The Immigrant Youth Project Hopes to Inform Central Florida and Lawmakers

According to Dr. Heide Castaneda, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, and co-founder of The Immigrant Youth Project, recruiting undocumented youth to speak on their experience for the federally funded research project has been a challenge after the DACA recision.

“When people had DACA, they felt certainty with their status, they were more willing to talk about how they felt, what they experienced,” Castaneda explained. “As soon as the DACA recision was announced, people shutdown,” she added.

The project began in Sept. 2017 with the aim of investigating the social and emotional well-being of undocumented young adults living in Central Florida and across the United States. The legal battle to decide the uncertain fate of DACA recipients is still being waged in U.S District Courts. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that DACA protections should remain in place, and the government must continue to accept new applications.

According to Dr. Castaneda, the goal of the project’s research is to inform policymakers and the public on the social implications of undocumented young adults who are living in a transitional status.

“We’ve talked to people who are afraid to enter long-term relationships because they don’t know what’s next for them, and I think that really impacts their ability be full members of society and express themselves as humans,” Castaneda said.

 Castaneda is a co-creator of the project along with University of South Florida Assoc. Prof. of Sociology Dr. Elizabeth Aranda and former USF faculty and now Assoc. Prof. of Sociology at George Washington University, Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera. The three professors met at the University of South Florida in 2007, and all shared a common interest in immigrant families, youth, and incorporation into society. According to Castaneda, The National Science Foundation awarded their project proposal in June of last year and provided the perfect opportunity to combine their research efforts into an interdisciplinary focus on “an urgent issue In their own backyard” in Central Florida. The project has also extended an outreach partnership with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, where the researchers themselves take part in events and clinics held by the coalition.

In Castaneda’s and the researchers’ view of their preliminary findings, participants have shown a variety of responses, ranging from high levels of emotional distress, depression, and suicidality to high levels of political engagement and activism. According to a Jan. 2017 article from the National Institute of Mental Health, child of immigrants born in the U.S. may have a higher risk for mental disorders than their parents. According to the Pew Research from Sept. 2017, two-thirds of DACA recipients are ages 25 or younger.

 President Trump continues to press Democrats on the issue of immigration, where on Monday Trump tweeted out on Monday that he has instructed Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen P.Nielsen to, “not let these large Caravans of people into our Country.”

According to Castaneda, the key for Central Florida to understand the plight of its undocumented immigrant youth is how ingrained they already are in the community.

“The key thing to understand is that what passport you are holding and how valid your visa is, it’s not that it’s not important, but for the everyday experience of living in our communities here in Central Florida, it’s not as important,” Castaneda said. “These are people who have jobs in all sectors of society,” she added.

[infogram id=”foreign-born-civilian-labor-force-by-us-citizenship-status-in-the-state-of-florida-2016-1hke60x9rog165r” prefix=”xl9″]

 

As the project heads into the summer, their recruiting push is expecting an increase in participants, with the overall goal of reaching 140 individual experiences for the project’s total.

“More and more people in the US are living in a family where there is at least one undocumented person,” Castaneda said. “Immigration doesn’t just affect the immigrant, it affects their family members and their communities,” she added.

For more information on how to get involved with the Immigrant Youth Project, click here.

Attorney Ahmad Yakzan says SCOTUS Decision on Sessions v. Dimaya is a Small Win

On Tuesday, The U.S Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in the case of Sessions v. Dimaya. The court affirmed U.S code 16b’s definition of “violent felony” is unconstitutionally vague when applied to the removal provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. To Southwest Florida immigration attorney Ahmad Yakzan, the ruling offers potential relief to clients convicted of such crimes and are unable to seek asylum in the U.S.

“In one of the cases that I have right now, the person was from Palestine for example, and Israel would not take him back. So, he’s been on a removal order for about 11 years.” Yakzan said. “The second I read the decision I called him and told him this is huge for you, we need to move to reopen your case,” he added.

The Supreme Court ruling marks another setback for the legislative priorities of the Trump Administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on April 11th that the Department of Justice would suspend the Legal Orientation Program from the Vera Institute, a program designed to educate detained immigrants about their rights, according to the Washington Post.

