ICE Overrides Blumenthal On Deportation

Christopher Peak PhotosMarco Antonio Reyes Alvarez, the undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant who has found sanctuary from deportation in a church downtown, might face a prolonged stay at First & Summerfield due to a new directive that limits the ability of members of Congress to halt removal orders.

Federal legislators have regularly introduced “private immigration bills,” which, if passed, would grant permanent legal residency to a person who entered the country illegally. More importantly, while the private immigration bills were being considered, federal agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used to hold off on deporting the individual. If a U.S. senator was willing to stick his neck out for an undocumented immigrant, authorities would take that into consideration before kicking the immigrant out of the country.

But effective this year, agents are no longer waiting to see if a private immigration bill can pass both chambers and get Donald Trump’s signature. Unless a committee chairman pens a letter, ICE will proceed with enforcement actions, regardless of a congressman’s intervention.

That might interfere with Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s last-ditch attempt to shield Reyes from removal.

In a statement to the Independent, Blumenthal expressed outrage at the policy change.

“Private bills are one useful means of addressing the shortcomings of our broken immigration system in especially egregious cases of injustice,” the senator said. “The Trump administration’s shameful policy changes make the need for comprehensive immigration reform all the more urgent.”

On Aug. 3, just before the Senate broke for a summer recess, Blumenthal introduced a private immigration bill for Reyes —  five days before the 45-year-old father of three would skip his flight back to Ecuador, a country he hasn’t seen in 20 years, and take refuge in a church.

Blumenthal’s bill is governed by new rules, issued on May 5, when ICE’s acting director, Thomas Homan, informed the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that his agents would no longer automatically grant a stay of removal each time a private immigration bill is introduced.

The one exception: the chair of the full committee or a subcommittee — all Republicans — can still request a stay in writing. Even then, Homan’s directive says immigrants can receive only one stay, shortened to six months.

Because the bill was filed in the last hours of the legislative session, Blumenthal didn’t have time to send a letter to his colleague Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and ask for a stay of removal. (Grassley has requested at least one private immigration bill for his own constituents.) Under the new rules, absent a letter from Grassley, ICE will continue to target Reyes for deportation.

“The Trump administration’s policies are cruel and unjust and ignore considerations relating to family ties, lack of criminal record, and pending appeals — a round-up, in effect, of anyone whose immigration status may be in question,” Blumenthal stated. “They mark an abrupt and arbitrary change from longstanding policies that prioritized serious criminal offenders and others who are dangerous.”

(Thirty immigrants, whose private relief bills were introduced this session before Homan’s letter went out, were granted stays until March 2019, according to Shawn Neudauer, a spokesperson for ICE’s New England office.)

ICE said it altered the process because few of the private immigration bills ever become law. Between 1986 and 2013, close to 100 private immigration bills were signed into law, only eight of which were introduced after 9/11. These days, most die in committee.

“The stay mechanism, combined with the repeated introduction of bills, which are rarely, if ever enacted, could prevent ICE from removing aliens who fall within the enforcement priorities” that Trump outlined in an executive order on sanctuary cities, Homan wrote.

A Democratic congressman from Colorado, Rep. Jared Polis, said he believes ICE’s policy was drafted in response to a stay for Jeanette Vizguerra, a mother of four and grandmother of one. Vizguerra spent 86 days in sanctuary in the First Baptist Church in Denver before gaining a two-year stay.

“In the past, I have used private bills as a last resort after all other avenues have been exhausted, and they have worked to keep families together,” Polis told his hometown Boulder Weekly in May. “The threshold that ICE has laid out effectively ends private bills as a tool for members of Congress to use to help immigrants who have exhausted all administrative options but whose cases present exceptional humanitarian factors that are above and beyond the norm.”

Reyes’s attorney, Erin O’Neil-Baker, is separately requesting a stay of removal from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, while she tries to reopen his cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services.

