Homeland Security says human smuggling incidents have increased on the Orange, LA County coasts

LOS ANGELES — Maritime human smuggling in Orange and Los Angeles Counties has increased significantly this summer, with a dozen separate incidents  occurring in July, the Department of Homeland Security reported Monday.

The 12 smuggling attempts — which occurred along the coastlines of Palos Verdes, Long Beach, San Pedro, Malibu, Newport Beach and Santa Catalina Island — resulted in 90 people entering the country illegally being apprehended last month, according to Jaime Ruiz of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Most of the apprehended were men “of diverse nationalities,” though they included some women and teenagers.

Although smuggling activity along the coastline is not new, it was usually seen near the country’s southwest border, according to Ruiz. Criminal organizations have expanded their area of operations further north due to increased enforcement operations at the border.

Smuggling efforts often use pleasure crafts and panga boats to transport migrants and narcotics into the area, and can charge $15,000 or more per person trafficked, Ruiz said.

“Smuggling along the California coastline is inherently dangerous and criminal organizations are not concerned with public safety,” Ruiz said. “They see migrants and narcotics as simply cargo.”

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Homeland Security brings armored vehicle to Santa Ana in a firearms case, congressman alarmed

Department of Homeland Security agents came to Santa Ana on Wednesday with an armored vehicle to serve a search warrant, and were not conducting activities related to immigration enforcement, officials said.

Congressman Lou Correa, a Santa Ana Democrat, said on social media “this incident is very concerning and alarming to me.” Correa added, “My office and I are investigating this incident.”

Earlier today, DHS’s Homeland Security Investigations unit conducted an operation in our community. My office and I are investigating this incident. pic.twitter.com/sDxSGGXP6I

— Rep. Lou Correa (@RepLouCorrea) June 25, 2020

The incident took place at the 1300 block of Center Dr., Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. It was conducted by a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) response team, which is a branch of the DHS but is not affiliated with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said. They came to Santa Ana serve a warrant regarding a firearms-related investigation.

“HSI is the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and is a vital U.S. asset in combating criminal organizations illegally exploiting America’s travel, trade, financial and immigration systems,” Haley said in an email. “As with other law enforcement agencies whose mission is to protect public safety, specially trained SRT (Special Response Team) agents may be deployed in high-risk situations or under hazardous conditions.”

The agency investigates a broad range of crimes including weapons and gun smuggling, human trafficking, transnational gang activity, international theft. HSI also works on immigration fraud, but that was not the focus of its operation in Santa Ana on Wednesday, Haley said.

She declined specify what agents had been searching for, if anything had been seized or if anyone had been detained, citing an ongoing investigation.

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New bill would allow DACA holders paid jobs in Congress

Immigrant youth without permanent legal status would get a shot at paid work in Congress under a bill scheduled to be introduced Wednesday, April 3.

Sen. Kamala Harris, (D-California,) and two other senators are introducing the “American Dream Employment Act,” which would amend current law to allow DACA recipients paid internships and other employment in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Current law allows paid employment in Congress to people who are citizens or lawful permanent residents who are on their way to becoming citizens. That bars people who have a temporary work permit under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a controversial program created by President Obama and at risk of being dismantled under the Trump administration.

DACA holders are younger immigrants brought to the country illegally as children who have two-year renewable deferments from deportation. The DACA status comes with a social security number and a work permit but no direct path to citizenship.

“The giant sign outside my office says ‘DREAMers Welcome Here’ because we know and value the contributions that these young people have made to their communities. But right now, those same young people are banned from giving back to their country by working for Congress. That has to change,” Harris said in a news release.

“Government works best when it reflects the people it represents. Our nation’s DREAMers are some of our best and brightest, and it’s time they had the opportunity to get a job or paid internship on Capitol Hil,” she said.

(DACA holders and other younger immigrants are called “Dreamers” based on a proposed federal law called the Dream Act that was never passed.)

The proposed bill from Senators Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada,) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois,) is similar to one introduced by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona,) in the House, where it has 57 bipartisan co-sponsors. Co-sponsors of Kirkpatrick’s bill include Rep. Luis Correa, D-Santa Ana, and Rep. Gil Cisneros, (D-Yorba Linda).

The legislation is supported by various pro-immigrant rights organizations, including United We Dream, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, (CHIRLA,) and the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center.

Please check back later for more on this story

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Trump administration seeks to expand immigrant family detention

By AMY TAXIN, Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. >> The Trump administration is calling for the expanded use of family detention for immigrant parents and children who are stopped along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move decried by advocates as a cruel and ineffective attempt to deter families from coming to the United States.

Immigration authorities on Friday issued a notice that they may seek up to 15,000 beds to detain families. The Justice Department has also asked a federal court in California to allow children to be detained longer and in facilities that don’t require state licensing while they await immigration court proceedings.

“The current situation is untenable,” August Flentje, special counsel to the assistant attorney general, wrote in court filings seeking to change a longstanding court settlement that governs the detention of immigrant children. The more constrained the Homeland Security Department is in detaining families together during immigration proceedings, “the more likely it is that families will attempt illegal border crossing.”

The proposed expansion comes days after a public outcry moved the administration to cease the practice of separating children from their migrant parents on the border. More than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents since Homeland Security announced a plan in April to prosecute all immigrants caught on the border.

