Things That Matter

Texas Is Leading The Charge To Overturn DACA And This Man Is Behind The Fight

The state of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is currently in limbo, as it has been since Donald Trump became president. The Democrats are fighting to keep the program that protects young undocumented people from being deported, while the Republicans are putting up their own fight to end it. In the end, however, it’s not going to be up to either party. The U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide in October the fate of the program and the estimated 800,000 people that are currently enrolled. There is one man that is fighting DACA tooth and nail and has been doing so for years. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is one of the fiercest critics of DACA and he just filed an amicus brief on behalf of Texas, and 12 other states. 

Credit: @TXAG / Twitter

An amicus brief is a legal document that is “filed in appellate court cases by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter,” and Paxton has a robust interest in the matter. The other heads of state that signed the legal document include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Mississippi.

“The DACA program was a lawless exercise of executive power, and the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA was absolutely necessary to uphold the rule of law,” Paxton said in a statement. “By creating DACA and DAPA, the Obama administration attempted to bypass Congress and unilaterally amend our immigration laws. The president’s duty is to ensure that the law is faithfully executed, not to unilaterally re-write the law anytime the president disagrees with Congress’ decision.”

The fight against DACA has been Paxton’s most significant battle since 2017.

Credit: @SenatorDurbin / Twitter

He alleges that that DACA “puts undue financial strain on states. Under DACA, states bear the cost of providing social services including healthcare, education, and law enforcement, to non-citizens. Texas alone incurs more than $250,000,000 in total direct costs from DACA recipients each year.”

He’s actually wrong about that. DACA recipients, many of which that are highly paid professionals, contribute billions to the United States, which is why most Americans want the program to remain as is

Several appeals courts have already ruled that DACA must remain in place. They stated that the president can make some changes but cannot end it altogether. 

Credit: @statesman / Twitter

In November 2018, a Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit ruled “the cruelty and wastefulness of deporting productive young people to countries with which they have no ties.”

That is why the case has been turned over the Supreme Court. The highest court can also hear from both advocates and opponents, and try to settle this matter out of court. However, because the House and Senate are so divided, no conclusion has been met. 

“We will continue to fight tirelessly to protect these outstanding young men and women as we work to ensure America remains a nation of hope, freedom, and opportunity for all,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement after the court’s announcement this summer, according to the New York Times

Paxton is eager to win this fight, despite not hearing from his own party, including people that voted for him.  

Credit: @TheToddSchulte / Twitter

Republican voters have told him to end this battle because it’s not worth it. In 2017, Norman E. Adams, Co-founder of the Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy, and a conservative voter sent Paxton an open letter, in which he stated: 

Dear Mr. Paxton, 

First of all, I want you to know that my wife and I contributed to your campaign and voted for you. We did the same for President Trump, and we are proud of what he has done. We are not as happy with what you are doing. General Paxton, your threat of a lawsuit to overturn DACA is a big mistake. Instead of opposing DACA, Texas should follow President Trump’s lead on the 800,000 so-called “dreamers.” Evidently, you have been convinced that opposing DACA is good for you politically. We did not elect you to practice politics. We elected you to use good judgment and to make sound decisions that benefit Texans.

Paxton can fight all he wants but he should know that DACA supporters (both Democrat and Republican) will fight for DREAMers as well. And, since he is DACA’s loudest critic he doesn’t have much a chance to win anyway. 

READ: Experts Are Warning The U.S. Supreme Court About The Economic Impacts Of Rescinding DACA Protections

Recreational Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois But Immigrants Are Being Warned To Keep Away From It

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Recreational Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois But Immigrants Are Being Warned To Keep Away From It

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This summer, Illinois became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis use through a state legislator when the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was passed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in May. However, not everyone will be able to benefit from the new law. Advocates are warning immigrants to stay away from consuming or working in the marijuana industry because of small legality that could reflect poorly on their cases.

While states have been legalizing marijuana, it is still illegal federally. An immigrant, undocumented or otherwise, can freely use the herb in Illinois, but should they own up to it, they would be admitting to breaking federal law. Illinois is the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use and the new law will go into effect in January. 

Advocates want to protect immigrants from hurting their cases — as fair as the situation is.

Credit: Pixabay

“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know about these consequences,” Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project told the Chicago Tribune. “Just admitting use makes you a potential target for deportation. So you don’t have to have a criminal arrest or conviction, you just have to admit to use.” 

Ruis-Velasco is also warning immigrants who live in mixed-status households to stay away from the industry altogether. Even if a citizen in the household works in the industry, it could reflect poorly on an undocumented family member. 

The issue is not specific to Illinois immigrants either, states, where cannabis is legal, have been affected tremendously by the incompatibilities between the state and federal laws, along with the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies. 

Immigrants around the country in states where marijuana is legal are seeing threats to their status.

Credit: Pixabay

“Even though the state legalizes it, under federal law, the immigration consequences of drug use (are) … extremely harsh,” Colorado attorney Aaron Hall said. “So we’ve seen people who purchase marijuana at the dispensary in good faith and later come back and it leads to the denial of permanent residency.”

Denver, Colorado mayor Michael Hancock even penned a letter pleading to U.S. Attorney General William Bar to ease the restrictions where state’s have legalized the substance.

“Denver understands the need for federal laws and regulations regarding citizenship and immigration, but we are seeing the heartbreaking effects that those federal laws and regulations are having on our residents,” Hancock wrote. “However, under current federal policy, lawful, permanent residents like Denver residents I have met with are being denied naturalization and may lose their legal status based on their lawful employment in the cannabis industry.”

ICE has remained strident about not making any concessions for immigrants caught in the unusual predicament. 