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posted by: SparkJames on August 21, 2017  3:32pm

Trump deportations lag behind Obama levels:

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on August 21, 2017  4:14pm


Hey Senator Blumenthal, with 70-80% of the country against deportations, and with President Trump having put this issue front and center,—maybe it’s time that Democratic leadership starts making some collective noise for real immigration reform?

Wouldn’t it be better to compromise and forego a “path to citizenship” in exchange for getting all these documented workers legal status. (Saving millions of families from living in fear?)

Sure, you might have to throw in E-Verity, and tougher border control, but honestly does any of that matter much?

Politically you guys are coming off as if you’re in favor of the status quo, and more or less open borders. Do I have to remind you that this issue cost us the Rust Belt, and thereby the Presidency?

Personally I feel a permanent sub-class of undocumented workers is unnecessary and abhorrent. This unlimited pool of cheap labor undermines wages and undercuts worker protections. It also lends itself to serious employer abuses against the human beings here without papers.

Why not flip the script on Trump and join with moderate Republicans on sorely needed immigration reform?

Now is the time to get it done. (If any of you had any brains or balls….) fwiw.

posted by: 1644 on August 23, 2017  4:35pm

Average: Yes, we had an amnesty in 1986, under Reagan.  The Left undercut the deal by making it impossible to enforce hiring illegals, challenging E-verify and language requirements.  In fact, the 1986 deal just made folks feel that if they stayed illegally long enough, they would be allowed to stay.  So folks kept coming and coming, especially under Obama who only enforced the law against the most egregious criminals, and ignored everyone else.  With Trump’s ICE actually enforcing the law, illegal immigration is being deterred and border crossings are way down.

posted by: CTLifer on August 23, 2017  9:30pm

I realize that this is not a popular opinion, but if someone is here illegally and is slated for deportation, then that is what should be happening.  All of these people being allowed to stay after a court order has been issued makes a mockery of our legal system.  These folks have been here for years, and have had more than enough time to become citizens.  Immigration enforcement has been a joke for years, and it is time to stop turning a blind eye to it.  I have a friend who immigrated here from Russia, and it took her family eleven years to do so legally.  Why should those who completely disregard the process be allowed to enter illegally and stay, when those who follow the correct path have to wait.  (I am sure I will be seeing posts responding to my last statement that the time and cost of legally entering the US is why people enter illegally.)  Enough with running to a church or sympathetic politician, if you have been ordered to leave, that is what needs to happen.  No one is preventing anyone from returning via legal channels.

posted by: 1644 on August 24, 2017  9:30am

CTLifer:  Aliens here illegally have no path to citizenship. Moreover, once deported, they cannot return legally, even as a visitor, for 10 years.  After ten years, a US citizen family member, such as an adult child, could sponsor them.

posted by: westville man on August 24, 2017  11:15am

1644-  does that include Aliens from Mars and Venus, too??

posted by: 1644 on August 24, 2017  1:46pm

Westville:  Yes, it would include all aliens.  Alienage is a function of citizenship, not origin.  Any non-citizen is an alien,  and any citizen, regardless of origin, is not an alien.  Someone born on Mars to a US citizen would be eligible for US citizenship, and would therefore not be an alien.  However, should the Russians set up a colony on Mars, any one born to a Russian there would be as much an alien to us and if they were born in Russia.  As to the “space aliens” of science fiction, well, they are fiction.
My immigrant parents long carried their “Alien Registration Card"s on their persons, until they finally decided to get naturalized. And yes, those old photographs of mom and dad did look strange.
BTW, Trump has nothing on John Adams.  Remember the Alien and Sedition Acts from history class?

posted by: westville man on August 24, 2017  6:31pm

1644.  Excellent reply!  Thanks for the education. I seem to recall they used to call a relative “a cripple” and a neighbor “retarded” but I don’t think they use those terms much anymore.  Oh well, a bygone area I suppose .....