Supreme Court Rules For DACA to Stay, And Organizers Gear Up To Fight for More Protections

Demonstrators for DACA rights debrief in front of the White House, June 18, 2020. Each person took rounds with the megaphone to tell how they felt about the decision. (Photo/Athiyah Azeem)

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Supreme Court ruled against President Trump’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Thursday, preventing 700,000 recipients from facing possible deportation.

“We’re making history,” Anel Medina, a 28-year-old DACA recipient from Pennsylvania told The Immigrants Bay. She and other demonstrators came down to D.C. to celebrate the decision.

The Obama-era policy was established in 2012 to shield and provide work permits to undocumented immigrants, who entered the United States as children. It faced three years of possible termination when Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared DACA was illegal and unconstitutional in 2017, backed by Trump and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Three courts blocked the decision on grounds that the DHS did not file adequate paperwork. This was appealed to the Supreme Court.

Thursday’s 5-4 decision was led by conservative Chief Justice Roberts, who sided with the liberal wing of the court, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. The Justices were not concerned with whether Trump could end DACA–rather, it stated the DHS did not provide sufficient reasoning under the Administrative Protection Act (APA).

“Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients,” Roberts wrote. DHS may again submit to end DACA while complying with the ruling.

The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas and joined by fellow conservatives Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch described the majority decision as “an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision.” They determined DACA was unlawful, and questioned why the majority treated the case as an administrative mistake, when “on the contrary, this is anything but a standard administrative law case.”

“I think when DACA came out, we always knew it was a temporary two-year fix,” said Medina. She filed for DACA as soon as it was initiated, and has been a recipient for eight years. “So to…have a two year battle to have our arguments heard, for this day to come, it’s definitely been draining. But we stayed strong, and we won.” 

“It’s a relief, 700 thousand dreamers tonight will be able to sleep peacefully, knowing that their lives are not in limbo,” said Yadira Sanchez, Co-Executive Director of Poder LatinX, an organization dedicated to increasing LatinX voices in the political process.

But Sanchez warns the fight isn’t over. DACA is a two year renewable deffered action–it is not a permanent status. It only delays deportation and gives the right to legally work, and does not have a path to citizenship. For recipients like Medina who have been in the United States since she was five-years-old, she would still not have a chance at citizenship.

“The end of the day, we want a pathway for citizenship, for all the dreamers, and for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are in this country,” said Sanchez.

“This is an important win, but the fight is not over,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted Thursday. They filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case. “Now it’s up to the Senate to pass the Dream and Promise Act to permanently protect Dreamers.”

The Dream and Promise Act passed House in June 2019, and awaits to pass Senate. If passed, it would cancel removal proceedings for undocumented immigrants who come into the United States as children, and give a path to permanent residence status. DACA recipients may also apply for permanent residence under the act.

“The ball is in our court,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) tweeted Thursday. “The Senate must pass the Dream and Promise Act.”

Additionally, the Supreme Court decision determined that the DHS must continue to accept DACA applications, but the DHS has yet to confirm that it will. United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigrant organization in the U.S., launched a petition Thursday demanding DHS to accept new DACA applications.

Sanchez and Poder LatinX believes a key to keep progressing DREAMer rights is through voting.

“We’re seeing the movement in the streets, and in the protest, we’re seeing the wins in the courts,” she said. “And now we need to bring that back to the ballot box, to see a big win this November 3rd.”

The Supreme Court Decision for the Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California

Written by Athiyah Azeem. Olga Petrovskikh and Lancelot Lin contributed to this report.

As Supreme Court DACA Decision Looms Near, Black Immigrants Add To Black Lives Matter Message

Black DACA recipient Joella Roberts speaks about undocumented black fears at the Black Lives Matter D.C. protests, June 13, 2020. (Photo/Athiyah Azeem)

“Imagine being pulled over because I’m black,” Joella Roberts said as she addressed protesters with a loudspeaker. “And it’s a double whammy because I’m undocumented.”

