Not an immigration case, but a successful wrongful death case against a for-profit prison in Texas.
Corpus Christi Caller by Steve Alford
FALFURRIAS — A Corpus Christi jury returned a verdict Wednesday siding with the widow of a man who died in January 2009 at the Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias.
The federal jury decided unanimously to award $2.25 million to the widow of 42-year-old Mario Garcia, who died of a seizure while on suicide watch at the center.
Garcia's family contends he was denied prescribed medications while at the facility, which led to his death 12 days after being brought there.
His condition began to quickly deteriorate after being jailed, though he was never sent to a physician or a hospital, according to the family's counsel. Garcia left behind a wife and a 10-year-old son.
Kathy Snapka, lead counsel for the Garcia family, called the death preventable and said facility staff disregarded his condition. Snapka said the family hopes the verdict in Garcia v. Niderhauser will send a message to other facilities that they will be held accountable for neglect.
"Monica Garcia's objective was to speak for Mario to ensure that no other person is denied the right to receive medical attention," Snapka said.
Attorneys for LCS Corrections, which owns Brooks County Detention Center, were not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Both sides await the ruling of U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who has as much as 30 days to make a judgment.
Good work, attorney Kathy Snapka!
Center for Public Integrity by Susan Ferriss
In a nation built by immigrants, they thought they could pursue their American Dream — with loved ones at their side. Instead, they're living an American nightmare that's tearing families apart and forcing Americans into exile.
Chris Xitco, a native of Los Angeles, never imagined that after marrying his wife Delia in 2002 and trying to legalize her, she'd end up barred by U.S. officials for life, with no pardon even possible for 10 years. She now lives south of Tijuana, Mexico, alone with the couple’s two small children.
T.J. Barbour, a native of San Diego, has been struggling every day to care for a 10-year-old son, since his wife Maythe was deported and then barred from the United States in 2011 for what could be 20 years.
In central North Carolina, Anita Mann Perez has been financially ruined trying to raise three small children since her husband Jorge was exiled for 10 years in 2007. Now she's moved to Mexico to join him.
Across the country, as illegal immigrants have settled into communities, they have met Americans, fallen in love, married and had children. But when Americans have voluntarily stepped up to sponsor their spouses for legal residency, believing this was the right thing to do, they’ve been shocked to discover their citizenship does not trump mandatory penalties the spouses must face. Far from it.
These penalties, which “bar” the spouses from the U.S. for years at a time, were instituted by Congress in 1996 specifically to punish immigration-related offenses.
Since then, the law governing such situations — and the way it’s applied —has taken a number of twists and turns. Over that time period, waivers have helped many people. And in January, President Obama announced a plan to tweak the procedure by which citizens’ spouses apply for residency, a change that could eventually spare many more families from long, painful separations. But the change isn’t likely to go into effect this year, and it isn’t retroactive. And while thousands stand to benefit, thousands of others simply won’t qualify for easier access to “hardship waivers” that the president proposes — and will be trapped by the small print of the 1996 law. (SEE SIDEBAR)
Under that law, if applicants for legal residency crossed the border once, and were “unlawfully present” for more than one year, they must be issued a 10-year bar from living in the United States. They can then apply for a hardship waiver to try to return sooner and take up legal residency. If applicants have a history of entering the United States multiple times illegally, they can be barred for life — and can only pursue pardons if they remain outside the United States for five, usually 10, sometimes 20 years. Being married to an American citizen may not help at all.
To complete their application process, people who entered the United States illegally must go to their final interview at a U.S. consulate back in their home countries. Often U.S. consular officials must simply deliver the bad news immediately. And that’s that. The bar has begun, and the applicant cannot return.
For the first time since immigration authorities officially launched Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in mid-August, the federal government released statistics last Friday indicating that thousands of requests have been officially granted. But while the figures themselves are an encouraging sign, other evidence suggests that most applicants will not have their requests considered until after the next presidential inauguration in January, if at all.
