Department of Homeland Security releasing illegal immigrants before sequester
by Alicia A. Caldwell
WASHINGTON - A week before mandatory budget cuts go into effect across the government, the Department of Homeland Security has started releasing illegal immigrants being held in immigration jails across the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday.
Gillian Christensen, an ICE spokeswoman, said ICE has reviewed "several hundred cases" of immigrants being held in jails around the country and released them in the last week. They have been "placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release," she said.
Christensen said the agency's "priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety." She did not say how released immigrants were selected or what jails they were released from.
Tuesday's announcement of jail releases is the first tangible impact of the looming budget cuts for DHS.
The Obama administration has been issuing dire warnings about the impact of the sequestration and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters at the White House Monday that across-the-board cuts would impact the department's core operations, including border security and airport screening operations.
She also warned that DHS might not be able to afford to keep the 34,000 immigration jail beds mandated by Congress. On average last week, there were 30,773 people being held in ICE jails.
"I don't think we can maintain the same level of security at all places around the country with sequester as without sequester," said Napolitano, adding that the impact would be "'like a rolling ball. It will keep growing."
According to the National Immigration Forum, it costs the government about $164 a day to keep an illegal immigrant facing deportation jailed. In a report on immigration detention costs last year the advocacy group said costs for supervised release can range from about 30 cents to $14 a day.
Republicans lawmakers decried the releases Tuesday.
"It's abhorrent that President (Barack) Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. "By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the Administration is needlessly endangering American lives. It also undermines our efforts to come together with the Administration and reform our nation's immigration laws."
The administration asked for about $1.96 billion for immigration jail operations in the last budget. It amounts to about $5.4 million a day, according to the National Immigration Forum's report.
Christensen said Tuesday that released immigrants will still face deportation proceedings.
Illegal downloaders, beware: Service providers to begin sending warnings
by Anne Flaherty
WASHINGTON -- Internet users who illegally share music, movies or television shows online could soon receive warning notices from the nation's five major Internet service providers.
The Copyright Alert System, organized by the recording and film industry, is being activated this week to target consumers using peer-to-peer software.
Under the new system, complaints will prompt an Internet service provider -- such as Verizon or AT&T -- to notify a customer whose Internet address has been detected sharing files illegally. A person will be given up to six opportunities to stop before the Internet provider will take more drastic steps, such as temporarily slowing their connection, or redirecting Internet traffic until they acknowledge they received a notice or review educational materials about copyright law.
Consumers who maintain they have been wrongly accused would be forced to pay $35 to appeal the decision. The fee would be reimbursed if they prevail.
Proponents say the focus is on deterring the average consumer rather than chronic violators. The director of the organization behind the system, Jill Lesser of the Center for Copyright Infringement, said in a blog post Monday that the program is "meant to educate rather than punish, and direct (users) to legal alternatives."
Each Internet provider is expected to implement their own system. The program gives each customer five or six "strikes" after a music or film
company has detected illegal file-sharing and lodged a complaint. The first alerts are expected to be educational, while the third and fourth would require the customer to acknowledge that they have received the warnings and understand their behavior is illegal. The final warnings are expected to lead to "mitigation measures," such as slowing a person's Internet connection speeds.
Officials involved in the effort acknowledge it's unlikely to stop the biggest violators. There are ways to disguise an IP address or use a neighbor's connection that is unlocked. Public wireless connections, such as those offered at coffee shops, also won't be monitored.
U.S., like Ohio, locks up fewer youths
by Alan Johnson
A report showing that the U.S. incarceration rate of juveniles has dropped dramatically is old news in Ohio, where the number of offenders in Department of Youth Services custody has dropped nearly 70 percent since 2004.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation report released today found that the U.S. rate of juvenile incarceration fell more than 40 percent over 15 years. The number of youths in lockups dropped to 70,792 in 2010 from 107,637 in 1995, based on data from the Census Bureau.
The downward trend aside, more juveniles are locked up in the U.S. than in any other industrialized country, the foundation said. Many of the youths are nonviolent offenders jailed for crimes such as truancy, minor property offenses and probation violations.
