American Gateways http://www.americangateways.org Fri, 07 Sep 2018 19:49:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://i0.wp.com/www.americangateways.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-american-gateways.png?fit=32%2C32 American Gateways http://www.americangateways.org 32 32 111284648 AMERICAN GATEWAYS REJECTS FAMILY DETENTION AS A SOLUTION TO “ZERO TOLERANCE” POLICY http://www.americangateways.org/american-gateways-rejects-family-detention-as-a-solution-to-zero-tolerance-policy/ Thu, 21 Jun 2018 14:14:44 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=1056 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 20, 2018 Austin, TX – We are extremely disappointed to learn that the Trump Administration’s response to widespread demand to end the separation of families is to instead keep them detained indefinitely. The Executive Order, signed...

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 20, 2018

Austin, TX – We are extremely disappointed to learn that the Trump Administration’s response to widespread demand to end the separation of families is to instead keep them detained indefinitely. The Executive Order, signed this afternoon, is unacceptable for several reasons.

First, it continues to perpetuate the myth that family separation is the product of bad legislation or court decisions rather than a cruel and deliberate policy choice made by the Administration.

Second, thousands of families have already been torn apart by this Administration’s policy. This new Executive Order does nothing to help those who have been cruelly separated. Moreover, it does not guarantee an end to family separation as the temporary family holding facilities contemplated in this EO lack the proper licensing to detain and hold children. Rather, it introduces even more uncertainty into an already chaotic immigration process.

Finally, and most importantly, as we have learned from experience, family detention, is an inhumane, impractical, and unsustainable practice traumatizes children and families who have already faced significant trauma. “It cannot be stated enough that the victims of this policy are here fleeing persecution,” explained Rebecca Lightsey, Executive Director. “To take survivors of violence, parents and children alike, and lock them up in detention just because they’re looking for help is just plain wrong.”

“We urge on the Administration to reconsider the policy outlined in the EO drafted today and instead implement community-based and humane alternatives to family detention and separation,” Lightsey.

American Gateways is an Austin-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that has served the Central Texas immigrant community for more than 30 years. Our mission is to champion the dignity and human rights of immigrants, refugees and survivors of persecution, torture, conflict and human trafficking through exceptional immigration legal services, at low or no cost, education, and advocacy. With offices in Austin, San Antonio, and Waco, we serve 20 counties throughout the region.

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June Fiesta for Immigrant Heritage Month http://www.americangateways.org/june-fiesta-for-immigrant-heritage-month/ Sat, 09 Jun 2018 14:32:16 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=1051 Please join our annual party in celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month. We’ll be gathering at the Sahara Lounge on Webberville Road in East Austin on June 24th to enjoy food, drinks, and music from around the world. All are welcome!...

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Please join our annual party in celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month. We’ll be gathering at the Sahara Lounge on Webberville Road in East Austin on June 24th to enjoy food, drinks, and music from around the world. All are welcome!

More information is on our Facebook page.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS REINSTATES FUNDING FOR LEGAL ORIENTATION PROGRAM http://www.americangateways.org/attorney-general-jeff-sessions-reinstates-funding-for-legal-orientation-program/ Tue, 01 May 2018 23:02:57 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=1033 Austin/San Antonio – American Gateways is relieved to learn that Attorney General Sessions has decided to “un-pause” funding for the Legal Orientation Program (LOP). As we have long maintained, this program guarantees access to accurate and essential legal education for underrepresented...

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Austin/San Antonio – American Gateways is relieved to learn that Attorney General Sessions has decided to “un-pause” funding for the Legal Orientation Program (LOP). As we have long maintained, this program guarantees access to accurate and essential legal education for underrepresented and low-income immigrants facing deportation. Moreover, this program improves the efficiency of the immigration court system and ultimately produces a net savings for taxpayers. “This is tremendous news for the immigrants we serve,” said Rebecca Lightsey, Executive Director. “They will be able to get basic, critical information about the legal process and their legal rights through our incredible team of lawyers and case workers.”

 

We were heartened to see such an outpouring of support for the immigrant community when the program cuts were announced. From religious leaders and elected officials to supporters throughout the community, people spoke up and stood up for immigrants’ rights to due process. We especially thank Representatives Doggett and Castro, as well as State Representative Gina Hinojosa for their outspoken support.