“ICE continues to pursue foreign-born nationals convicted of drug-related offenses by local and state law enforcement,” the agency told the Chicago Tribune

Kathleen Vannucci, an attorney who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she has already seen cases where immigrants were denied citizenship because they admitted to marijuana use or employment in the cannabis industry in states where it is legal. In Washington, immigrants have been denied on the basis that they have bad “moral character” which requires them to wait five years before applying for citizenship again. 

Some low-level cannabis workers can be accused of drug trafficking with the way the laws are written. ICE’s official marijuana policy, issued in April, makes its stance clear.

“The policy guidance also clarifies that an applicant (for citizenship) who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” the policy states. 

Advocates are trying to figure out the best course of action to protect immigrants, until then their advice is to stay away from the drug.

In April, when ICE’s marijuana policy was announced Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) began advising non-citizens to, “never leave the house carrying marijuana or paraphernalia, a medical marijuana card, or wearing clothing with marijuana imagery on it.” 

The organization also warned non-citizens to keep anything cannabis-related off of their phones and social media since those things might be monitored too. 

The legalization of marijuana is largely a way to resolve the criminal justice issues caused by the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. Moreover, nonwhites and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rates while the former group is incarcerated for the behavior far more frequently. Legalization’s new industry has also been shown to stimulate local economies by hundreds of millions of dollars. 

“I think that this is a complicated area of law as we have explained,” Ruiz-Velasco said. “I do think that there wasn’t enough information out there (when the legalization bill was being considered in Illinois). But we are trying to work with legislatures now and the government to try to make sure there is something that can be done to reduce the harm that will come.”

People Are Torn On A California Church’s Political Nativity Scene Calling Attention To Immigration Crisis

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People Are Torn On A California Church’s Political Nativity Scene Calling Attention To Immigration Crisis

Claremont United Methodist Church

It is the holiday season so you know people and churches are getting their nativity scenes together. Most are just run-of-the-mill nativity scenes with the animals, wise men, baby Jesus, and his parents Mary and Joseph. However, one church in California used its nativity scene to call attention to the humanitarian crisis on the southern border with children in cages. Here’s how they did it and how people on social media are reacting.

Claremont United Methodist Church is using its nativity scene this year to highlight the immigration crisis on the southern border.

Credit: @LATBermudez / Instagram

The Methodist church has a statement on their website directly address the crisis of asylum-seeking children at the southern border. For months, we have seen images of children taken away from their parents at the border and put into cages.

Claremont United Methodist Church wants people to know that the asylum crisis is devastating innocent families.

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“We at Claremont United Methodist Church (CUMC) responded swiftly to the need of over 2,700 children of immigrants seeking asylum at the US/Mexican border. These children were forcibly taken from their parents and scattered throughout the United States in April and May of 2018,” reads a statement by Rose Schneeberger on the Claremont United Methodist Church website. “Our church raised over $10,000 to assist with the legal representation of separated children through Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON). The plight continues as more families have been detained in the last couple of months and the number of children separated from their family continues to grow.”

The church’s nativity scene is showing people what the fate of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would have had to endure if they were migrants to the U.S. today.

Credit: macmanx2 / Instagram

“In a time in our country when refugee families seek asylum at our border and are unwillingly separated from one another, we consider the most well-known refugee family in the world, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family,” reads a plaque in front of the nativity scene. “Shortly after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee with their young son from Nazareth to Egypt to escape King Herod, a tyrant. They feared persecution and death.”

“What if this family sought refuge in our country today?”

“Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus, no older than two, taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center as more than 5,500 children have been the past three years.”

“Jesus grew up to teach us kindness and mercy and a radical welcome of all people.”

“He said: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ – Matthew 25:35”

“In the Claremont United Methodist Church nativity scene this Christmas, the Holy Family takes the place of the thousands of nameless families separated at our border.”

“Inside the church, you will see this same family reunited, the Holy Family together, in a nativity that joins the angels in singing.”

“‘Glory to God in the highest on earth, peace and good will to all.’ – Luske 2:14.

People on social media are moved by the powerful image of the church’s nativity.

Credit: @thugbro_s / Instagram

It truly is a striking image to see the classic nativity scene turned into a powerful political statement about our immigration policy. Seeing baby Jesus in a manger separated from his parents into cages is something many people never thought they’d see.

People immediately saw the comparison of the nativity and our current immigration system.

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“In addition to the remaining separated children, there are over 15,000 youth and children at detention facilities throughout the United States,” reads a statement by Rose Schneeberger on the Claremont United Methodist Church website. “The CUMC Creative Peacemaking Committee has decided to keep our congregation aware of this urgent need and to encourage church members to continue to support the efforts of JFON by donating funds for the legal representation of separated children and asylum-seeking families currently in detention centers.”

Some people tried to argue with the church’s message to fit their political agendas.

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Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, according to the Bible, were forced to leave Nazareth and go to Egypt in order to avoid persecution. The family’s story of fleeing to a new country in search of safety and protection from a tyrant king seeking to persecute them is reminiscent of the families seeking asylum and peace in the U.S.

Others are showing the true conditions of the U.S. detention centers.

Credit: @ElSrdelTaco / Twitter

The conditions along the southern border have been in the news for years. Reports of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and multiple deaths have highlighted the dangers of those in detention centers. Many of the facilities are housing more people than physically possible after the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration.

Basically, people are upset that a church would use a nativity scene to get people talking about the immigration crisis because it worked.

Credit: @1600PAave / Twitter

What do you think about the nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church?

READ: Mexican Government Makes It Illegal To Buy And Sell The Moss Families Use To Create Their Nacimientos