“Locking up young people has lifelong consequences, as incarcerated youth experience lower educational achievement, more unemployment, higher alcohol- and substance-abuse rates, and greater chances of run-ins with the law as adults,” Bart Lubow, head of the foundation's Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, said in a statement.
The foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization, said that corrections facilities for youths are “enormously costly to operate, often put youth at risk for injury and abuse, and are largely ineffective in reducing recidivism.”
The incarceration rate is down for all racial groups. Black youths are almost five times more likely to be incarcerated than whites are, and Latinos and Native Americans are two to three times more likely than whites to be in lockup.
Ohio had 534 youths in state facilities at the end of December, a nearly 70 percent drop from the 1,757 in January 2004.
Ohio Youth Services Director Harvey Reed said Ohio has been on “the cutting edge” of juvenile reforms since the RECLAIM program began in the mid-1990s. The program works with communities to provide juveniles with treatment at the local level when possible, rather than shipping offenders to more-costly state facilities.
The result, Reed said, is that DYS has ended up with about 500 youth offenders, many of whom are violent and suffer from severe mental-health issues. “I'm sure my staff would tell you that sometimes dealing with these 500 kids seems like a thousand.”
Reed said he's trying to provide more-intensive treatment for juveniles. “Our goal is to have a better product go out of the door than came in the door.”
The Casey report recommends ways to further reduce youth incarceration, including locking up only those juveniles who pose a safety risk, and investing in alternatives in homes and communities.
Supreme Court Voting Rights Act Case: DOJ's Tom Perez Calls Section 5 'Regrettably' Necessary
by Ryan J. Reilly
WASHINGTON -- If the Supreme Court decides to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the strongest weapon the federal government has to prevent discrimination at the voting booth, Tom Perez is the guy who'll have to pick up the pieces.
Perez, the 51-year-old son of political exiles from the Dominican Republic, is the Justice Department assistant attorney general who has headed the Civil Rights Division since October 2009. Coming into the position, he inherited a division that was “demoralized and damaged by oppressive political leadership” during the George W. Bush administration, as President Barack Obama's transition team described it in a memo. One former Civil Rights Division official said Perez's first few months on the job "felt like grief counseling."
Four years since the start of the Obama administration, the Civil Rights Division -- and the Voting Section in particular -- seems to have gotten its mojo back. Perez frequently says his mission was the "restoration and revitalization" of the division; he says that he tried to fill its sections with “litigators and problem solvers” instead of “memo writers,” and that empowering the division's career staffers to focus on their jobs has been a key to their success. Under Perez, the 55-year-old DOJ entity has gone on a bit of a hiring spree, obtained record fair-lending settlements and implemented a new law banning hate crimes against gays and lesbians. In fiscal year 2012, it handled the largest number of new voting cases in the section's history.
Now, with the Supreme Court putting DOJ's most powerful tool in combating voter discrimination on the chopping block, the Civil Rights Division may yet again have to make a major shift.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to have any changes to their voting laws precleared by either the Justice Department or a panel of three federal judges in D.C. In 2012, DOJ used Section 5 to block Texas' redistricting plan (which federal judges said showed more evidence of intentional discrimination than they had “space, or need, to address”) and Texas' voter ID law (which federal judges ruled would have imposed “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor”). DOJ also used it to prevent South Carolina's voter ID law from going into effect without major changes that would allow voters who lacked a photo ID and were unable to obtain one to cast a ballot.
On Wednesday, the nine justices on the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act's preclearance requirements. Conservative opponents of Section 5 will argue it imposes an unconstitutional burden on certain states based on an outdated analysis of which states had the worst conditions for minority voters a half a century ago. DOJ, on the other hand, will argue Congress was within its rights when it extended the preclearance requirements for 25 years in 2006.
Perez, in a recent interview in the Civil Rights Division conference room that used to be FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's office, expressed confidence the court would uphold the historic law.
“Section 5, regrettably, continues to be very necessary,” Perez said. “Texas is one of a number of examples why its necessary and the law is not over-inclusive.”
