Friday, November 21, 2014

Details of the President's immigration action plan

Last night, President Barack Obama announced that the White House would be taking executive action to attempt to overhaul the immigration system in the United States. The New York Times reports that this immigration action plan would potentially offer protection from deportation to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. The action is controversial, as Obama is acting unilaterally in this matter, in response to Congress' failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama urged those in Congress who opposed him to "pass a bill."

The New York Times offers a concise description of the President's plan, which does not include a way to obtain full legal status or eligibility for ACA benefits. The Times article describes who would be impacted, why the President is taking this action now and how Americans feel about the issue. The Department of Homeland Security lays out each aspect of the plan, here. Some details include:

Strengthening Border Security: The DHS will commission three task forces comprised of individuals from different law enforcement agencies to provide border security. One will focus on the southern ocean-based border, another the southern land border and the third on providing support and investigations for the other two. DHS will also continue providing the additional resources that it began supplying in response to the influx of children at the border this summer, such as additional ICE and Border Patrol agents.

Revising Removal Priorities: The DHS will now prioritize removal of illegal immigrants in the following order:
(1) Individuals who are threats to national security, convicted felons, gang members, and individuals caught at the border while entering the U.S. illegally.
(2) Individuals convicted of "significant or multiple misdemeanors" and individuals who entered or reentered this country illegally after January 1, 2014, but were not caught at the border.
(3) Individuals who have not been convicted of a crime, but who have disobeyed a removal order issued on or after January 1, 2014.
*People who entered the U.S. illegally before January 1, 2014, who have never disobeyed a removal order and have never been convicted of a "serious offense" will not be priorities for removal.*

Expanding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Previously, individuals who were born after June 15, 1981,who entered the U.S. before June 15, 2007 and were under 16 when they entered were eligible to obtain deferred action. This has now been expanded. Now to qualify for deferred action under this program an individual must have entered the U.S. before they turned 16 and before January 1, 2010. Deferred action (deferrals of deportation) will now be granted for three years instead of two. This will continue to include work authorization.


Extending Deferred Action to parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents: Individuals who meet all of the following criteria will be eligible for deferred action and work authorization:
1. Individuals who are not a removal priority (see above),
2. Who have been in the U.S. for at least 5 years,
3. Who have children who are currently U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, and
4. Who do not have other factors that make deferred action inappropriate.
These individuals must also pass a background check. There will be a fee to apply for work authorization.

This is not a complete list of all provisions, but a summary of some. For a complete list, visit

Man wrongfully convicted of murder freed after 39 years in prison

Ricky Jackson, who was convicted of murder in 1975, will be leaving the Cuyahoga County Justice Center as a free man today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Jackson spent 39 years in jail for the crime, which involved the robbery and murder of a money order salesman. His conviction was largely based on the eyewitness testimony of Eddie Vernon, who was 12 years old at the time the crime took place. Vernon, now 53, recently recanted his testimony, stating that he had lied about everything he had told police at the time.

Vernon had told police that Jackson and two other men, Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, were responsible for the crime. In coming forward, Vernon claims that all of the descriptive information he gave to police was fed to him, and that detectives had told him that if he disclosed what he had done, they would imprison his parents for perjury, according to the Plain Dealer. Vernon testified at a hearing on Monday that he was on a bus with other children when he heard the gun shots. The bus was near the location of the shooting, but not in a place where Vernon could see anything. Others on the bus corroborated this.

Vernon had gone to police on a friend's word with the intent to help authorities and things spun out of control, the Plain Dealer reports. Jackson and the Bridgemans were convicted for the murder based on Vernon's testimony. No other evidence tied them to the crime. After Vernon recanted his testimony on Monday, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor conceded that they no longer had a case against Jackson and dismissed the case. 

Jackson was represented by Mark Godsey and Brian Howe of the Ohio Innocence Project. The case was formally dismissed by Judge McGonagle of the Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court this morning. The case against Wiley Bridgeman was dismissed two hours later, NewsNet5 of Cleveland reports.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ohio's ignition-breathalyzer bill fails

An Ohio bill that would have required first time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles has failed in committee in the Ohio legislature, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. H.B. 469, which we discussed in September, would have required the installation of a breathalyzer device on an offender's ignition. A driver would have to blow into the the device to start the car, which would prevent the engine from starting if too much alcohol was detected on his or her breath.

According to the Enquirer the bill faced opposition from the Ohio Judicial Conference and the Ohio State Bar Association. Chief worries about the bill included issues of restricting judicial sentencing discretion and a concern that the mandatory penalty would cause more cases to go to trial, creating a burden on Ohio courts. Ohio DUI laws currently allow a judge to order an ignition interlock device for a first-time offender, but do not require it. The devices do become mandatory if an offender is convicted a second time in six years. H.B. 469, or "Annie's Law," so-named for an attorney who was killed by a drunk driver in 2013, would have removed a judge's discretion in sentencing first-time offenders, requiring them to impose the ignition interlock penalty for any case in which they granted driving privileges.

According to the Enquirer, although the bill was expected to come up for a vote in September, opposition by the Judicial Conference caused it to be pulled from the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, one of the bill's co-sponsors has now confirmed that the bill is dead, stating that despite "major concessions," the Ohio Judicial Conference still objects to the bill.