U.S. top court to hear Trump bid to revive law against encouraging illegal immigration

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a bid by President Donald Trump’s administration to resurrect a federal law that makes it a felony to encourage illegal immigrants to come or stay in the United States after it was struck down by a lower court as a violation free speech rights.

In a case involving a California woman named Evelyn Sineneng-Smith convicted of violating the law, the justices will review a ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidating it for infringing on rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Federal prosecutors in 2010 brought charges against Sineneng-Smith, a U.S. citizen who ran an immigration consultancy in San Jose, accusing her of making money by duping illegal migrants into paying her to file frivolous visa applications while remaining in the country indefinitely. Her business primarily served Filipinos who worked as home healthcare providers.

Sineneng-Smith was convicted in 2013 of violating provisions of the federal law that bar inducing or encouraging an illegal immigrant to “come to, enter or reside” in the United States, including for financial gain. She also was convicted of mail fraud and was sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

The 9th Circuit in 2018 ruled that the law must be struck down because it is overly broad and criminalizes even simple speech that is protected by the First Amendment. For instance, a grandmother could theoretically be charged under the law for telling her grandson whose visa has expired, “I encourage you to stay,” the 9th Circuit noted.

The court begins its next nine-month term on Monday.

(Reporting by Andrerw Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Mexico president says ‘doing well’ on migration ahead of U.S. deadline

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s president said on Monday his country was “doing well” in addressing U.S. demands to contain illegal immigration and that Mexican and American officials will meet on Sept. 10 to take stock of the situation after a key deadline expires.

In June, Mexico’s government averted a threat by U.S. President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on all Mexican exports if it did not act by vowing to take tougher measures to curb a surge in U.S.-bound migrants within 90 days.

In late July, after an initial 45-day period to evaluate progress, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Mexico’s efforts but said he would circle back with Trump about how to proceed.

The Trump administration has pressured Mexico to become a so-called safe third country for asylum seekers, which would require Central Americans to apply for refuge in Mexico rather than the United States.

Mexico rejects that demand, saying the measure is inappropriate and unnecessary.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador struck an upbeat note at his regular morning news conference on Monday when he noted the 90-day period would conclude on Sept. 5.

“We’re fulfilling the commitment we made … we’re doing well,” he said.

Migrant apprehensions on the U.S. southern border fell in June to some 100,000 people, according to U.S. data, after Mexico enforced new measures including the deployment of militarized National Guard police to its borders.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Slovenia erects more border fence to curb migrant inflow

Workers installs a fence on the bank of the Kolpa river in Preloka, Slovenia, August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

PRELOKA, Slovenia (Reuters) – Slovenia has begun work on an additional stretch of fence along its southern border with Croatia with which it aims to keep out a rising number of migrants entering the country illegally.

Slovenia’s police registered 7,415 illegal migrants in the first seven months of this year, a jump of 56% compared to the same period of 2018 as more people are trying to reach wealthy Western states via the Balkans.

Last month the government signed a contract with a Serbian firm Legi-SGS to put up 40 kilometers (25 miles) of fence on the border with Croatia. Once that section is completed, the total length of fence will be 219 kilometers and cover almost a third of the Slovenian border with Croatia. Slovenia’s total land and sea border is 1,370 km long.

“The fence will be erected temporarily in the areas where it is necessary to prevent illegal crossings of the state border and ensure the safety of people and their property,” said Irena Likar, a spokeswoman of the Interior Ministry.

A Reuters photographer near the village of Preloka in southern Slovenia saw construction work underway at the site.

Likar said the exact time plan and location of for the erection of the fence would not be made public.

Slovenia first began constructing a border fence during the refugee crisis of 2015 when in a period of six months about half a million illegal migrants passed through the country.

This new stretch of fence is around 2.5 meters high and is being erected on the banks of the river Kolpa which runs between Slovenia and Croatia.

The government’s immigration policy has met with little opposition in Slovenia, although some civil society groups are against the wire fence.

Most illegal migrants come from Pakistan, Algeria, Afghanistan, Morocco and Bangladesh. Only a fraction seek asylum in Slovenia, with most continuing on to neighboring Italy and Austria.

Last month Italian and Slovenian police started joint border patrols in order to curb the flow of illegal migrants.

(Reporting by Srdjan Zivulovic and Marja Novak; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

U.S. judge blocks Trump’s latest sweeping asylum rule

Migrants wait to apply for asylum in the United States outside the El Chaparral border, in Tijuana, Mexico July 24, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

By Daniel Trotta and Kristina Cooke

(Reuters) – A federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing a new rule that aimed to bar almost all asylum applications at the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the rule, which would require asylum-seekers to first pursue safe haven in a third country they had traveled through on their way to the United States.