Perez is a Harvard Law School graduate who grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and previously served as special counsel to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. He got his start as a civil rights prosecutor in the very office he now heads, going after white supremacists for murder and arson and police officers for misconduct. He's also served on the Montgomery County Council in Maryland and sat on the board of CASA de Maryland, an immigrant rights group.
A key component of the government's case will be that the "bailout provision" of the Voting Rights Act, which allows jurisdictions to skirt Section 5 easily when they have a clean 10-year track record. Perez said the Voting Section has done an unprecedented amount of work on bailouts over the past few years.
“If jurisdiction feels that they're not covered or shouldn't be covered anymore, there's a really clear roadmap that they can follow,” Perez said. “And when they met the standards, we haven't hesitated to agree.”
Still, Perez was coy when asked specifically whether his Voting Section was preparing for the strong possibility of a post-Section 5 world, as one Bush-era DOJ lawyer-turned-conservative blogger claimed last month.
“We have every confidence that [Section 5] will continue, so we're going full steam ahead,” Perez said when asked about the preparations. “We continue to get many submissions and we continue to process them accordingly. We continue to get bailout applications and we continue to process them.”
While most other progressive supporters of the Voting Rights Act have also said they're confident the Supreme Court will uphold Section 5, the court has in some ways tipped its hat on the constitutionality of the provision.
In an 8-1 majority opinion in 2009, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Section 5's coverage formula “is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions."
If Section 5 falls, DOJ would have to use another tool it hasn't relied on much in the past. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is a broader provision that bans discriminatory voting practices nationwide. In practice, however, cases are tougher to bring because the plaintiff must essentially wait until discrimination has already happened to do something about it.
Perez said that division officials had made the strategic decision to focus resources where they would be most effective. “Because the redistricting and the Section 5 work and defending the constitutionality has really been an all-hands on deck enterprise, we have made a very conscious effort to focus our resources on ensuring the continuing viability of Section 5," he said.
He added, however, they the division was “actively pivoting now” and analyzing Census data to see if there were any Section 2 cases to be brought.
Perez spoke with The Huffington Post about a host of other issues, including the Civil Rights Division's progress, LGBT rights and immigration. His responses appear below, edited and condensed for clarity.
So where does the Civil Rights Division stand at the start of Obama's second term?
I'm very proud of what we've done. When I first got here, our priority was restoration and telling internal and external stakeholders we were open for business. In some sections, there were cases where they were told they couldn't do outreach. That created a very challenging dynamic, and then we had to restore merit-based, career-driven hiring, and then we did that.
I think productivity is at, in many cases, unprecedented levels. You look at the increase in the number of hate crime cases from the previous four years. We've dramatically picked up the pace. Same thing in human trafficking. In our disability rights work, through our efforts to implement the Supreme Court's decision, Olmstead. We've dramatically expanded opportunities with disabilities to live life to the fullest.
Our Fair Lending Unit is particular point of pride. The three largest cases in the history of the Fair Housing Act are all in the last 14 months or so. Countrywide is first, Wells [Fargo] is second, Sun Trust is third. And in fiscal year 2012 alone, the monetary relief that we obtained in our fair housing and our fair lending cases was greater by over $250 million than the combined monetary relief from 1989 to 2011. So in one year we obtained more monetary relief by over $250 million in the previous 22 years combined.
The road to success is lined with great people and one of the things I'm most proud of is that there are so many dedicated career people in the division and the career people are the spin of the division and the department. And I think a key to our success has been that we have empowered them and in many cases we have unshackled them. There were a number of bureaucratic hurdles that were put in place. You need permission slips to open investigations, and things of that nature, that had the effect of slowing things down dramatically, and making it harder to do cases.
So you think you reversed that?
Yes absolutely. In the Fair Housing context, you know, we sat with the section ... I want a section of litigators and problem solvers. Not a section of memo writers. And that culture shift has enabled people to be more productive, I think more fulfilled. And most importantly, we're able to help more people that need our help because, as Ted Kennedy, my former boss, often said, 'civil rights remains the unfinished business of America.'
