Immigration Weekly Round-Up: N.J. Senators Urge Release of Imprisoned Immigrants; Pathway to Citizenship Excluded from Budget Bill; Federal Judge Invalidates Florida Law Promoting Cooperation with Deportation Enforcement
New Jersey Senators Call for Release of Imprisoned Immigrants
Both of New Jersey’s U.S. senators – Bob Menendez and Cory Booker – have demanded the release of all imprisoned immigrants throughout the entire state who are not a threat to public safety or otherwise a priority for removal from the country. Each senator signed and submitted a letter to acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tae D. Johnson, stating that any “form of detention is a traumatic experience, especially among immigrant detainees who are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder both during and after detention than the general population.”
The senators cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a threat to those who are held in detention. The letter further explains that simply transferring individuals to other facilities outside the state was not enough, as this would not stem the risk of increased infections, and that full release was the best and safest path forward: “For detainees with existing medical conditions, transfer risks can interrupt necessary or urgent medical care. The destination facility may also neglect to provide the same treatment as the original facility, change a person’s medications, or leave a gap in care during the transfer process.”
Nearly 20,000 imprisoned immigrants have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020, including 500 individuals currently in detention.
Senate Parliamentarian Rules Budget Bill Cannot Include Pathway to Citizenship
The U.S. Senate parliamentarian has ruled that Democrats cannot include a pathway to U.S. citizenship in its massive $3.5 trillion budget bill. These provisions would have covered several million undocumented immigrants, including young people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program and those under Temporary Protected Status.
Democrats and Republicans made arguments to the Senate parliamentarian regarding whether Congress could provide an avenue to citizenship through “budget reconciliation legislation,” a process allowing the Senate to pass bills with only a simple majority – rather than 60 votes – but requires a showing of a significant long-term impact on the national budget. Although “deeply disappointed” by the ruling, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer stated that “Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days.” Meanwhile, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “glad it failed.”
NM will continue to follow the budget bill and whether any amendments will be made to immigration laws. Please check the blog frequently for updates.
Florida Law on Immigration Enforcement Ruled Racially Motivated
This past week, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom, Southern District of Florida, struck down sections of a Florida law that sought to enhance cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials. In her ruling, Judge Bloom rejected provisions of the statute that banned local “sanctuary city” policies, thus requiring police departments to help enforce immigration detention orders. Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed this measure into law in 2019, said his administration will appeal the decision.
Judge Bloom specifically ruled that the law, whose stated purpose was to help reduce criminal activity, was racially motivated and heavily influenced by racist organizations, and that she had seen no evidence to indicate the law would deter crime. Judge Bloom wrote that “[a]llowing anti-immigrant hate groups that overtly promote xenophobic, nationalist, racist ideologies to be intimately involved in a bill’s legislative process is a significant departure from procedural norms,” and that this “involvement strongly suggests that the Legislature [sought] to promote and ratify the racist views of these advocacy groups.”
Democratic legislators praised Judge Bloom’s ruling. State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith issued a statement saying that “Floridians deserve a legislature that prioritizes people over politics, not one that repeatedly squanders taxpayer money defending extreme legislation designed to bolster the governor’s political ambitions. Florida has [been] and will always be an immigrant state.”