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A New York City Landlord Is Facing A $17K Fine After Threatening To Call ICE On Tenant

We’ve all heard stories of shady landlords doing crazy things to their tenants. Whether it’s raising rent without notice or using discriminatory practices to try to kick out a resident. But one landlord in New York City took it up a notch when she threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on her tenant if she didn’t pay overdue rent. An administrative judge in New York City ruled this month that the landlord should pay a $5,000 fine and $12,000 in damages for threatening to call ICE. 

The tenant, Holly Ondaan, is from Guyana with European Union citizenship and was undocumented when her former landlord, Dianna Lysius, threatened to call immigration officials on her. Now, Lysius is facing legal trouble and a hefty fine after a New York City judge called her actions a “human rights violation.” 

According to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the judges decision is thought to be the first housing case in the country in which an individual was fined for threatening to call immigration authorities.

The situation began back in October 2017 when Ondaan, who lived on the Queens property since 2011, admittedly stopped paying rent due to financial difficulties in her life at the time. Shortly after, she began to receive texts from Lysius about the missing money that would lead to her falling behind in mortgage payments and eventually having to sell the property in foreclosure. In his ruling, Judge John B. Spooner said that Lysius’s “dire financial circumstances likely played a significant part in motivating her hostile messages.”

That’s when things started getting hostile. In January 2018, Lysius began eviction proceedings against Ondaan and would write in a text message that she would call ICE if she didn’t pay rent that same day. According to the judges report, some of the texts included:

“It was fun and games when you calling DOB now it’s fun and games calling immigration 12 times day. They can deport you.”

After a three months of discriminatory texts, New York’s Commission on Human Rights sent Lysius a cease-and-desist letter requesting that she stop harassing her tenant. The commission said that Lysius’s actions were discriminatory and unlawful. 

Lysius to this point has denied all the accusations of harassment towards her former tenant. While she has been fined, there are still more legal steps that must happen before it goes into effect.

The case is a first when it comes to a landlord using immigration services to threaten a tenant. The commission also saw it as a case setting precedent  and classified Lysius’s actions as discrimination under New York City’s human-rights law. 

“It sets important case precedent for the interpretation of our Human Rights Law to include the weaponization of ICE to intimidate or harass someone in housing as a violation,” Sapna V. Raj, deputy commissioner for the law enforcement bureau of the city’s Commission on Human Rights, told CNN. “We will not allow our city’s most vulnerable to be further marginalized out of fear for their safety in their own homes. Immigration status, citizenship, and national origin (perceived or actual) are protected categories under our law, and we will continue to fight to ensure those protections are enforced to the fullest extent.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lysius said she never send the texts and emails to her former tenant and as of now, she plans to appeal the judge’s ruling. “Everything in that report is false,” Lysius said.

Ondaan has admitted that she wasn’t authorized to be in the U.S. at the time when Lysius threats began. She would obtain her green card in July 2018, according to the judges ruling. She would moved out of the property in October 2018, owing $14,400 in back rent. A court ruled that Ondaan would have to pay $6,895 of the past rent. 

Spooner’s decision won’t take effect before both parties have time to submit comments and the city human rights commission issues a final decision, according to CNN. Lysius can then file her appeal.

READ: ICE Has Made It Clear That The Cruelty In Its Policies Is The Point, Meanwhile An 8th Person Has Died In Their Custody

Iranians Are Being Questioned And Detained By US Border Patrol In What Appears To Be Racial Profiling

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Iranians Are Being Questioned And Detained By US Border Patrol In What Appears To Be Racial Profiling

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Iranian-Americans were held by U.S. immigration agents at the Canadian border over the weekend, following escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Traveling Iranian Americans now fear being racially profiled by Customs and Border Protection as they re-enter the county. 

CBP says they have enhanced security at ports of entry, according to NPR. Homeland Security is also on high alert as Iran’s leaders vowed they would retaliate for the U.S. airstrike that killed the military leader Qassem Soleimani. The country kept its promise yesterday when it fired over a dozen ballistic missiles at American bases in Iraq. 

Today President Donald Trump announced an increase in sanctions on Iran, rather than using military force (right now), as a response. 

Iranian Americans pay the price for U.S. conflicts in the middle east.

Roughly 200 Iranian Americans were held for up to 12 hours at the Peace Arch Border Crossing last weekend. 

“I’ve heard from people who are saying they’re going to cancel their vacations,” said Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council in Washington, D.C., told NPR. “They had planned to travel abroad or, you know, leave the country for spring break. And people are already saying we’re going to cancel those trips because we don’t know what we’re supposed to do.”

Travelers were detained and questioned, while some were denied re-entry into the U.S. The New York Times reported that a detained Iranian family told Masih Fouladi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), that an agent told them: “This is a bad time to be an Iranian.” 

“Those detained reported that their passports were confiscated and they were questioned about their political views and allegiances. CBP officials contacted at the Blaine Port of Entry provided no comment or reasons for the detentions,” Fouladi said in a statement. “We are working to verify reports of a broad nationwide directive to detain Iranian-Americans at ports of entry so that we can provide community members with accurate travel guidance.” 

CBP denies that Iranian Americans were held and questioned at all. 

“Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false,” said Matt Leas, a spokesperson for CBP. 

CBP instead claims that security has increased at ports of entry overall and that processing times at some ports had increased due to the holiday seasons. According to the New York Times, border officers are not allowed to refer someone to a secondary screening based on their national origin alone, but it is one of many factors. In fact, agents may place extra emphasis on the country of origin if it is one that can pose an alleged national security threat. 