I'm often asked what are the biggest differences coming back versus your first stint in DOJ, and there a number of answers to that. One of which is, the more things change the more they stay the same. We continue to see racists who use violence to try to tear communities apart along racial, ethnic or sexual orientation lines. We continue to see opportunity gaps in access to homeownership. We continue to see barriers to voting. So the unfinished business persists and that's why the division continues to be so relevant and so important.
One of the things I think we've done effectively but we need to continue to redouble our efforts on is address legacy issues that persist. For instance, all too many school districts, 40, 50 years later, remain separate and unequal. So we must address those legacy issues while responding to emerging issues, whether it's bullying in schools, the school-prison pipeline or other emerging issues involving access to opportunity for people who are LGBT.
In the LGBT bullying context, you've pursued cases using the gender non-conformity theory. Given that a future administration could choose not to pursue that theory, do you think legislation needs to be enacted?
We have been able to use existing authority to address a host of challenges in schools and in the workplace affecting people who are LGBT. At the same time, I would much prefer to have the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) be the law of the land. Your access to relief if you're a victim of discrimination and you're gay shouldn't depend on what state you live in. I think that should be a law of national application.
While I'd love to have that additional authority, at the same time we'll use the authorities that exist. When the facts support that application, whether its Title IX or in the school settings or in the employment setting, we will not hesitate.
Given the make-up of Congress, do you see that happening?
Civil rights is about persistence. The hate crimes bill that President Obama signed in 2009 was first introduced in 1995. The reason I know that is because I was working for Senator Kennedy at the time and I had the privilege of working on the first version. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act was first introduced in '93 or '94, so it actually predated the hate crimes bill. The Civil Rights Act of '64 was first introduced in 1948. And it was a 16-year odyssey.
Your first testimony after your confirmation was in support of ENDA. There's been a lot of movement on many LGBT issues, including marriage, where popular opinion has shifted greatly in just a few years. ENDA legislation has been around for a long time, as you mentioned -- do you think religious liberty concerns are holding passage up?
Hard to say. We have made remarkable progress. I think the president and attorney general and the leadership that they've demonstrated has really moved the nation forward. It is a real point of pride to be associated with them in those efforts. You look at public opinion in many communities and you see there is a direct correlation between the president's leadership and the attorney general's leadership in moving the needle forward.
My children, my teenage children especially, are incapable of understanding the obsession that some adults have with LGBT issues. They have kids who have two moms, kids with two dads, kids with a mom and a dad. And their capacity to embrace, accept and thrive in that diverse environment is a lesson for adults.
Again, I remain optimistic about all these laws. Its time will come. It's about persistence.
There's a legislative push for voting reform because of the long lines we saw in November, but as you've seen in previous cycles, it's cyclical. There's a push and then it fades out of the public consciousness. What's the administration doing to support those legislative efforts?
Well first of all, I regrettably agree with your assessment of the cyclical nature. One of the very strong goals of the president is to change that dynamic. There's a shock-somnolence all too frequently in voting, in elections that have long lines or other breakdowns. There is the momentary shock, that, "How can this happen in the United States of America?" The president, the night of his election, said we need to fix that, and the day of his inauguration he reiterated that.
One of our goals here is to make sure that shock-somnolence cycle is not repeated. And that's an issue of priority for this administration. I've given a number of speeches in this regard, and many stakeholders are taking us up on our desire to get input. I know that we're going to continue, and this is an important issue not only for the president, but for the attorney general. I spoke with the attorney general, I think it was early in the morning the day after the election. He was actively engaged and I've had many meetings and conversations with him about this.
The first gay hate crimes case to go to trial [after the 2009 passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act] wasn't successful -- what happened there?
Well if you were to ask [the defendant], “How'd you do?,” with all due respect, he'd say, “I got hammered.” On the wide array of issues involving access to opportunity for LGBT communities, the enforcement of the Shepard-Byrd law is certainly a critical component of our efforts and we're making considerable progress in that area.