 

Nevertheless, the temporary cessation of LOP funding underscores the vulnerability of low-income immigrants throughout the region and the country, particularly those in detention and facing deportation. “Access to basic legal information, if not full-on representation, while going through a court process with such high stakes should be guaranteed,” said Lightsey. “The basic human rights of tens of thousands shouldn’t hinge on a single funding stream.” As we continue to serve our LOP sites, American Gateways will continue to strengthen and expand our existing programs to ensure that they are sustainable over the long term. We also call on the Trump Administration and our elected officials to do more to protect the rights of immigrants guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and international human rights norms.

 

 

 

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“Living in limbo in the land of the free”–Waco Tribune Guest Article about DACA http://www.americangateways.org/living-in-limbo-in-the-land-of-the-free-waco-tribune-guest-article-about-daca/ Tue, 01 May 2018 16:53:37 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=1028 Grecia Chavira is on our Waco Advisory Committee and has been an amazing supporter of AG. Last week, her op-ed about the uncertainty that people with DACA face was published by the Waco Tribune. She comments on how the uncertainty...

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Grecia Chavira is on our Waco Advisory Committee and has been an amazing supporter of AG. Last week, her op-ed about the uncertainty that people with DACA face was published by the Waco Tribune.

She comments on how the uncertainty surround DACA has affected them:

But now we may be forced to leave our jobs and possibly our country. Living in this limbo state has been emotionally and physically detrimental to us. We’re not asking for handouts or for things to be made easy or free. We know we have to work hard for what we want. And we have worked.

Read the entire piece here: http://www.wacotrib.com/opinion/columns/guest_columns/grecia-chavira-guest-columnist-living-in-limbo-in-the-land/article_8b7a9038-df19-57f2-8f2a-636f548a0f4f.html

 

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DC Federal Judge Rules DACA Must Stay, Pending 90-Day Appeal Window http://www.americangateways.org/dc-federal-judge-rules-daca-must-stay-pending-90-day-appeal-window/ Thu, 26 Apr 2018 20:05:31 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=1019 Exciting news out of the Federal District Court in DC this week! Judge John D. Bates ruled that DACA protections must stay in place and that USCIS must accept initial applications, given the government’s decision to terminate the program was...

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Exciting news out of the Federal District Court in DC this week! Judge John D. Bates ruled that DACA protections must stay in place and that USCIS must accept initial applications, given the government’s decision to terminate the program was based on unsubstantiated allegations that it was unlawful. However, the judge gave DHS 90 days to submit a better explanation for their decision, so USCIS will not be accepting initial applications right away. If DHS fails to do so, initial applications will be accepted.

 

If you have more questions about your eligibility to apply for DACA (initial or renewal), don’t hesitate to visit our Austin or San Antonio offices during walk-in hours or call our Waco office to schedule an appointment. See below for more information about our locations & office hours.

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AMERICAN GATEWAYS RESPONDS TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ABRUPT ANNOUNCEMENT TO CANCEL PROGRAM PROVIDING BASIC LEGAL EDUCATION TO THOUSANDS OF IMMIGRANTS IN REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS http://www.americangateways.org/american-gateways-responds-to-department-of-justice-abrupt-announcement-to-cancel-program-providing-basic-legal-education-to-thousands-of-immigrants-in-removal-proceedings/ Mon, 16 Apr 2018 22:41:42 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=1009 Austin/San Antonio – American Gateways is deeply saddened and frustrated to learn that the Department of Justice has announced the discontinuation of all funding for the Legal Orientation Program (“LOP”) and Immigration Court Helpdesk (“ICH”) programs, effective at the end...

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Austin/San Antonio – American Gateways is deeply saddened and frustrated to learn that the Department of Justice has announced the discontinuation of all funding for the Legal Orientation Program (“LOP”) and Immigration Court Helpdesk (“ICH”) programs, effective at the end of April and July respectively. With sites across the country, these programs provide basic legal education to thousands of immigrants in removal proceedings who would not otherwise have access to legal counsel. The DOJ-funded programs were implemented by the Vera Institute for Justice, who in turn partnered with a national network of legal services providers. American Gateways serves as the LOP provider at three immigration detention centers in the region, including the South Texas Detention Complex, the Karnes County Residential Center, and the South Texas Residential Center. We are also the Helpdesk (ICH) provider at the San Antonio Immigration Court.

At an annual cost of just over $10 million, the LOP and ICH programs served more than 53,000 individuals and families facing deportation each year. Through presentations and workshops, LOP and ICH providers explained the immigration system and court processes, the legal rights of immigrants in deportation proceedings, and any potential legal pathways for those appearing before the courts to remain in the United States. It also created a mechanism for direct referrals to pro bono attorneys willing to provide representation.