In all, about 9,000 immigrants traveling in family groups have been caught on the border in each of the last three months, according to federal authorities.

Immigrant advocates contend detention is no place for children and insist there are other alternatives to ensure they and their parents attend immigration court hearings, such as ankle bracelets or community-based programs. The federal court ruled several years ago that children must be released as quickly as possible from family detention.

“It is definitely not a solution under any circumstances,” said Manoj Govindaiah, director of family detention services at the RAICES advocacy group in Texas. “At no point should a child be incarcerated, and children need to be with their parents.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement currently has three family detention facilities — a 100-bed center opened in Pennsylvania in 2001 and two much larger facilities opened in Texas in 2014. Only the Pennsylvania facility can house men, and all of the detainees at the Texas centers are women with children.

In Dilley, Texas, a facility was built on a remote site that was once an old oil workers’ encampment. It includes collections of cottages built around playgrounds. The other Texas center, in Karnes City, is ringed by 15-foot fences and has security cameras monitoring movements. It also offers bilingual children’s books in the library, classes, TVs and an artificial turf soccer field.

Inside the Karnes City center, there are five or six beds to a room typically shared by a couple of families. Cinderblock walls are painted pastel colors, said Govindaiah, who added that the facilities are run by private prison operators, not humanitarian organizations, as is the case with shelters for unaccompanied immigrant children.

Currently, most families spend up to a few weeks in the facilities and are released once they pass an initial asylum screening. They are then given a date to appear before an immigration judge in the cities where they are headed to see if they qualify to stay in the country legally or will face deportation.

Those who do not pass initial screenings can seek additional review in a video conference with a judge, a process that lasts about six weeks.

But that’s much shorter than the six months or a year many families were being held several years ago when the Obama administration began detaining mothers and children in a bid to stem a surge in arrivals on the border, Govindaiah said.

At the time, many were being held until their immigration cases — not just the initial screenings — were resolved.

Advocates then asked the federal court to enforce a decades-old settlement over the detention of immigrant children, and a judge ruled the children should be released as quickly as possible.

The settlement is seen by advocates as a way to ensure children are placed in age-appropriate facilities and for no longer than necessary. State licensing adds another layer of oversight.

“You will have children in facilities that are entirely inappropriate for children and are not meeting child welfare standards,” said Michelle Brane, director of the migrant rights and justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “They are trying to circumvent child welfare standards.”

Brane said there is a viable alternative: supervised release to communities around the country. The federal Family Case Management Program — terminated under the Trump administration — compiled a perfect record of attendance by migrants at court hearings, and a 99 percent appearance record at immigration check-ins, according to a 2017 report by the Homeland Security inspector general.

Just 2 percent of participants — 23 out of 954 — were reported as absconders.

In Friday’s notice, ICE said the family detention beds should be in state-licensed facilities and allow freedom of movement for detainees, and should preferably be located in states along the southwest border.

In addition to providing private showers and educational field trips for children, the centers should appear “child-friendly rather than penal in nature,” the agency said.

Associated Press writers Will Weissert in McAllen, Texas, and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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Immigration rights activists try to block ICE van in LA, later disperse

LOS ANGELES — A group of immigrant rights activists attempted to block a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement van Thursday night from leaving the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The activists gathered around 7 p.m. in the area of Aliso and Alameda streets, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The crowd eventually dispersed and no arrests were made, according to LAPD Officer Tony Im.

The coalition, which is comprised of Los Angeles County organizations supportive of immigrant rights, says it aims to “create an open source campaign where people push for ICE out of (Los Angeles) through diverse and innovative tactics,” according to the group’s Facebook page.

The group also says it aims to end ICE holds.

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DACA participants can again apply for renewal, immigration agency says

By Matt Stevens

The New York Times

The federal government said on Saturday that it would resume accepting renewal requests for a program that shields from deportation young immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children.

In a statement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that “until further notice,” the Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, “will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded” in September, when President Donald Trump moved to end it.

The decision came after a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction on Tuesday ordering the Trump administration to resume the DACA program.

The agency said on Saturday that people who were previously granted deferred action under the program could request a renewal if it had expired on or after Sept. 5, 2016.

People who had previously received DACA but whose deferred action had expired before Sept. 5, 2016, cannot renew but can instead file a new request, the agency said. It noted that the same instructions would apply to anyone whose deferred action had been terminated.

But officials also said they were not accepting requests from individuals who had never been granted deferred action under DACA.

Saying the decision to kill it was improper, Judge William

Alsup of U.S. District Court in San Francisco wrote that the administration must “maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis” as the legal challenge to the president’s decision goes forward.

President Barack Obama created the DACA program in 2012 to give young immigrants the ability to work legally in the United States. In attempting to end it in September, Trump argued that Obama’s actions were unconstitutional and an overreach of executive power.

Since then, a fierce debate has taken hold in Washington as Democrats and Republicans spar about how to provide relief for about 800,000 immigrants who could face deportation if the program ends. Trump met with lawmakers in an hourlong televised meeting Tuesday to begin negotiations.

Critics of the president’s decision to end the policy sued the administration, saying that shutting down the program was arbitrary and done without following the proper legal procedures.

In his ruling, the judge laid out a road map for the government that officials appeared to follow. He said that previous beneficiaries of DACA, known as Dreamers, must be allowed to renew their status in the program, although the government would not be required to accept new applications from immigrants who had not previously submitted one.

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