The decision makes inconsequential a ruling by Washington D.C. District Judge Timothy Kelly earlier in the day that declined to block the rule in a different lawsuit brought by immigration advocacy groups, lawyers said.

The Trump administration had been quick to celebrate that decision, saying it would discourage abuse of the asylum process.

Following the action by the San Francisco court, the rule will now be suspended pending further proceedings.

“Today’s ruling is an important victory for incredibly vulnerable individuals and families,” said Melissa Crow, an attorney from the Southern Poverty Law Center – one of the groups challenging the ban – in a statement.

The Trump administration has sought to curtail the increasing numbers of mostly Central American migrants arriving at the U.S. -Mexico border after fleeing violence and poverty in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It has characterized the vast majority of their asylum claims as bogus.

After the White House announced the rule on July 15, the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups sued in California on the grounds it violates U.S. law that welcomes those who come to the United States fleeing persecution at home.

Immigration is shaping up to be a focus of the presidential campaign again in 2020. In the 2016 election, voters rewarded then-candidate Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, sending him to the White House after he promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

DANGERS IN MEXICO

Opponents of the new rule contend the United States cannot force migrants to first apply for asylum in another country, such as Mexico or Guatemala, unless Washington first has a “safe third country” agreement with that government. Both Mexico and Guatemala have resisted Trump administration efforts to reach such a deal.

In an hour-long hearing in California, Tigar said he was struck by the dangers faced by people passing through Mexico, which was significant because the Trump administration argued that country was a safe haven.

“The administrative record about the dangers faced by persons transiting through Mexico and the inadequacy of the asylum system there … is stunning,” Tigar said from the bench.

Tigar in November struck down a different asylum ban that attempted to block all migrants crossing illegally from asking for refuge in the United States.

The Trump administration has issued a rapid-fire series of anti-immigration edicts recently.

Last week, the administration issued another rule to expedite deportations for immigrants who have crossed illegally within the last two years and are caught anywhere in the United States. The rule eliminated a level of judicial review and expanded a program typically applied only along the southern border with Mexico.

Democrats have blasted the policies as cruel, faulting the Trump administration for warehousing migrants in crowded detention facilities along the border and separating immigrant children from the adults they have traveled with.

(This story corrects date rule was announced to July 15 in paragraph 8).

(Reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco, Mica Rosenberg and Daniel Trotta in New York, and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Sonya Hepinstall)

U.S. to ramp up rapid deportations with sweeping new rule

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle parks near the border fence between Mexico and U.S. as seen from Tijuana, Mexico July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – The Trump administration said on Monday it will expand and speed up deportations of migrants who enter the United States illegally by stripping away court oversight, enabling officials to remove people in days rather than months or years.

Set to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, the rule will apply “expedited removal” to the majority of those who enter the United States illegally unless they can prove they have been living in the country for at least two years.

Legal experts said it was a dramatic expansion of a program already used along the U.S.-Mexican border that cuts out review by an immigration judge, usually without access to an attorney. Both are available in regular proceedings.

“The Trump administration is moving forward into converting ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) into a ‘show me your papers’ militia,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, on a call with reporters.

It was likely the policy would be blocked quickly by a court, several experts said. The American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed suit to block numerous Trump immigration policies in court, has vowed to sue.

President Donald Trump has struggled to stem an increase of mostly Central American families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, leading to overcrowded detention facilities and a political battle over a growing humanitarian crisis.

The government said increasing rapid deportations would free up detention space and ease strains on immigration courts, which face a backlog of more than 900,000 cases.

Nearly 300,000 of the approximately 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally could be quickly deported under the new rule, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said 37%, or 20,570, of those encountered by ICE in the year to September, had been in the country less than two years.

People in rapid deportation proceedings are detained for 11.4 days on average, according to DHS. People in regular proceedings are held for 51.5 days and are released into the United States for the months or years it takes to resolve their cases.

Legal experts said the rule shreds basic due process and could create havoc beyond immigrant communities.

“ICE has been detaining and deporting U.S. citizens for decades,” said Jackie Stevens, a political science professor at Northwestern University. That policy came at a great cost to U.S. taxpayers in terms of litigation and compensation, she added.

    ICE in 2003 became a successor agency to Immigration and Naturalization Services.

U.S. citizens account for about 1% of those detained by ICE and about 0.5% of those deported, according to Stevens’ research.

