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The Weekly Round-Up: Federal Court Blocks White House from Punishing Sanctuary Cities, Florida Businesses Oppose Mandatory Electronic Employment Verification, and President Trump Drops Immigrant Legal Defense Fund

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Los Angeles Federal Court Bars White House From Punishing Sanctuary Cities

On Wednesday, United States District Court Judge Manuel Real ruled that the Department of Justice could not give special treatment to cities that cooperated with immigration enforcement when issuing a particular federal grant.  The grant at issue, nicknamed “COPS,” was intended to be used toward hiring new police officers at the local level; however, it had no connection to immigration matters.  Judge Real’s decision applies not just to Southern California, but to the entire country.

Effectively, this ruling bars the Department of Justice from tying municipal federal grants to a city’s participation in immigration enforcement alongside federal authorities.  DOJ spokesperson Devin O’Malley expressed disagreement with the decision, and stated that the department would remain committed to assisting local governments “that prioritize the safety of their communities and their law enforcement officers when they promise to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.”  Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra hailed the decision as a victory, stating that the “Trump administration cannot manipulate federal grant fund requirements to pressure states, counties or municipalities to enforce federal immigration laws.”

Opposition to Electronic Employment Verification in Florida

A group of Republican politicians, business interests in the cruise line and agricultural community, and even former NBA basketball players are opposing a draft amendment to the Florida state constitution that would require businesses to electronically verify all new hires.

The state electronic system would be similar to the one utilized by the federal government, known as “E-Verify,” which is operated by the Department of Homeland Security and allows employers to run an instant check on a particular individual to determine whether that person is authorized to work in the United States.  Under most circumstances, the federal system is voluntary.  As reported in Sunshine State News, the Immigration Partnership & Coalition Fund, along with the American Business Immigration Coalition, issued a report detailing that not only would this cause labor shortages in the agriculture and travel industries and a $4.7 billion loss to Florida employers, but would also do little to curb unlawful employment, claiming that the E-verify system has a 12% error rate.  Paul DiMare, CEO of DiMare Distribution, a Florida produce distributor, denounced the measure, noting that there was already a 35-40% labor shortage in the state.  Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security disputes the error rate, saying E-Verify is 98.91% accurate.

The proposed amendment was opposed by Republican State Senator Rene Garcia, Carnival Cruise Lines Chairman Mickey Arison, Univision Vice President Maria Lopez Alvarez, Los Angeles Lakers President Magic Johnson, and former NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, among others.

White House Suspends Legal Aid to Immigrants

The Department of Justice announced this week that has suspended the General Legal Orientation Program, which provides advice to immigrants in deportation proceedings, as well as a program that operates a call-in help desk to answer immigration questions.  These were created by President Bush in 2003 to help immigrants facing deportation defend their rights.

The Trump administration stated that the programs were “being paused in order to conduct an internal audit and review of their effectiveness,” adding that the “General Legal Orientation Program has not had one of these done in six years.  The other is a newer program so a general review has never been done.”  Meanwhile, Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, disagreed with the decision, stating that the “termination of this vital program is the latest in series of new policies and announcements from DOJ that are nothing less than an assault on due process and fundamental fairness.”

If you are in immigration proceedings and have any questions about your legal rights, please contact an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your case.

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