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The Weekly Round-Up: ICE Spokesperson Resigns, Citing “Falsehoods;” H-2B Seasonal Worker Program Receives Increased Scrutiny; and Massachusetts Advocates Seek to Stop Immigration Arrests at Courthouses

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Justice Department Sues California

On Monday, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson, James Schwab, announced his resignation, stating that he did not “want to perpetuate misleading facts” posited by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other government officials.

Schwab’s resignation was sparked by statements from the Department of Justice, which claimed about 800 undocumented immigrants evaded ICE sweeps because the Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, announced the raids the day before they were set to begin.  The Director of ICE, Thomas Homan, stated on February 28, 2018, that there are “800 that we are unable to locate because of that warning, so that community is a lot less safe than it would have been.”

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Schwab said this information was simply false: “We were never going to pick up that many people. To say that 100 percent are dangerous criminals on the street, or that those people weren’t picked up because of the misguided actions of the mayor, is just wrong.”  Schwab further explained that “I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time and I quit.”

In a statement, ICE responded that “Even one criminal alien on the street can put public safety at risk,” and that “[w]hile we disagree with Schwab on this issue, we appreciate his service and wish him well.”

Seasonal Foreign Worker Visas Receiving Greater Scrutiny

On Tuesday, the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) denied the seasonal visa applications filed by a Texas pool construction and repair company, determining that it had not established how many employees it needed during its peak seasons.

The H-2B program permits companies to hire a specific number of foreign workers during the busiest periods of the year if there are no American workers to fill those positions.  Prestige Gunite of South Texas, Ltd., applied under this program, seeking ten foreign workers during the warmer months of the year to do construction and remodeling on both residential and commercial pools.  While finding there was a seasonal need for additional workers, BALCA determined that Prestige Gunite could not prove why it specifically needed “ten workers, as opposed to some other number,” and that the government has an obligation “to ensure an employer does not hire ten foreign workers when eight or nine would do.”  This decision indicates that employers using the H-2B program may receive closer scrutiny of their applications for the foreseeable future, and that companies will need to be very specific and detailed about their precise seasonal needs, supplying substantial documentation to prove exactly how many workers are required at any given time.

If you are a company applying for foreign workers through the H-2B workers, you should contact an experienced immigration attorney before filing your submissions.

Advocates Sue to Stop ICE Arrests at Courthouses

Several immigration advocates filed a petition in Massachusetts seeking an injunction to stop Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from arresting immigrants appearing in courthouses for routine legal matters.

As reported by New England Public Radio, three immigration and civil rights groups filed the suit, hoping to create a model for organizations in other states.  Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, who heads the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, stated that they wanted to prevent ICE from “rounding up immigrants as they are en route to judicial proceedings or coming from judicial proceedings.”  The Lawyers’ Committee explained that immigrants had become scared to carry out normal business affairs, highlighting two women who were afraid to renew a restraining order against an ex-husband and seek custody of a disabled daughter, as well as a witness who was afraid to testify during a criminal proceeding.  ICE has issued policies stating that courthouses are not off limits for arrest, and that such arrests reduce the risk of danger to the community.

If you are an immigrant with an ongoing matter before a court, please contact an experienced immigration attorney to help ensure that your rights are protected.

If you have questions about topics covered in today’s weekly round-up, or other immigration matters, contact me at wcmenard@nmmlaw.com.