“Expedited removal orders are going to make this much worse,” she said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco in March ruled that those ordered deported in the sped-up process have a right to take their case to a judge.

Previously, only those immigrants caught within 100 miles of the border who had been in the country two weeks or less could be ordered rapidly deported. The policy makes an exception for immigrants who can establish a “credible fear” of persecution in their home country.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Rosalba O’Brien)

Trump administration sets ‘new bar’ for immigrants seeking asylum

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to enter illegally into the United States, to turn themselves in to request asylum, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico July 12, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Becerr

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Monday said it would take steps to make it more difficult for immigrants arriving on the southern border to seek asylum in the United States, putting the onus on them to ask for shelter in other countries.

The Department of Homeland Security, in a statement issued with the Department of Justice, said the interim rule would set a “new bar” for immigrants “by placing further restrictions or limitations on eligibility for aliens who seek asylum in the United States.”

The proposal would make it tougher for applicants who did not apply for protection from persecution or torture where it was available in at least one “third country” through which they traveled en route to the United States.

The Trump administration wants to slow down a flow of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border. Most are Central Americans who have traveled through Mexico and Guatemala on the way to the border, though some come from as far as Africa.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the initiative would “help reduce a major ‘pull’ factor driving irregular migration to the United States.”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in the statement that while the “United States is a generous country,” it was being “completely overwhelmed” by the hundreds of thousands of “aliens along the southern border.” Many of them, he said, are seeking “meritless asylum claims.”

The measure is intended to take effect with the rule’s publication on Tuesday, according to the statement.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Rosalba O’Brien)

U.S. holding 200 children at border, down from 2,500 in May

A teacher uses the Pledge of Allegiance in a reading class the U.S. government's newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, U.S. July 9, 2019. Picture taken July 9, 2019. Eric Gay/Pool via REUTERS

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – U.S. immigration authorities held about 200 unaccompanied children at locations along the southwest border as of Wednesday, down from more than 2,500 in May as funding increases enabled a U.S. health agency to take custody of them.The reduction in detainees as reported by a senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection official follows a pair of recent internal government inspections that revealed overcrowding and filthy conditions for immigrants that inflamed the debate about President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policy.

Staff oversee breakfast at the U.S. government's government's newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, U.S. July 9, 2019. Picture taken July 9, 2019. Eric Gay/Pool via REUTERS

Staff oversee breakfast at the U.S. government’s government’s newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, U.S. July 9, 2019. Picture taken July 9, 2019. Eric Gay/Pool via REUTERS

Almost all detained unaccompanied children picked up by border officers are being turned over to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials within 72 hours of apprehension, the official told reporters on a conference call, speaking on the condition he not be named.

Criticism mounted after government inspectors and immigration lawyers found evidence children were being held long past legal limits at border facilities not equipped to house them.

Increasing numbers of mostly Central American families and children traveling alone – many seeking asylum in the United States – have overwhelmed authorities at a time when the Trump administration is pushing to limit legal and illegal immigration.

From late May to early June, the United States held about 2,500 to 2,700 children who were detained after crossing the border by themselves or who were separated from adults who were not their parents, the official said.

“To see these numbers currently at about 200 is very positive. That’s a huge difference since HHS has received their funding,” the official said. “Our goal is to get these individuals out of our custody as quickly as possible to HHS so they can have all the proper care and the long-term needs met for them.”

The U.S. Congress in June approved a $4.5 billion emergency supplemental funding bill aimed at improving conditions at the border, including $2.88 billion for HHS to provide shelter and care for unaccompanied children.

A legal settlement and anti-trafficking laws mandate that unaccompanied children traveling without a parent or legal guardian must be transferred to specialized facilities run by HHS. From there they are often released to sponsors in the United States as they pursue their immigration cases in court.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Trump says immigration roundup will start next week

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House on travel to Orlando, Florida from the White House in Washington, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump repeated on Tuesday that immigration authorities would next week target migrants in the country illegally in large-scale arrests, but still gave no details about the planned action.

“They’re going to start next week, and with people coming to our country, and they come in illegally – they have to go out,” he told reporters at the White House before a trip to Florida where he will formally launch his re-election campaign. Trump also praised Mexico for action he said it has taken to stem the flow of immigrants to the United States.

Former officials and immigration experts said it would be unlikely for immigration authorities to move quickly to deport “millions” of people, but Trump’s tweet on Monday saying as much put cities around the country on high alert.