The abrupt cancellation of the program marks the Trump Administration’s most recent assault on the immigrant community and their utter disdain for fundamental human rights. “These actions are an affront to basic principles of due process and equal access to justice,” said Rebecca Lightsey, Executive Director. “The LOP and ICH programs insured that our team of attorneys and legal professionals were on the ground, providing basic services for thousands of the most vulnerable in our community. Those affected include asylum seekers and survivors of violence and human trafficking as well as countless Central Texas families who have seen a loved one apprehended and carried away by ICE.”

“Although the Justice Department’s move represents a significant blow to our region, we will not be deterred. In the coming hours, days, and weeks we will be working to respond to this challenge and continue the fight for immigrant justice.”

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Tomorrow in Waco: Bienvenidos Bash! http://www.americangateways.org/tomorrow-in-waco-bienvenidos-bash/ Tue, 27 Mar 2018 01:14:48 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=1004 We invite you to celebrate the first anniversary of our Waco office and learn more about the important work we are doing in the community. Join us for eats provided by Milo Biscuit Company, live entertainment from JB Smith, and...

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We invite you to celebrate the first anniversary of our Waco office and learn more about the important work we are doing in the community. Join us for eats provided by Milo Biscuit Company, live entertainment from JB Smith, and a silent auction with proceeds benefiting our continued work in Waco. The event takes place at Balcones Distillery. Tickets are $35. This is 21+ event. Find more information here.

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Thanks To Amplify Austin Donors! http://www.americangateways.org/thanks-to-amplify-austin-donors/ Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:25:29 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=995 We want to send a sincere thanks to the supporters who helped us raise over $10,000 during Amplify Austin’s recent 24-hour fundraising blitz. We will use your donations to continue the fight for immigrant justice. If you would like to...

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We want to send a sincere thanks to the supporters who helped us raise over $10,000 during Amplify Austin’s recent 24-hour fundraising blitz. We will use your donations to continue the fight for immigrant justice.

If you would like to learn more about Amplify Austin, which raises funds for 700 Central Texas nonprofits throughout the year, please visit their homepage.

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Immigration Court Helpdesk http://www.americangateways.org/immigration-court-helpdesk/ Sat, 27 Jan 2018 17:38:31 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=955 The Immigration Court Helpdesk (ICH) program is a court-based legal education program for non-detained noncitizens in immigration court proceedings. The goal of ICH is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of immigration court proceedings by informing non-detained respondents appearing before...

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The Immigration Court Helpdesk (ICH) program is a court-based legal education program for non-detained noncitizens in immigration court proceedings. The goal of ICH is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of immigration court proceedings by informing non-detained respondents appearing before the court about court practices and procedures, available legal options, and other relevant topics. Because immigrants in court proceedings are not entitled to legal representation at the government’s expense, ICH prepares unrepresented individuals to understand the immigration court process and navigate a complex legal system on their own. By providing respondents with the knowledge to make informed decisions, ICH helps make immigration proceedings more efficient in courts with significant backlogs around the country.

The Immigration Court Helpdesk is located in the Pro Bono room of the San Antonio Immigration Court Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm.

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The Whipsaw: Recent Changes To DACA And TPS http://www.americangateways.org/whipsaw-recent-changes-daca-tps/ Wed, 17 Jan 2018 22:33:40 +0000 http://www.americangateways.org/?p=930 Sawdust The whipsaw method of modifying federal immigration policy was established in early 2017 and continues apace in the new year. It goes something like this: the Trump administration takes a drastic (and perhaps legally insupportable) action with the evident...

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Sawdust

The whipsaw method of modifying federal immigration policy was established in early 2017 and continues apace in the new year. It goes something like this: the Trump administration takes a drastic (and perhaps legally insupportable) action with the evident goal of reducing the overall numbers of both legal and undocumented immigrants in the United States. Immigration advocates in local government and/or the nonprofit realm then challenge the changes in court, which not infrequently results in a federal court putting the brakes on all or part of those changes. It’s created a tough and uncertain situation for all stakeholders but especially for the immigrants whose futures are now obscured by the accumulating sawdust of aggressive, de facto immigration reform.

American Gateways clients are among the immigrants struggling through this period of heightened confusion and include beneficiaries of certain U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) programs. In particular, people eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs have seen important changes over the past few months.