Roberts led hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters on a march down Washington D.C. Saturday, briefly stopping in front of the Trump International Hotel for a round of speeches. She is a 22-year-old undocumented black immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, and received Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2015.

The Obama-era program is meant to shield and provide work permits to undocumented immigrants, who entered the United States as children. It has been at risk since 2017 when President Trump called to end it. Three courts blocked the decision on grounds that Trump’s administration did not file adequate paperwork.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide on Department of Homeland Security v. University of California and the two other related cases in the next few weeks–Monday at the earliest. The higher court does not often weigh in on paperwork, but the decision could result in the deportation of 700,000 DACA recipients.

The decision could go several ways–the court may side with the three lower courts, and the administration will have to file the appropriate paperwork to end DACA. It could rule the paperwork is valid, ending DACA. Or, it could altogether deem ending DACA unlawful. Oral arguments on November 2019 indicate the third outcome is unlikely.

Black DACA recipient Joella Roberts speaks about undocumented black fears at the Black Lives Matter D.C. protests, June 13, 2020. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

“I could be deported. I could lose it all,” said Roberts, who said she is the sole income and provider of her family. Facing the risk of both police brutality and possible deportation, Roberts decided to bring her issues to light at the Black Lives Matter D.C. protest.

“This is the plight of black immigrants in this country,” she spoke to the crowd. “Amadou Diallo, say his name!”

Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea, in West Africa. Four white police officers shot 41 bullets at him, 19 of which hit. He was unarmed.

Amadou Diallo was a 23-year-old Guinean and West African immigrant who was shot and killed by four New York Police Department officers on February 4, 1999. Diallo was unarmed, and struck with 19 bullets outside his apartment.

“He is one of hundreds, maybe thousands of black immigrants without hashtags,” said Roberts.

Bella Hounakey tells why she believes police reform needs to go beyond defunding the police, near Lafayette Plaza, June 9, 2020. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

To Bella Hounakey, a black immigrant from Togo, the fight for police reform has to go beyond marching. She said, from experience, that exercising democracy is the only way forward.

“I’m from a country where police are not held accountable for their actions,” said Hounakey to a crowd of protestors Tuesday. Togo’s police force has a reputation of mass corruption and human rights abuses, from excessive force to torture, and harsh prison conditions, according to an Amnesty report.

“So I don’t believe in defunding the police,” she said. “We have to dismantle the infrastructure.”

To Hounakey, there needs to be total and complete reform on how America is policed, without jeopardizing the chance for immigrant victims of crime to receive justice and a place in the U.S. She believes the message of defunding the police needs to be more comprehensive.

“I was trafficked,” Hounakey later told The Immigrant’s Bay. “And the [FBI] rescued me.” Trafficked from Togo to Michigan at 12-years-old, Hounakey was rescued in an FBI bust and granted a T Visa. She just received citizenship in January and was later appointed to the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

“We have to vote,” she said. “We have to change every single law, from every single department, from state to federal.”

Immigrants Show Their Support at the Black Lives Matter Protest in D.C.

Javaneh Pourkarim speaks out against racism in immigrant communities toward black people, at the Black Lives Matter Protest in D.C., June 4, 2020. An Iranian American and attorney, Pourkarim is organizing education material to teach older immigrants about black communities. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

As an impromptu speaker’s corner emerged at Lafayette Park during the Black Lives Matter protest Thursday, an unlikely person took to the megaphone. 

“Racism in immigrant communities is very rampant,” announced Javaneh Pourkarim, an Iranian American immigrant. Protesters cheered in agreement–one black woman yelled “thank you” in response.

“Over the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of concerns for–I hate these words but, for looting, and rioting from my Iranian American community.” Pourkarim later told The Immigrant’s Bay. “It seems like they have no understanding of the human suffering behind these protests.”

Systemic racism against the African American community by immigrant Americans is a developing concept within intersectional sociological thought. Arab American Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer discussed on NPR Chicago how respectability politics cause nonblack immigrants to assimilate with White Americans, and reject the black community. By dissociating with the black community, they were more “respectable” to white people. 