Trump has made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his administration and is likely to highlight it in his campaign for the 2020 election, but so far he has not brought arrests and deportations up to levels seen in President Barack Obama’s first term as resources are stretched by an influx of migrants at the Mexico border. Trump is fighting the battle on two fronts, trying to stop migrants from coming in the first place and deporting those who have been released into the United States.

In March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said arrests of immigrants in the interior of the United States dropped in the first quarter of the 2019 fiscal year, which began last October.

New York City’s commissioner of immigrant affairs, Bitta Mostofi, said Trump’s comments are  “part and parcel of an agenda that is seeking to instill fear in immigrant communities that is hurting our ability to advance our city’s interests.” Mostofi said New York has increased resources for immigrant legal defense programs to respond to increased enforcement actions.

ICE said on Tuesday that it will continue to conduct “routine targeted enforcement operations” and referred questions about Trump’s tweets to the White House.

Any increase in ICE arrests would require additional detention space for those arrested and processed before deportation.

As of June 8, ICE had almost 53,141 people in adult detention centers, much higher than the levels for which it is funded by Congress, which would put logistical brakes on the possible scale of any operation.

ICE’s dedicated family detention centers are currently operating below capacity, however, with a population of 1,662 as of June 17.

Mexico has pledged to do more on illegal immigration, in order to stave of threatened U.S. tariffs on its goods.

“Mexico has been doing a very good job the last four days. … I appreciate the job they’re doing,” Trump said.

“Guatemala, likewise is much different than it was under past administrations, so we’ll see how that works out,” he said.

Vice President Mike Pence suggested last week that Guatemala could receive asylum seekers from its neighbors as a safe third country agreement, which might force asylum seekers from other Central American countries to seek refuge there before applying in the United States.

Guatemala’s interior minister, Enrique Degenhart, on Tuesday said there was no such agreement yet.

“We have not said we accept being a safe third country. … We’re in discussions to find a measure that suits both countries,” Degenhart told reporters, saying he welcomed that the United States saw Guatemala as a “safe country.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Mexico says no unlimited asylum, Trump confirms safe third country plan

Asylum seekers pass the time in a makeshift tent camp near the Brownsville-Matamoros International Bridge where they wait in hopes of soon being granted entry into the U.S. in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott - RC1B49E881D0

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico has not accepted that the United States send it an unlimited number of asylum seekers, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said, ahead of meetings with U.S. officials on Friday to determine the expansion of a controversial program.

Under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, Mexico agreed last week to expand the program, which forces mostly Central American asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await the outcome of their U.S. asylum claims.

Ebrard said officials would discuss which cities the program, known as Remain in Mexico, would expand to, as well as how to measure the number of people and which nationalities Mexico would accept.

Currently the program operates in Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez. Close to 12,000 people have been returned to Mexico since January.

In the deal reached a week ago, Mexico also agreed to a plan that could make it a “safe third country” in which asylum seekers would have to seek refuge instead of in the United States, if Mexico does not bring down immigration flows within 45 days through enforcement measures.

Trump on Friday confirmed that the deal struck in return for not imposing threatened tariffs on Mexico included a plan for safe third country.

Asked in a Fox News interview if the plan included the option if Mexico cannot stem the flow of Central American migrants headed for the United States, Trump said “It’s exactly right, and that’s what’s going to happen.”

(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel in Mexico City and Makini Brice and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Susan Thomas)

Trump promises more ‘to be revealed’ in U.S.-Mexico deal

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters upon departure from the White House in Washington, U.S., May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday stood by his comments that part of the migrant deal with Mexico announced over the weekend had yet to be made public, even after Mexican officials unveiled new details of the agreement.

“Biggest part of deal with Mexico has not yet been revealed!” Trump tweeted without giving further details. Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s statement.

On Monday, Trump also said Mexico would soon disclose part of the agreement with no details other than saying that portion would have to be taken up by the Mexican Congress.

Announcing previously undisclosed details of Friday’s deal, Mexican officials said on Monday they had 45 days to show that increased enforcement efforts were effective in reducing flows of migrants. If not, they would have to talk with the United States about additional measures.

The United States wants Mexico to be declared a safe third country in which asylum seekers would have to seek safe harbor instead of the United States, a demand Mexico had long rejected.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard dropped his previous opposition to that idea in comments on Monday but said any such arrangement should share the asylum load with other Latin American countries.

He said these measures would have to be taken up with the Mexican Senate.

“If we don’t have results on what we’re doing (in 45 days), we’ll start conversations on what they want,” Ebrard said.

The deal struck on Friday averted import tariffs on all Mexican goods, which Trump had vowed to impose unless Mexico did more to curb migration.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Andrea Ricci)