We've done a lot of partnership with local advocacy groups, because one thing we're learning is in the prosecution of cases involving transgender victims, we have to be sensitive to a number of issues. So we have worked very carefully and closely and collaboratively with local law enforcement and local LGBT groups on creating that trust, and developing best practices on how to investigate LGBT violence generally, and transgender-motivated hate crimes in particular. I think we're moving the needle forward in a productive way.
On the immigration front, the Joe Arpaio discrimination case has been going on for a long time. Given that the investigation first started during the Bush administration, is that what you expected when you took this job?
Well I'm not surprised that we are where we are with that matter, because they have not wanted to cooperate … the consistent stonewalling certainly slows the process down, but we're not going away and we will continue to pursue the case actively. We have a very good team working on it.
Regrettably, Maricopa County [Ariz., where Arpaio is sheriff,] is not the only example of these cases. We filed suit late last year in Alamance County, Ariz., very similar set of circumstances to Maricopa. Not only is racial profiling a form of discrimination, it's bad policing. Don't take my word for it. Talk to police chiefs. Community policing is premised on building relationships of trust with communities. And racial profiling builds a wedge between the police and a community, and makes it very hard to solve crime. That's why effective and progressive police chiefs across the country have recognized that there's no place on their force for racial and ethnic profiling. We're going to continue to do that work.
On the immigration front, I approach 2013 with an unlimited reservoir of optimism, because I think there's been a sea change in the aftermath of the 2012 election. We've spent an enormous amount of time, and it was time well spent, on the litigation relating to many of the state laws. SB-1070 in Arizona, HB-56 in Alabama. And also in dealing with some of the consequences of some of those cases in the various states.
For the first time in many years, I have really unbridled optimism that we can solve the problem in Washington. Because what I said in Tucson, what I said in Tuscaloosa, was the immigration system is broken, and what we should do is channel the frustration of the broken immigration system and bring it to Washington, and develop comprehensive solutions. I think there's a recognition that is how it should be done.
We will see what happens in states, but there are [fewer] states now than there were a couple years ago that are debating the Arizona, Alabama-type laws. I think there's been a recognition that it wasn't good for the state. I mean, talk to farmers in Alabama. Talk to economic development officials in Alabama who would make a presentation in India or China, and the officials from the company would show them the International Herald Tribune and say, 'What's going on in Alabama?' I was in meetings where they were telling me this. This was horrible public relations, horrible economic development, horrible civil rights strategies. And I think there's an increasing recognition of that.
So, I'm heartened that we've come back to Washington, and the president has demonstrated, I think, remarkable leadership on this, and has said that there is no such thing as a Republican or Democratic idea here. Anyone who has an idea, let's figure this out.
There was a lot of turbulence during Obama's first term when it comes to the government's relationship with the Muslim-American and Arab-American communities. How much progress do you think you've made?
Our strategy has been to focus not only on meetings and engagement, but concrete action. I have made it a part of my itinerary when I go on the road -- I've been to roughly 70 of the 93 US Attorneys offices -- to engage Muslim, Sikhs, Arabs, South Asian communities. It's been an unmitigated pleasure, I learn so much.
I'll never forget my visit to the Sikh temple in the aftermath of the horrible incident [in Oak Creek, Wis.,] last year. I was at the opening of the mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. And our work in Murfreesboro is one of the areas where I am most proud of as head of the Civil Rights Division.
To go to the mosque in Murfreesboro and to see the Catholic bishop there, to see the Jewish rabbi, to see the Christian leaders together to celebrate diversity, embrace diversity, welcome their Muslim neighbor, was remarkable.
To what extent did the FBI's anti-Muslim training materials complicate that work?
What I can say is that the training materials were offensive and we played a very important role in reviewing the materials and in responding to that. The statements that were contained in some of the materials are inconsistent with the law and inconsistent with our values as a nation. The attorney general and deputy attorney general were very understandably upset and committed to making sure that we put in place the proper safeguards to ensure that all of our training materials reflected both the law and our values as a nation.