According to Yakzan, it is a critical window for undocumented immigrants with aggravated felony charges who are not currently in removal proceedings in order to petition for a Green Card.

“I don’t know what congress is going to do, this is a big deal. They might actually come back and say well, ‘Here is another definition that might work,’ and that might actually bar some undocumented immigrants from applying for the benefits,” Yakzan said. “Would it help? Absolutely. Would it hurt? We really don’t know, but we’re taking it as a win as immigration litigators,” Yakzan added.

Yakzan has served as an immigration litigator in the St. Petersburg-Tampa area for nine years, receiving his Master of Laws degree in International Law and Legal Studies at Stetson University College of Law. According to his American Dream Law Office bio, Yakzan has co-authored several publications on Immigration law for the St. Petersburg Bar Association.  Yakzan, himself an immigrant from Beirut, Lebanon, is the owner of his own law firm, American Dream Law Office, where he manages two offices in downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa. His firm offers a variety of immigration legal services, from removal defense to asylum applications.

In reaction to Tuesday’s decision, White House officials and U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director, Thomas Homan, responded in the Washington Post, calling on Congress to act on close loopholes on removals while also stating that drug trafficking would no longer be considered an aggravated felony in the state of Florida.

According to Syracuse University Trac Data, the state of Florida ranks as the 3rd highest number of removal orders to date in the U.S.

“Do I see the administration changing its stance before 2020, absolutely not,” Yakzan said. “We’re in for the long haul, and it’s going to be an interesting journey,” he added.

For more on Attorney Ahmad’s legal perspective on the SCOTUS decision, click here.

 

ICE’s 287(g) Program is not decreasing crime in North Carolina, According to New Cato Institute Study

On Wednesday, Alexander Nowrasteh, an Immigration Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute, a D.C public policy think-tank, tweeted out the abstract of a new Cato Working Paper analyzing the two-year rollout of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) program in the state of North Carolina. The paper was co-authored with Cato research associate Andrew Forrester, titled, “Do Immigration Enforcement Programs Reduce Crime? Evidence from the 287 (g) Program in North Carolina,”  and specifically focuses on the program’s impact on local crime and police clearance rates across the counties participating in the program.

Nowrasteh summarized their results in his Wednesday tweet.

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(Alex Nowrasteh via Twitter)

Nowrasteh’s findings on the 287 (g) program counter Trump administration claims of a correlation between undocumented immigration and criminal activity. According to Washington Post on April 2, the administration is planning to implement a deportation quota system for federal immigration judges that link to their performance reviews. President Trump also tweeted on April 4 accusing U.S Democrats of upholding Obama Era border policies to allow for unchecked illegal immigration that would lead to an uptick in crime. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act added section 287 (g) to the act, where ICE and local law enforcement could enter into Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), enabling ICE to designated local officers to perform immigration enforcement functions. The administration expanded the ICE program via executive order in January of 2017.

“President Trump’s reactivation of 287(g) task force agreements has prompted us to evaluate how this program has affected crime rates and police clearance rates in the past,” writes Nowrasteh and Forrester in their conclusion of the Cato Working Paper. “We find no statistically significant elasticity between immigrants deported through the 287(g) program and the index crime rates under multiple specifications. Similarly, we find no significant elasticity between crime clearance rates and 287(g) deportations. Combined, these results demonstrate that the 287(g) program did not reduce crime in North Carolina,” they concluded.

Nowrasteh tenure as an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity started in 2012, after serving as a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another Libertarian D.C public policy organization based in Washington D.C. Earning his Masters of Science degree in Economic History at The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2011, ABC news cited Nowrasteh as one of the top 20 immigration experts to follow on Twitter in 2013. Nowrasteh has been active on various social media platforms promoting his policy research on immigration, with titles ranging from “Immigrants Did Not Take Your Job,” “Obama Administration Adopts De Facto Dream Act,” and “Trump’s Deplorable Travel Ban.”

