• U.S. govt. the largest employer of undocumented immigrants

    At least 60,000 undocumented immigrants have worked at federal detention centers while waiting for an immigration court to hear their case. While detained, many immigrants work as cooks and janitors at federal and privately-run detention centers, often making less than $1 a day. The cheap labor saves the federal government and private companies at least $40 million a year by making it unnecessary to pay outside contractors the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Since about half of all immigrants in immigration court typically win their case, this means that that tens of thousands of legal immigrants are working for less than a dollar a day in immigration detention facilities.

  • Server outages continue to hobble immigration courts’ work

    The servers of the U.S. Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)support the fifty-nine immigration courts administered by the EOIR,the electronic registry for accredited immigration attorneys and representatives, and the 260-plus immigration court judges and staff. For the last six weeks, these servers have suffered from severe outages, hobbling the work of the immigration courts. During the six week period, about 366,724 cases were pending, butcourt clerks were unable to access court records, enter new records in the system, and make digital recordings of hearings.

  • A bill offers a military path to citizenship for Dreamers

    The Enlist Act,authored by Representative Jeff Denham (R-California) would allow immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally before 2012 and below the age of fifteen at the time (Dreamers) to enlist in the military, earning them permanent legal status, and upon honorable discharge, eligibility for U.S. citizenship. Denham and his co-sponsors tried to get the proposal though the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA), a bill likely to pass, but House leaders rejected the idea.

  • Drone surveillance raises legal, ethical concerns

    The use of drones for domestic security purposes, surveillance of citizens, and putative criminals and organizations raises many legal and ethical concerns particularly with regard to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Council of Europe instruments, and the EU Data Protection Framework. Experts suggest that the rise of drones for surveillance and other applications highlights particular challenges to civil liberties and tensions between these and national security and justice concerns.

  • Hitting the reset button on Secure Communities

    Last Tuesday law enforcement officials said they anticipate a “reboot” of the controversial immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities, in which police officers are asked to submit fingerprints taken by police to DHS so the individuals stopped by the police can be screened for deportation eligibility. Critics argue the program leads to too many low-level criminals and non-criminals being turned over to immigration authorities, and in addition to the cost involved in the process, the program could make witnesses and victims of crime reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement.

  • UN mulling rules to govern autonomous killer robots

    On Tuesday, delegates from several international organizations and governments around the world began the first of many round of talks dealing with   some call “lethal autonomous weapons systems” (LAWS), and others call “killer robots.” Supporters of LAWS say the technology offers life-saving potential in warfare, as these robots y are able to get closer than troops to assess threats without letting emotions interfere in their decisions. This is precisely what concerns critics of the technology. “If we don’t inject a moral and ethical discussion into this, we won’t control warfare,” said one of them.

  • Nebraska city free to enforce ordinance banning renting to undocumented immigrants

    In response to the increasing numbers of Latino immigrants in the town of Fremont, Nebraska, city leaders proposed in 2010 an ordinance which would ban renting to undocumented immigrants. The public outrage that followed led immigrant rights groups to request the U.S. Supreme Court to review and strike down the ordinance because it may interfere with federal immigration laws.

  • Cybersecurity bill not likely before a crisis proves its necessity

    A recent simulation, with 350 participants from congressional staffs, the cybersecurity sector, and the U.S. military, examined whether or not Congress was capable of passing a comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to protect the country’s critical infrastructure from debilitating cyberattacks. The simulation participants concluded that Congress is not likely to act unless there is a major cyber crisis, and that until such crisis occurs, smaller measures, such as the president’s voluntary cybersecurity framework, are the best that can be hoped for.

  • Wisconsin silent about cell phone tracking by state police

    The Wisconsin Department of Justice(DOJ) is refusing to acknowledge that it has deployed Stingray technology to track Wisconsin residents’ cellphones, despite reports claiming the state has used the technology during previous investigations. The state also denied a public records request made in April seeking details on how often Stingray technology is used, how data is stored and shared, and how often warrants are obtained.

  • Court dismisses case against U.S. charities supporting West Bank settlers

    U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman has ruled that plaintiffs describing themselves as residents of “Occupied Palestine” cannot proceed with claims that five U.S.-based organizations have funded attacks against Palestinians. The thirteen men and women — two Americans, ten Palestinians, and one Greek — argued that a portion of the territory where they reside is “within the internationally recognized borders of the future Palestinian state.”Furman deemed the allegation “entirely conclusory.”

  • California bill banning use of antibiotics in livestock withdrawn

    The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreports that 23,000 people die every year from infections that cannot be cured, often due to overuse of antibiotics which creates drug resistant bugs. Last Wednesday, California Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) withdrew proposed legislation which would ban the sale of meat and poultry fed on nontherapeutic antibiotics. He lacked sufficient support from fellow legislators.

  • Gerry Adams arrest: peace process in Northern Ireland can’t take much more pressure

    The arrest last week of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams for questioning relating to the 1972 murder of Jean McConville threatens to undermine an established peace process in Northern Ireland, a process where the Rubicon has already been crossed, involving political sacrifice on all sides. Last December, following negotiations with all sides to the conflict, U.S. diplomat Richard Haass proposed a way to deal with outstanding issues in the peace process, a proposal which saw the past firmly on the agenda. The Adams arrest contradicts the Haass proposal, as it continues with the eclectic and incoherent approach to dealing with the open issues from a painful past. The Haass proposals may not be perfect, but experience from other countries shows that no perfect mechanism for dealing with the past exists. The key question now is not how to get to something better. It is a choice between Northern Ireland having a dedicated thought-through forum in which to contend with the past, or being forced to make do with political and legal institutions that were not designed to deal with it. The peace process has come too far, with both sides sacrifices to get this far. Its achievements should not be treated so carelessly.

  • U.S. should significantly reduce incarceration rate: study

    There has been an unprecedented and internationally unique rise in U.S. state and federal prison populations, from 200,000 inmates in 1973 to 1.5 million in 2009. This increase occurred because of policy decisions such as mandatory sentencing, long sentences for violent and repeat offenses, and intensified criminalization of drug-related activity. Given the minimal impact of long prison sentences on crime prevention and the negative social consequences and burdensome financial costs of U.S. incarceration rates, which have more than quadrupled in the last four decades, the United States should revise current criminal justice policies to significantly reduce imprisonment rates, says a new report from the National Research Council. The dramatic rise in prison population “not serving the country well,” the report says.

  • More crude oil shipments by rail mean more accidents, but security measures lag

    American rail companies have long operated under federal laws, making it difficult for local officials to gather information on cargo and how rail companies select their routes. An increase in the number of trains transporting crude oil, accompanied by a series of derailments and explosions, has highlighted the dangers of transporting hazardous substances by rail.In February, the Department of Transportation announced that railroads had voluntarily agreed to apply the same routing rules to oil trains that they currently apply to other hazardous materials. Critics say more needs to be done.

  • Vermont mandates labeling of foods containing GMOs

    On Wednesday, legislators in Vermont passed a billrequiring the labeling of foods which contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), making the state the first in the United States to pass such a law without contingencies. Proponents of the law, and of similar attempts across the country, hailed the legislative approval as a victory. About twenty other states have pending measures regarding labeling GMO-based foods, but the biotech and food industries have been lobbyingfederal legislators to prevent such measures.