I personally visited and had many listening sessions with various Muslim communities to apologize. Sometimes sorry is a word that officials in government have a hard time saying. That was not our finest moment and we need to acknowledge that, and we did acknowledge that, and we need to fix that, and we did fix that. We must remain vigilant in ensuring that all of our training and interaction is consistent with our legal principles and our values.
I was curious about the Amish beard-cutting case, where the sentencing recently came down. The prosecution requested a life sentence. What was behind that decision?
His conduct was unconscionable. It went well beyond the violent acts of cutting people's beards, which as one of the witnesses testified was akin to -- there was nothing worse that you could have done to him. But as the evidence induced, this is a person who is a serial rapist and has engaged in remarkably abhorrent criminal, violent behavior on a sustained basis and is the undeniable leader of that movement who has put so many people in his community in grave fear.
On a completely unrelated matter, DOJ recently reached a settlement in which you said for the first time that the Americans with Disabilities Act applied to people who are gluten free.
That was an example of a case I think many people misunderstood. I read some of things afterward saying the Justice Department is going to force every restaurant in America to offer gluten-free options. No. This was a case about a university that has people on a mandatory meal plan and says, you've got to eat on this meal plan and by the way, if you have a disorder that requires you to need a gluten-free diet, you're outta luck.
So it was because of the mandatory nature of it?
You're killing somebody if you have them in your college and you're forcing them to eat that. I've been around my kids' friends who have peanut allergies and they eat something and it scares the heck out of you, what happens to them. This case is important. It's important to say what this case is about and it's important to say what this case is not about. We've had a lot more outreach with the Restaurant Association and others to allay fears that they have had, because they're unfounded fears.
Dover Police: Greater Dover Boys & Girls Club helps lower crime rate
by Sarah Barban
The Simon Circle Boys & Girls Club received a grant last year through the Strategic Prevention Framework – State Incentive Grant project, a program that offers teens ages 13 to 17 a place study, learn and play, while also educating them about sex and the dangers of drug use and underage drinking.
Since the program began, the surrounding community has been a little safer, says the Dover Police Department.
"Last summer there were zero crimes committed by teens in the Simon Circle area," said Amy Perkins, the director of marketing and communications for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware.
The Dover Police are giving the Boys & Girls Club and the SIG program its fair share of the credit.
"The program gives kids a place to go, it keeps them from hanging out on the streets," said the Dover Police Department's Sargent of Community Policing Marvin Mailey.
The SIG program was implemented in April 2012 when the club held a community celebration. The club brought in DJs from 101.7, held a Madden video game tournament, set up rock climbing and had local groups come in to perform.
The celebration was held to kick off the club's Friday night program where neighborhood teens can come to the club from 6 to 9 p.m. and play games, take advantage of the open gym or just hangout through a drop-in program that does not require kids to sign up or come every week. Teens come at their own leisure. Typically between 65 and 70 kids participate in the program each week, Perkins said.
Some Fridays, teens will also get the opportunity to go on field trips. They were taken horseback riding, toured a local college and 15 of the program's kids were even given the real-life Scared Straight treatment.
"We took kids to the local jail so they could see what it's really like and to show them what would happen to them if they got in trouble," Perkins said.
The program is headed by project director Harold Burnett who held a series of town hall meetings prior to the start of the program. He asked community members and parents what kind of activities they would want their children to be involved in.
The program also gives teens a place to go after school Tuesday through Thursday, where they can get homework help and tutoring. The after school program typically serves around 20 kids, Perkins said.
"It provides kids with a safe after school environment," she said. "It keeps them away from outside influences."
Thanks to the program, the Boys & Girls Club has become one of the largest and most visible organizations in Simon Circle, Perkins said.
"We have two community partnerships with local alternative schools, Parkway and Kent County Alternative School - they run programs in the school. Parents want to get involved and volunteer with us," she said. "The community has really rallied around the program."
Not only did Dover Police have no incidents involving teens last summer, they have seen a drop overall, according to the department.
"We don't respond to as many violent crimes out there as much," said Mailey. "The crime rate has stayed pretty low since the community outreach event."