Author Archives: N. Peter Antone

Maximalist Law Enforcement

On December 23, 2019 Tali Farhadian Weinstein—General Counsel of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office—wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times titled “An Immigrant’s Gift on Christmas Eve.” In it, she tells her family’s story of immigration to the United States from Iran during the 1979 revolution.[i] The “gift” she references in the title is one of leniency, given to her and her family by an I.N.S. officer when they landed in America holding suspect tourist visas. According to Tali, they were clearly not tourists, but they were clearly struggling.

Since President Trump took office in January 2017, immigration laws and procedures have been strictly enforced and interpreted. As a result, it isn’t only the mass migrations of peoples from Central America that are being affected; highly skilled and educated workers are also being denied at record numbers.[ii] Currently, there is a tendency to enforce certain articles of policies such as the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to its maximum. In supporting maximalist enforcement of immigration law, we lose track of the “sprit” of law enforcement inherent in a democracy.

If law enforcement at each level of government prosecuted individuals for every felony, misdemeanor, or infraction they committed, then many among us would be in jail within our lifetime. For example, in many cities and towns, violations of local laws regarding noise violations or lawn care could technically land the culprit in jail. In Michigan, a 1931 statute declares that adultery[iii] is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of $5,000.[iv] However, this law is obviously almost never enforced. Everyday many Americans break laws they are aware and unaware of. Even if they were all caught, most of them wouldn’t be charged by the law enforcement officer because the officer practiced common sense discretion. 

Law, in a democracy, is supposed to appeal to a higher moral authority. The agent given the duty to carry out laws hauls that authority or “spirit” of the law on their shoulders. That is why prosecutors are expected to exercise reasonable discretion before preparing charges. On Dec. 24, 1979 the I.N.S. officer that inspected Tali and her family made their decision to allow the struggling Iranians into the country in accordance with their own sense of moral judgement. Losing track of this higher spiritual-like authority is a dangerous slip to blind authoritarian enforcement.

What has changed so drastically in the past few years is the top-down encouragement of officers to carry out the law to its maximum. Unfortunately, this has enabled hardline supporters of “sealed” borders within law enforcement agencies to execute arrests, harass, and make life generally difficult for many immigrants.[v] According to such logic, even if an undocumented immigrant has never committed a crime while in the United States they are considered morally corrupt criminals due simply to their action of entering the country without the proper papers, without regards to the circumstances that led them to take such action. If we applied this same logic to traffic violators, disturbers of the peace, or adulterers in Michigan, then our jails and prisons would be much fuller and faith in the justice of our legal system would be adversely altered within many communities. 

[i] Weinstein, Tali Farhadian. “An Immigrant’s Christmas Eve.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Dec. 2019,

[ii] Rangarajan, Sinduja. “Trump Has Built a Wall of Bureaucracy to Keep out the High-Skilled Immigrants He Says He Wants.” Mother Jones, 3 Dec. 2019,

[iii] The Michigan Penal Code Act 328, Section 750.29 Adultery; definition.

[iv] The Michigan Penal Code Act 328, Section 750.30 Adultery; punishment.

[v] Foer, Story by Franklin. “How Trump Radicalized ICE.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 17 Aug. 2018,

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Invisible Wall

The term “invisible wall” is a well-known term among immigration attorneys. While the current administration calls for the construction of a physical wall, the administration has already erected an invisible wall which appears to reduce and discourage, not only illegal immigration, but legal immigration as well. While one of the stated goals of the administration is to reduce regulations in order to promote businesses, there is one area where the reverse appears to be taking place. In the field of skills-based immigration law, the administration’s new policies, guidelines, and rules are making it more difficult for American businesses to bring necessary talent to the United States. This is being accomplished through new bureaucratic obstacles and excessive requirements that deter American corporations from bringing engineers, software and computer specialists, and other technical personnel, to the United States. Although the administration is framing these regulations as a necessary measure to protect U.S. workers, the regulations may also reflect a political statement about the administration’s attitude toward immigrants.