Pourkarim is an attorney for the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau. She and other Iranian American lawyers are organizing an education series to teach the history of the black community in America to other, older immigrant Americans.

“It is incumbent on us, the young immigrants,” she announced to the crowd, “to make sure that our communities understand the problems with systemic racism, with keeping the black community marginalized, and start educating our children at home.”

“Immigrants for blacks!” she cheered, and the crowd cheered right back.

Zach and his father, Iqbal Sayyid march at the Black Lives Matter protest in Washington D.C., June 4, 2020. They were actually taking a day trip to the White Hose–but decided to march with other protestors. As a Pakistani immigrant, Iqbal finds it important for his son to see displays of freedom of speech. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

Iqbal and Zach Sayyid were on a father-son day trip.

“We were planning to go to the White House, until we saw the march,” said Zach Sayyid, as he idled on his bicycle. 

“Do you want to march?” Iqbal, his father, asked. Zach nodded his head and started cycling along the crowd, with Iqbal not far behind.

“This is good, he needs to learn,” said Iqbal, pointing at his son. “In this country, you can talk about justice, you can talk about peace and you can do it openly. You can do it right in front of the President’s house.”

The Sayyids are from Pakistan, a country infamous for using police force to curb political dissent. A 2019 review by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental organization, detailed how enforced disappearances of the politically opposed are prevalent in several regions of the country.

“Unfortunately, that’s what the President [Trump] wants to turn this [U.S.] into,” said Iqbal. “We want to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Palestinian American Christian Tabash speaks out against police brutality against black people in America, Black Lives Matter protest in D.C., June 4, 2020. He condemns how U.S. police utilize tactics taught by Israeli forces, who similarly employ such brutality in Palestinian-occupied territories. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

“Folks, listen up,” said Christian Tabash, as he addressed hundreds of protestors on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Tabash is Palestinian American, son of a refugee from Israel.

“The deadly exchange, is where U.S. FBI, U.S. military, U.S. cops…go to Israel, they go get trained in Israel, and they come back here, and use those…inhumane racist discriminatory to brutalize black folks–and we say it’s enough!”

The knee-on-neck tactic employed by George Floyd’s murder, Derek Chauvain has been recognized as a staple method used by Israeli defense forces against Palestinian occupied territories. Minneapolis Police officers have also been trained by Israeli officers, notably in a 2012 Israeli-American security conference, held jointly by the FBI.

“I’m hurt for my Palestinian family, for my black family,” Tabash later told The Immigrant’s Bay. To Tabash, the fight against racism against black people in America is a united effort, across race and citizenship status.

“This is a collective project. We all need to use our voices, we need to politically mobilize, we can organize ourselves in communities and stay true to truth and justice.”

The Immigrant’s Bay will be live tweeting (@ImsBay) Black Lives Matter-immigrant news at BLM protests in Maryland and D.C. ImsBay founder Athiyah Azeem (AthiyahTA) will be live tweeting general Black Lives Matter news.

To This Immigrant Baltimore Mayoral Candidate, History is Repeating

As Baltimore’s homicide rate rises, with nine people killed over Memorial Day weekend, the city’s mayoral candidates are ramping up advocacy to turn this city around. To one former candidate, Baltimore is experiencing a violence she is all too familiar with from back home. 

Liri Fusha is an immigrant from Albania who came to the United States in 2008. She escaped political tensions within her family back home and was a nurse during the Kosovo War in 1998.

“I was lucky that I didn’t get shot,” Fusha told The Immigrant’s Bay, as she detailed her experiences in the war. For 48 hours, she was trapped in the temporary military hospital she worked at.

“The bullets were flying all over the operating room we were working in. It was very scary. Very, very scary.”

When she could finally leave, she saw a man shot in the thigh in front of her on the street. She said she tore a part of her blouse, and tied up his thigh. But it had hit an artery. “His blood was like a waterfall.”

