A federal judge has called a U.S. prosecutor’s argument absurd and a problem of the government’s own making in a recent ruling that highlights the clash between criminal court processes and the nation’s increasingly controversial immigration policies.
Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin was frustrated by the prosecutor’s reasoning about why Austin should keep a defendant in jail rather than release him on pretrial bond for a felony charge of unlawful reentry. Unlawful re-entry cases have grown increasingly common under the Trump administration as it charges immigrants at the border en masse with the crime, and as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweeps up undocumented immigrants in raids on employers.
Law students were on summer break when outrage erupted nationwide over the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant parents and children who crossed the country’s southern border.
But summer didn’t stop Texas immigration law professors from taking action, and in the coming school year, they’re planning opportunities for law students in their schools’ immigration clinics to help reunited families seek asylum or fight deportation.
Law professors all over Texas jumped into action at various levels to help immigrant families the government separated.
State Bar of President Joe Longley issued a call to arms for Texas attorneys to put their minds together and find a way to reunite immigrant children with their parents and protect their rights to due process.
Just after taking the oath of office to become this year’s bar president—a historic event, as Longley is the very first state bar president elected by seeking lawyers’ signatures on a petition—Longley said that the family separation crisis has become a national disaster in his view.
“We have got to figure out a way as lawyers and members of this noble profession to give honor to the words on the statute of liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,’” said Longley to applause. He showed an image of a toddler girl wailing as an officer arrested her mother shortly after they crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico to Texas.
Heartbroken. Disappointed. Stunned. Law students who took a shot at becoming lawyers with the help of an Obama-era immigration program say that’s how they feel after the news that President Donald Trump could rescind the program.
Among the estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants who are recipients of Deferred Action for Children Arrivals, or DACA, are law students across the country. The program, created by President Barack Obama in 2012, protects children of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday. Under DACA, they can get work permits, deferrals from deportation and other benefits in this country.
Exactly how many law students are protected by DACA is unclear, but a recent survey of 1,608 DACA program participants conducted by Harvard University’s National UnDACAmented Research Project found that 42 percent expect to obtain a master’s degree, a professional degree or a law degree. Michael A. Olivas, an immigration law professor at the University of Houston, has predicted that likely dozens of undocumented immigrants will want to enter state bar associations in coming years.
PDF: ‘Dreamer_ Law Students in Turmoil over DACA Uncertainty _ Law
This story originally published in Texas Lawyer on Feb. 12, 2015.
The “flood” of unaccompanied Central and South American children entering the U.S. last year has only trickled into Texas courts so far, although some experts are watching for a bigger rush further downstream.
Federal courts have jurisdiction over immigration, but state courts play a role in some unaccompanied minor cases. As the so-called surge of unaccompanied children dominated the headlines last summer, David Slayton, administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration, said he was afraid that state courts might get hit with thousands of cases at once.
“If that does happen, that will tax the system,” Slayton said, adding, “At this point, we are seeing them trickle into the system, and we believe if they continue in that fashion, we are probably able to handle it with existing judicial resources.”