The concept of protecting U.S. workers is difficult to argue against, and is a concept many want to enforce. However, one could also argue that there are times where U.S. companies may have a hard time finding available local U.S. employees for highly-skilled occupations, as the U.S. employees tend to be currently employed elsewhere. Or that, even if the talent brought from overseas is occupying a spot that otherwise could be occupied by a U.S. worker, the foreign employee could help enhance the U.S. company’s products, make the company more competitive worldwide, improve exports, help businesses remain viable, and create new innovations and jobs for U.S. workers. Such arguments would also support the concept of protecting U.S. workers.

The majority of reputable studies examining the effects and impacts of foreign workers on the U.S. economy have determined that foreign talent brought to the United States ultimately helps our economy and produces a large number of new jobs for U.S. workers. As anecdotal evidence, some of the largest U.S. entities were, and are, created by immigrants or children of immigrants, for example, Apple or Tesla. Such companies continue to hire many U.S. workers.

The issue with the potential negative consequences of the invisible wall is that its effect will not be seen for years to come, and is slow to materialize.  The administration’s new regulations and policy surrounding immigration may not have a tangible effect on the U.S economy within the next year or two, but would have an effect within a decade or two – long after those who are creating these policies could be held accountable for the decisions they are making today.

The slow materialization of the effects of the invisible wall increases the difficulty of the opposition to the invisible wall, and increases the difficulty for those who may believe the studies which reflect that immigration adds a substantial value to our society and to our economy. The only hope is that more reasonable attitudes will prevail, and the current impediments to immigration (which has been the cornerstone to our society since Independence) are temporary and that our view towards immigration will be restored to its normal, optimistic vision.

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Temporary Protected Status

On October 3, 2018, Federal Judge Edward M. Chen presiding over the United States District Court of the Northern District of California made a groundbreaking decision to grant a preliminary injunction to beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. Temporary Protected Status, established by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990, is a designation given by the Secretary of Homeland Security to countries that have been destabilized by catastrophe (war, natural disaster, epidemics, etc.) During the time that the Secretary of Homeland Security designates a country for TPS, TPS beneficiaries are not removable from the United States, can obtain employment authorization, and can be granted travel authorization. TPS grants protections to over 300,000 people in the U.S. from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Through the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, the Trump administration announced the end of TPS designation for El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. In response, multiple lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Courts across the United States against the administration’s decision, alleging that the administration engaged in racially discriminatory practices in choosing to end TPS designations for certain countries and violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the 1946 federal statute that governs the way in which administrative agencies of the federal government may propose and establish regulations. On January 24, 2018, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland, alleging that the decision to end TPS designation for Haiti was intended to racially discriminate against Haitians, violating the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment. On February 22, 2018, TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Haiti, and the Massachusetts immigrant’ rights organization Centro Presente filed a similar lawsuit against the DHS in the U.S. District Court of the District of Massachusetts. Lawsuits were also filed on March 12, 2018 in the U.S. District Courts of the Northern District of California, on March 15, 2018 in the Eastern District of New York, and on March 23, 2018 in the District of Maryland by TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan and U.S. citizen children of TPS beneficiaries.

These lawsuits are currently ongoing and have been challenged multiple times by the administration, which claims that the Courts do not have jurisdiction to hear these cases. However, Federal Judges from the U.S. District courts of the District of Massachusetts, the Northern District of California, and the Eastern District of New York have all rejected the federal government’s Motions to Dismiss, citing the very real possibility of both constitutional and procedural violation by the DHS. On August 23, 2018, the TPS beneficiaries from Northern California filed a preliminary injunction to stop the government from terminating TPS while the lawsuit is ongoing and to stop the government from beginning deportation proceedings for TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan, which could have begun as early as November 2, 2018. On October 3, Judge Edward M. Chen granted this preliminary injunction, enabling TPS holders to maintain their status until further decisions have been made, protecting hundreds of thousands of people in the United States from being suddenly and forcibly removed. A Case Management Conference is set for October 26. Meanwhile, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has not yet published instructions or guidance reflecting the injunction. Instead, USCIS states on their website that “Additional guidance with respect to evidence regarding TPS status and employment authorization is forthcoming.” We eagerly await more news.

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