The government’s hostile treatment of migrants (American and foreign)

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Humans first left Africa 60,000 years ago to wander the Earth.  They embarked on a wave of human migration that has not slowed down since.  Yet the Trump Administration has famously resisted migration of all sorts; it strives to freeze the world’s populations in place, like a real-life episode of HBO’s Westworld.  Trump’s now-familiar tools include the travel ban and the aspirational wall on the Mexico-United States border.

But that is not all.  Trump (and his emboldened proxies in the many federal agencies) continue to pull up the draw-bridge outside the American castle in other ways—by forcing outsiders to stay away, of course, but also by making it very painful (or impossible) for insiders to travel beyond the moat.  Here are but three recent examples, each of which will affect our clients.

On November 2, says Time Magazine, the U.S. State Department announced that it will begin to revoke passports (yes, American passports) of registered child sex offenders.  The State Department will require these men and women to acquire new passports.  From now on all current and future registered-child-sex-offender applicants will be granted passport books that include a special notice printed in the back cover: “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to (U.S. law).”

Here in Atlanta our local ICE office has worked feverishly, and proudly, to ramp up arrests of undocumented immigrants.  According to the New York Times, our region has seen the nation’s biggest spike in ICE arrests during the Trump Administration, and undocumented immigrants in metropolitan Atlanta have been lying low.  Or trying to.

Now this from the lawyers at the Department of Justice.  On December 12, the government will argue in the Eleventh Circuit that the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement does not apply to travelers’ cell phones at the United States border.  In United States v. Vergara, Adeel Bashir, our brother at the Federal Defender Program in Tampa, will say otherwise.  Adeel wrote a marvelous brief and will argue the case for Mr. Vergara.  Law enforcement agents at ports of entry yearn to search cell phones of visitors (and of U.S. citizens, like Vergara himself) without a warrant.  Will the agents find shelter under the Fourth Amendment’s border-search-exception?  Judges Bill Pryor, Jill Pryor, and Clevenger (from the Federal Circuit) will soon decide.  Go Adeel!




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