Fusha sees a similarity between her experiences in the Kosovo War, an armed conflict between the Yugoslavic military and Kosovo Albanian rebels, and the Baltimore protests and riots of 2015.

“Slowly, slowly, slowly, the economy was shrinking every time, and it was really getting bad,” she said. “One day, we just blew up. Burned everything. Like Baltimore in 2015, they burned.”

Now, Fusha sees Baltimore’s rising crime and unrest as another warning sign. Baltimore’s homicides have been above 300 since 2015, and in 2019 saw its highest rate in history. Before suspending her campaign, she ran on a campaign to curb crime through government transparency and reducing corruption within the Baltimore police force.

As an immigrant candidate, however, she has faced some resistance, including an incident with a friend last Thursday.

“He said, ‘why are you running for mayor?’” said Fusha. She recalls being shocked, and replied “because I see things, they that are not right here in the United States, which are happening back in my country.”

“And he said, ‘why don’t you go back to your country?’”

Fusha stated she finds herself explaining again and again, that just because she finds problems with Baltimore and America, it doesn’t mean she dislikes being in the country. Additionally, she said, she is a U.S. citizen now. “This is my country.”

This is not the first of struggles and discrimination Fusha faced as an immigrant in the U.S. When she first visited the country, she did not know any English, and found that success in America was predicated on her command of the English language. 

Some mistake her accent. Once while playing poker, a player she beat told her to go back to Russia. 

“Everybody tells me I’m Russian. Everybody!” she exclaimed.

But to Fusha, America is her safe haven. Back in Albania, she was facing increased pressure for being a democrat, years after the fall of communism.

“My uncle, my dad’s brother, when I got back from the United States…they were telling me that somebody’s gonna kill you,” she said. In America, Fusha said she is able to exercise her beliefs freely, and not face persecution. 

Facing a lack of support, Fusha has now suspended her campaign and endorsed candidate Ricky Vaughn, who also suspended his campaign and endorsed top candidate Thiru Vignarajah. Vignarajah is the only other immigrant candidate in the race.

Baltimore Nepalese Non-Profit Hands Out Groceries to Struggling International Students

Ashish Kandel, a Nepalese international student at Wilmington University carts groceries provided by SAATHI Baltimore and Mount Everest Grocery LLC on May 16, 2020. (Photo/Athiyah Azeem)

BALTIMORE, M.D. – As aid slowly rolls out for small businesses and families in Maryland, one demographic has been left hanging: international students. In the absence of government help, Baltimore’s Nepalese community came together Saturday morning to distribute groceries to these struggling students.

SAATHI Baltimore is a volunteer-run non-profit dedicated to aiding Nepalese international students in Maryland. Baltimore boasts the fifth-largest Nepalese community in America, with Washington D.C. at third-most.

SAATHI, the Nonresident Nepalese Association (NRNA) and the Nepali American Community Center (NACC) partnered with Mount Everest Grocery LLC Saturday to hand out carts of rice, oil, spices and even Parle-G (a popular Indian biscuit) to students. Most signed up to receive groceries prior to pick-up through SAATHI’s Facebook page.

“We already have 42 students who signed up,” Ramesh Bhatta, a founder of SAATHI Baltimore told The Immigrant’s Bay a day prior to the grocery pickup. By Saturday noon, a member of SAATHI stated they served up to 30 students. 

SAATHI will be doing a second grocery pick-up Sunday May 17, from 1pm to 4pm at Swadesh Grocery.

Ashish Kandel (left) and his roommate pack groceries they received from SAATHI Baltimore and Mt Everest Grocery LLC into the trunk of their car, on May 16, 2020. (Photo/Athiyah Azeem)

“The jobs are closed, even in our home country,” said Ashish Kandel, a Nepalese international student at Wilmington University, who received a cart of groceries from Mount Everest’s door step. With parents unable to work back home, and he himself unable to work in America, his sources of funding are limited. 