DACA

The administration discontinued DACA in September and gave status-holders one month to apply for a final renewal, valid for two years. It was a demoralizing setback for the over 700,000 undocumented people known as Dreamers. At American Gateways, we’ve filed over 1,200 applications and renewals for DACA protection since the program’s inception. The cohort’s name comes from a law called the DREAM Act that knocked around Congress in the first decade of the aughts. It sought to legalize the presence of people brought to the country as children but was hampered by the stubborn toxicity among some hardliners of anything that could be considered an amnesty. The Obama administration responded with DACA in 2012 and set certain qualifications for applicants. They must have arrived before their sixteenth birthday. They must either attend school or possess a high school diploma or GED. They will “have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety,” in the words of USCIS.

Despite the erroneous claims of some pundits and politicians (including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton), DACA did not provide a path to citizenship or even legal permanent residency. It simply guaranteed that Dreamers would not be targeted for deportation and, crucially, could legally seek work. Hopes have risen and fallen several times in the past year that a permanent legislative solution to the Dreamer’s situation would be found. In fact, they’ve risen and fallen several times in the past week. But a recent development at a San Francisco federal court resulted in a welcome, if still temporary, change in USCIS policy.

Judge William Alsup issued an injunction on January 9th against the repeal of DACA,  mandating that the program resume for those who had already been granted deferred action status at the time of the September repeal. People needing to renew can once again do so and those whose DACA status lapsed or was revoked before the discontinuation can reapply. However, people who were never granted DACA protection cannot seek it now. The Department of Justice appealed the injunction yesterday at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and also announced its intention to seek a Supreme Court review. The whipsaw can change direction at any time, but only a legislative fix will bring some measure of stability to the lives and future plans of the Dreamers. Those eligible to renew or reapply are encouraged to do as soon as possible. American Gateways is collaborating with other organizations to offer DACA clinics on January 19th and 21st. See the flyer here or find more information on our Events calendar.

TPS

Meanwhile, recipients of TPS from Nicaragua and El Salvador occupy a space below the dusty first downstroke of the whipsaw. The Department of Homeland Security declared the end of TPS designations for those countries in December and January, respectively, and provided dates for the final re-enrollment period for Nicaragua. They have not yet announced the final re-enrollment period for El Salvador. TPS recipients from Honduras are in a sort of purgatory since the deadline to announce a decision regarding designation renewal or cancellation was missed by the government, thus triggering a legally mandated six-month extension. It’s worth noting that Haitians (whose TPS designation was also cancelled but among whom American Gateways does not have any clients) received an extension in May of 2017 only to have, in November, their TPS designation scheduled for cancellation in 2019.

TPS is issued for different reasons and for different countries, with the common factor being sufficiently abundant danger at a certain time for citizens of those countries such that the U.S. extends a humanitarian invitation to temporarily reside and work here. The particular application requirements also vary by country but generally require applicants to be present in the U.S. since a certain date and to have attained a certain level of education. Each increment of TPS also varies but is usually given for 12- or 18-month periods. Much of the pushback to the recent revocations of TPS is focused on the at-best modest extents to which conditions in those countries have improved. El Salvador and Honduras, for example, continue to occupy some of the top slots in homicide rates by country.

Nicaraguans have until February 13th to apply for a TPS extension that will then expire on January 5th, 2019. We know that the final TPS extension for Salvadorans will expire on September 9th, 2019 and await a USCIS announcement about re-enrollment. Hondurans also have until February 13th to re-register for the automatic six-month extension. The longer term future of Honduran TPS remains unknown.

Ping Pong and Public Opinion

The chaotic and piecemeal approach to immigration reform now underway is symptomatic of several underlying conditions but also reflects a broader ambiguity in matters of federal policy. While immigration reform has often fallen within the purview of the legislative branch, the lack of recent action on Capitol Hill has forced it into the turbulent confluence of executive branch action, citizen advocacy and judicial branch power balancing. It’s unclear to what extent hardliners – including Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller – in the Trump administration overshoot their goals in anticipation of the whipsaw effect. Regardless, their presence at the forefront of policymaking is a lamentable renaissance of a type of nationalism we had hoped was on the wan. Additionally, the president’s ping ponging rhetoric obscures the intent behind, and prospect for the success of, a White House-brokered legislative compromise.

On the ground, answers to riddles like these hardly matter. The past year has been difficult enough for many immigrants as families are disassembled and once-bright futures are thrown into sudden uncertainty. Our approach at American Gateways has always prioritized respect for each individual immigrant and a dedicated, sustained effort as our clients navigate a daunting system. In our daily work we try to mitigate the difficulties most immigrants must face while also advocating more generally for the idea that immigration enriches the entire nation. In at least one area, it seems most Americans agree. According to a recent CBS News poll, 70 percent support allowing Dreamers to stay in the country.

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