 

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(Created by Alexander Michael Buono via Infogram)

 
Nowrasteh’s research arrives in the wake of a public debate last month between law enforcement officials in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina,  on the merits of the program current implementation in the county. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael stated in a March 13 Charlotte Observer article that, “A person will never encounter that 287(g) program unless they get arrested for breaking the law.” Countering the Sheriff’s assertion was Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, where Putney stated to the Charlotte Observer on March 26 that the program would be a “good” tool for targeting violent felons and gang members but doubted the program’s overall effectiveness. According to Nowrasteh and Forrester’s findings in their research, Mecklenburg County had the highest recorded number of removals by 287(g) in the available ten-year data set.

According to Kristin Bialik of Pew research in a February 15 article, 2017 ICE fiscal data revealed that 74 percent of immigrant arrestees had prior convictions, a 13 percent increase from last measurements taken in 2009. Bialik was quick to point out that despite this increase of immigrants with prior convictions from 2016 to 2017, the overall arrest increase is attributable to arrestees without priors. Senior Immigration Policy Analyst Nicole Prchal Svajlenka of the Center for American Progress concludes in her March 20 CFAP article that with the elimination of prosecutorial discretion by Trump administration policies, ICE has arrested far more people without criminal convictions while emboldening local law enforcement officials to take part in the federal government’s deportation procedures.

Nowrasteh took to Twitter on Saturday in a tweet that appeared to echo his paper’s conclusion about the perceptions of criminality in the U.S.

“More evidence that fear of crime is influenced by social entertainment or news rather than perceived local danger,” Nowrasteh wrote, citing criminaljusticedegreehub.com data.

For more information on Nowrasteh and his work at the Cato Institute, click here.

The Intercept’s Viral Immigration Article is Retracted During Tense Week for Undocumented Immigrants

On Monday March 26th, The Intercept posted an article written by reporter Lee Fang, with the headline that implicated that ICE was using private Facebook Data to find and track a criminal suspect that was an unauthorized immigrant, via a public records request filed by The Intercept.

In both asserting that the suspect was an undocumented immigrant and that the ICE officials were using private Facebook data, turned out to be false. The revelation prompted the following retractions to be release by The Intercept on Monday, with the addition of an official statement given by Facebook denying the claims made in the article:

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(Retractions via The Intercept on March 26, 2018)

The first release of the article went viral on social media on Monday. The article’s release coincided with another wave of rising tension within immigrant communities across the country this week, as Vox reported the announcement by the US Census Bureau that the 2020 census will ask households which members of the family are US citizens and the Trump administration’s order to end automatic release from detention for undocumented pregnant women, as reported in the Washington Post.

The Intercept’s D.C Bureau Chief, Ryan Grim took responsibility for the error on Twitter, where founders Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, each separately tweeted out in defense of Fang’s integrity after the initial backlash Fang received on Twitter.

In the first release of the article written by Intercept Journalist Lee Fang, it appeared that Fang asserted that internal ICE emails showed that in February and March of 2017, ICE agents were coordinating via email to send a “Facebook Business Record” with a local detective from Las Cruces, New Mexico. According to the article, the agents aggregated the data through a “Backend log” on Facebook, where the subjects last point of accessing his account and IP address revealing the subject’s phone number and location of each log in. The email correspondence revealed in the article also alluded to an employee of Palantir Data Analytics potentially aiding in the retrieval of the data, as the company owned by venture capitalist Peter Thiel,  has been in contract with ICE since 2014 according to the Intercept. Thiel also serves on Facebook’s board of directors.

The Social Media Timeline of Lee’s Article

(Created by Alexander Michael Buono via Timetoast)

The New York Times’ Zyenep tufeki tweeted that “motivated reasoning” led to the retracted headline’s claim that it was undocumented immigrant, where Vox’s Dara Lind responded in a series of tweets that the “framing” of Fang’s article implied heavily that ICE’s immigration division used this data. According to Lind, it was a joint federal and local criminal investigation between Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), another agency within ICE, that is unrelated to immigration enforcement.

According to Pew Research Poll from January, news organizations account for 75 percent of tweets related to immigration on Twitter.

Lee Fang returned to Twitter on March 27 to respond to critics on social media, and gave his take on the course of events while on still on vacation.

“I was out of cell phone service for most of the day yesterday, in a different time zone, and had no idea the piece had been radically changed with information I did not include in my submitted draft and pubbed under my name until many hours after it was up. I was blindsided,” Fang wrote on Twitter.

To read more on the article, click here.