Currently, stimulus checks do not extend to foreigners in America without social security numbers, which includes international students.

Additionally, the CARES Act that provides aid to American college students does not extend to foreign students either. The latest HEROES Act succeeded against Republican backlash, to include immigrants of any legal status to receive stimulus paychecks. It still needs to pass the Republican-dominated Senate.

With no federal aid going to international students, SAATHI used funding from the Baltimore Rotary Club and NRNA, which contributed $2000 and $1000 respectively fuel the weekend grocery pick-up program. The Nepalese-run Mt Everest Grocery store gave SAATHI Baltimore a 15% discount.

Owner and his son, Apar Shrestha pose in their grocery story, the Mt Everest Grocery LLC on May 16, 2020. (Photo/Athiyah Azeem)

“Getting groceries right now is really hard,” said Apar Shrestha, son of the owner of Mt Everest Grocery. “The vendors are increasing their prices on us.” 

Regardless, they are attempting to keep their prices low–Shrestha stated they are selling rice at almost cost price. The 15% discount is on top of that.

“It’s not about making money you know,” said Shrestha. “It’s about helping the community.”

While some students picked up groceries at the door, several requested deliveries. Volunteers made longer trips around and outside of Baltimore to deliver.

*Anjali Lama, Nepalese international student at Baltimore City Community College receives a carton with groceries at her doorstep, from SAATHI Baltimore founder Ramesh Bhatta, May 16, 2020. (Photo/Athiyah Azeem)

“We really don’t know the situation, how long it is going to be,” said Anjali Lama, a Nepalese international student and recent graduate at Baltimore City Community College. She said her grocery delivery alleviates one of her fears. At the moment, she is applying to transfer to a university.

“Today we met with someone from Towson University,” Bhatta told Lama after dropping off her groceries. “He got some kind of scholarship there.”

“But Towson is really expensive, I guess, for international students,” she replied. International students can never get in-state tuition, as they are considered nonresident aliens by the government and universities. Bhatta and Lama discussed resources she could use to access scholarships and aid.

“I was an F1 student myself,” said Bhatta, as he drove away from Lama’s residence. “So I understand how hard it is.”

The group’s founders and volunteers are either current or previously F1 international students. SAATHI, which means ‘friend’ in Nepali, was founded as a way to bridge the gap between former and current F1 students.

“This started as a soccer program,” said Pravin Khadka, another founder of SAATHI. Soccer is a popular sport for the young and old alike in Nepal, and the founders believed it would be a good way to connect with the growing young Nepalese international student population in Maryland. 

SAATHI took two years to conceptualize, founders busy with work and life. It slowly began to evolve into a resource and help group to current Nepalese international students.

COVID-19 was the kicker. Seeing the pandemic’s effects upon the Nepalese Maryland community, Khadka said they began several programs on their Facebook page, streaming immigration law webinars and unemployment filing training videos to its Facebook page.

“We as being graduates from this university system, we know what is right and what is wrong,” said Khadka. “Because we have been there. We have experience.”

SAATHI itself comprises several task forces, one of them being the F-1 Student Task Force, with about 10 to 15 volunteers. 

Chandani Lama, a SAATHI Baltimore F1 Student Task Force member poses inside the Mt Everest Grocery LLC shop, May 16, 2020. (Photo/Athiyah Azeem)

“I didn’t expect all this response,” said Chandani Lama, an F1 Student Task Force member, about the response from grocery stores in helping international student communities. “I thought the federal will be helping us, rather than the local.”

Lama states the next step is to address rent, and to appeal to universities and the government to give aid. SAATHI may provide a resources for international students, but it is still small, she stated, and depends on the pockets of the Nepalese community.

“We really want to survive, and we want to get a degree,” said Lama, who is doing her Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and Policy Making at Wilmington University.

“You know, this time, I thought I would stay away from politics,” Lama said. “But in this environment…it’s just impossible to really ignore it at all.”