“If you were an Iranian citizen returning from the British Columbia, you would be sent to secondary as a result of the increased tension with that country,” Girl Kerlikowske, former commissioner of CBP, told the paper. “It wouldn’t be the main factor in many cases, but certainly in this particular instance the country of origin would be the determining factor.”

While CBP denied any wrongdoing, immigrants’ rights advocates and attorneys begged to differ. Representative Pramila Jayapal and Representative Adam Smith expressed their concerns about the matter. 

“Let me be clear: Instituting xenophobic, shameful and unconstitutional policies that discriminate against innocent people, trample over basic civil rights, and put fear in the hearts of millions do not make us safer,” Jayapal said in a statement.

Many feel the treatment of Iranians is mimicking the circumstances that eventually led to Japanese internment during World War II. 

The kind of racial targeting evokes the same sense of American racial paranoia that resulted in Japanese internment and rampant Islamophobia following the September 11, 2001 attack of the world trade center. 

“It doesn’t make any sense, because these are individuals who are U.S. citizens and don’t have any individualized suspicion associated with them, other than the fact that they’re Iranian or of Iranian heritage,” Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project’s Seattle office, told Politico. “What’s clear is that they are being targeted for the secondary inspection because of their Iranian background, and there must be some kind of directive” to CBP officers to pull them over, he added.

Attorneys say detained Iranians were questioned about where they traveled in recent years, their work and education history, and were asked if they had family in the Iranian military. Iranian American historian John Ghazvinian was one of the 200 who was taken in for secondary questioning when he landed in JFK. 

“Well, just landed at JFK and — no surprise — got taken to the special side room and got asked (among other things) how I feel about the situation with Iran,” Ghazvinian wrote in a tweet. “I wanted to be like: my book comes out in September, preorder now on amazon.”

Trump Administration Plans To Send Some Mexican Asylum-Seekers To Guatemala And Mexico Is Fighting Back

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Trump Administration Plans To Send Some Mexican Asylum-Seekers To Guatemala And Mexico Is Fighting Back

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The Trump Administration continues to ramp up its attack on asylum seekers – and Mexican asylum-seekers in particular. The Department of Homeland Security announced that ‘effective immediately’, Mexicans could be subject to a safe third country agreement that could see them deported even further away to Guatemala.

The policy in effect blocks Mexicans — and any asylum seeker arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border who is not Guatemalan — from seeking protection in the United States, sending them more than 1,000 miles south instead.

The United States has yet to expel any Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala, but the new U.S. policy could soon affect about 900 Mexican asylum seekers, the Mexican Foreign Secretariat said in a statement late Monday signaling its “disagreement.”

The Department of Homeland Security confirms that certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protection can be transferred to the Central American nation.

The U.S. will begin sending Mexican asylum-seekers to Guatemala to wait out their cases instead of allowing them to remain in the U.S., according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

“Certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protections in the United States may now be eligible to be transferred to Guatemala and given the opportunity to seek protection there, under the terms of the Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement to NBC News.

Under the safe third country agreement between the US and Guatemala, technically the move is likely legal – though is it ethical?

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 28: Mexican immigrant Nieves Ojendiz holds her 4-year old daughter Jane as she attends an immigration reform rally with members and supporters of the New York Immigration Coalition, June 28, 2016 in New York City, New York. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 decision concerning President Barack ObamaÕs immigration plan, which would have protected millions of undocumented immigrants from being deported. Because the Supreme Court was split, a 2015 lower-court ruling invalidating ObamaÕs executive action will stand. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The agreement, which was brokered in July between the Trump administration and the outgoing Guatemalan government, allows U.S. immigration officials to send migrants requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to apply for protection in Guatemala, instead.

The administration made similar deals with Honduras and El Salvador last year.

The Trump administration had previously implemented a “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum-seekers from Central America, but international law forbidsasylum-seekers from being sent back to their home country due to concerns they may face prosecution. Mexicans account for more than half of the estimated 21,000 asylum seekers waiting along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Is Guatemala really a safer, more stable option for people seeking asylum from poverty and violence?

Critics of the agreements have said migrants could be further endangered if they are sent to violence-plagued Central American countries, while others with valid asylum claims could be keep out.

They have also said the countries do not have the capacity in their asylum systems to take on the migrants’ claims.

An anonymous asylum officials told Buzzfeed news: “Mexico is dangerous; Guatemala is even more so. This expansion of the [agreement] continues to prevent legitimate asylum-seekers from having their cases heard by the US and foists them upon the Guatemalan system, which has about a dozen staff. Asylum in the US is now practically available only for people wealthy and privileged enough to get visas, shutting out many of the most vulnerable groups asking for help at our borders.”

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said Monday night it disagreed with the policy.

Mexico is voicing opposition to the Trump administration’s controversial plan to send Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States to Guatemala instead.

“It’s a decision that worries us and a decision that we cannot agree with,” the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Martha Barcena, said Tuesday. “This decision was not consulted with us. It is a decision they made with Guatemala.”

The new U.S. policy could soon affect about 900 Mexican asylum seekers, the Mexican Foreign Secretariat said in a statement late Monday signaling its “disagreement.”

Mexican authorities “will work to offer better options to the Mexicans who could be affected,” the statement said, without providing details.

There also appeared to be confusion over the policy in Guatemala. Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman with the government’s immigration institute, said that while there have been “conversations on the issue” of Mexican asylum seekers, the “agreement involves the transfer of Hondurans and Salvadorans only.”