrants contribute to the economy in direct relation to their share of the population.  In the 25 largest metropolitan areas combined, immigrants make up 20 percent of the population and are responsible for 20 percent of economic output.  Together, these metro areas comprise 42 percent of the total population of the country, 66 percent of all immigrants, and half of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Feb 09, 2011 | Download File