*Editor’s note: Anjali Lama was at her home when the picture was taken, and thus did not break the law for not wearing a mask. She and SAATHI volunteers largely kept six feet of distance between her and others around her.

Betsy DeVos’ New Title IX Guidelines Give More Grief to Noncitizen Survivors

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled her final new Title IX guidelines Wednesday, adding more barriers to justice for already vulnerable noncitizen survivors of sexual assault.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo/Gage Skidmore)

By Athiyah Azeem

SILVER SPRING, MD — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled her final new Title IX guidelines Wednesday, adding more barriers to justice for already vulnerable noncitizen survivors of sexual assault.

These guidelines to the federal statute governing sexual misconduct on campuses would give more protections to those accused of sexual assault. They would be presumed innocent throughout trial and given the right to view all evidence against them.

It also narrows the definition of sexual assault to “unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.”

By contrast, the Obama era definition was kept broad, as an “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”

Colleges and schools K-12 can also be only held accountable if they handled sexual assault reports with “deliberate indifference.”

The changes will take effect August 14.

“If this rule goes into effect, survivors will be denied their civil rights and will get the message loud and clear that there is no point in reporting assault,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. The Center announced it will be taking these new guidelines to court.

“We are also concerned about the impact on noncitizen students,” Lisae Jordan Esq., Executive Director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault told The Immigrant’s Bay. 

She believes while the new Title IX regulations will affect students across the board, “noncitizen students are often at higher risk of violence and more reluctant to report.”

“Often perpetrators will use a survivor’s legal status as a way of exerting power and control and make a survivor more likely to be victimized,” said Meredith Varsanyi, a Training Program Coordinator at MCASA. She spoke at the University of Maryland’s annual Sexual Assault and Vulnerable Populations (SAVP) webinar on Wednesday.

Varsanyi states undocumented students and U.S. citizens of undocumented parents are also confused on how confidential their sexual assault report would be, and “what may put them in danger of being deported.”

International students would also have to tough through the process on their own, far from home. They may also be reluctant to report, if they are in the U.S. for only one semester or graduating soon. 

According to Andrea Finuccio, Staff Attorney at MCASA’s Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI), there are special visa options available for foreign survivors of sexual assault — as long as they cooperate with the police. 

The U nonimmigrant visa, commonly known as the U visa, was created alongside the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2009. It grants a three-year stay with work authorization to noncitizen victims of violent crime, provided they aid the police in a criminal investigation.

After three years, U visa holders can apply for a green card. Similarly, there is a T nonimmigrant status, or T visa, that is specifically given to victims of human trafficking.

Undocumented survivors can file for a waiver of inadmissibility, essentially apologizing for their status. They are then able to apply for a U or T visa. An undocumented parent of a U.S. citizen can do the same, as long as they can prove they are cooperating.

But to even obtain an U visa is another question. 

According to Women’s Law, as of January 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is reviewing applications filed in August of 2014. USCIS only grants 10,000 U visa applications a year, so now there is a backlog of almost 240,000 pending U visa applications, with a wait time of up to five years.

“I do not think they anticipated the amount of people that would be applying for the U Visa,” Finuccio told attendees of the SAVP webinar. When the visa was first introduced in 2009, USCIS received about 11,000 applications from foreign-based U.S. consulates. Now, according to USCIS U visa statistics, there were almost 59,000 applications made in 2019 alone.

While U visa applicants have a path to citizenship, it can take up to 13 years before they can apply for citizenship.

Before the current administration, work permits would be given to applicants before their U visa came. Now, work permits come jointly with the visa, but according to Finuccio, applicants may receive delays between receiving both, “which is a problem that doesn’t allow people to work and make a living, in a way that people see as legally valid.”

Alternatively, women sexual assault survivors of U.S. citizen or permanent resident relatives can self-petition for a green card under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). There is no known wait list for VAWA, and is approved within six months to two years.

SALI provides legal aid to noncitizen sexual assault survivors, and helps them apply for VAWA self-petitions, U or T visas.