As of October 10, according to figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), immigration officials had accepted nearly 180,000 requests; scheduled nearly 160,000 appointments to submit fingerprints; and formally granted deferred action to 4,591 individuals. (Of those whose requests have been granted, USCIS did not state how many had received work permits.) Compared to unofficial figures leaked earlier in the month—which revealed that 87,000 requests had been accepted and 36 approved through September 12—Friday’s numbers reflect a significant spike in both categories.
Why? The jump in the number of applications is likely due to the fact that it simply took many DREAMers longer to submit their applications than was originally expected. School districts have been strained by requests for transcripts and other records demonstrating continuous presence in the country, and many applicants have reportedly collected more documentation than necessary as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, the rise in the number of granted requests is likely the result of more individual applicants completing the steps needed for USCIS employees to officially process their applications, such as submitting fingerprints during a scheduled appointment. In this respect, the backlog of DACA applications is similar to line of cars stopped at a red light: Not everyone can move once the light turns green, but as each driver gets space to accelerate, more and more vehicles make it through the intersection.
Yet despite the significant increase in the pace of grants, other evidence suggests that most applicants will still be waiting for a response on January 20, the date of the next presidential inauguration. As was reported in the Wall Street Journal, USCIS anticipates that most requests will take between four and six months to process, meaning that DREAMers who submitted their applications on August 15 may still be waiting for an answer when President Obama begins his second term or Mitt Romney begins his first.
Moreover, even after a request for deferred action is granted, USCIS has up to 90 days to issue a work permit. Given Romney’s pledge to discontinue the program upon taking office (at least for individuals who have not yet received deferred action), it remains unclear how his administration would treat applicants whose requests for deferred action have been granted but have yet to receive an employment authorization document.
In short, although 1.8 million immigrants could qualify for deferred action now or in the future, Friday’s numbers suggest only a small fraction will be reap the full benefit of the program by inauguration day.
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y (AP) — President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are clashing over immigration, with Romney accusing Obama of failing to reform the immigration system during his first term.
Romney says during the second presidential debate that the nation needs to stop illegal immigration, noting that 4 million people are trying to gain American citizenship legally. He says he won't grant amnesty to people who come to the U.S. illegally.
Obama says Romney has opposed the DREAM Act, a failed bill that would have provided a path to legal status for many young illegal immigrants.
He says Republicans in Congress have been unwilling to support comprehensive immigration reform and won't in the future with Romney as the "standard-bearer" of his party.
USCIS released numbers on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as of October 10, 2012:
Texas Tribune by Reeve Hamilton
In 2011, during his first regular session, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, filed a bill to repeal the state’s decade-old law allowing some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates to attend public universities in Texas.
The proposal didn’t get anywhere — Birdwell concedes that he was unable to wrangle enough votes to pass it out of the Senate Higher Education Committee — but the issue has become increasingly controversial.
Heading into the 2013 session, which begins in January, Birdwell told The Texas Tribune that he intends to file the bill again. This time, because of changes in public sentiment and the makeup of the Texas Senate, he may have momentum in his favor.
Under the current law, signed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2001 and broadened in 2005, students may establish residency and qualify for in-state tuition if they graduate from a Texas high school, have lived in the state for three years before applying and sign an affidavit indicating their intent to apply for permanent residency status as soon as possible.
Birdwell said his objections to the policy stem from his view of citizenship. “It is not intended to be harsh,” he said. “It is intended to affirm that I serve those that are citizens — black, white, pink, purple, I don’t care. Citizenship is the center of gravity.”
He also said the benefit of lower tuition could incentivize illegal activity rather than addressing the country’s immigration issues. “It’s conceding the failure of the federal government, so let’s get comfortable with it,” he said.
So far, the biggest barriers to Birdwell’s success have come from within the GOP, but an influx of new conservative senators may change that.
“It’s a debated issue within our own party,” state Rep. Kelly Hancock, R-Fort Worth, acknowledged at a TribLive event last month featuring three incoming Republican senators — Hancock, Larry Taylor of Friendswood and Ken Paxton of McKinney.
All three said they would side with Birdwell on the issue.
Contact Senator Birdwell to tell him that Texas should continue allowing undocumented students who graduate from Texas High Schools and have lived here for 3 years to attend school at in-state tuition rates.
The Honorable Brian Birdwell
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711