Life Exclusive
Obama’s last move on illegal immigrants resulted in little change

Last year, the Obama administration tried to make it easier for some illegal immigrants to stay in the country. Few were helped. Will it be any different this time?

Last week, the White House announced what could be a big shift in immigration policy, exempting many young illegal immigrants from deportation in the short run.

But this wasn't Obama's first directive to extend protection to this group. A year ago, the administration ordered broader discretion in the prosecution of illegal immigrants. Among the factors to consider were age and manner of entry into the country, education status, military service, criminal history and family circumstances.

So how many immigrants have benefited from the now 12-month-old broader discretion?
Very few.

Under the June 2011 guidelines, U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement personnel were directed to exercise discretion about deportations and to treat minors, the elderly, and some others with "particular care." The Department of Homeland Security ordered a review of 300,000 pending deportation cases.

One year later, only 4,300 cases have been settled through prosecutorial discretion, according to the latest DHS statistics. That's only 2 percent of all cases flagged for eligibility. Only 600 youth were granted a reprieve from deportation in the past year. Immigration lawyers have also reported inconsistent results under the broad guidelines.

In contrast, the Obama administration deported approximately 400,000 people between October 2010 and September 2011, a record number for the third straight year. (The DHS did not respond to requests for comment.)

Experts say last year's policy has resulted in little change precisely because authorities were given so much discretion.

The "memo was very broad," said Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "There were no hard and fast rules and there really can't be, because this isn't legislation, this is guidance to an agency on how to carry out its duties."

Obama's latest policy initiative lays out more specific criteria, but still gives authorities plenty of discretion.

Unlike the previous guidelines, youth who are eligible can come out into the open and request a reprieve from deportation for up to two years. The directive, which was unveiled by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, also requires the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to create a process in the next 60 days to process the applications.

"They tried to cut out some of the guesswork by inviting applications from people and putting down definitive markers," said Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, a non-partisan research organization.

But immigration enforcement agents will keep the sole power to decide which immigrants are eligible to stay. They will also have the power to decide whether immigrants who've been allowed to stay for two years can get an extension. There is no appeal process, according to a list of frequently asked questions posted on the DHS website. In other words, despite the roiling debate about the policy announcement, it's not at all clear large numbers of young illegal immigrants may get to stay.

"I think there's a real danger that the current initiative could suffer some of the same problems" as the previous one, said Peter L. Markowitz, director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law.

"Unfortunately, the history of prosecutorial discretion initiatives, both in this administration and prior ones, has been that they come in like a lion and go out like a lamb," said Markowitz. "When we get down to the implementation, they fall flat."



Public Interest Exclusive
Mobile companies will share your location data - just not with you

Who does your location information really belong to?


Cellphone companies hold onto your location information for years and routinely provide it to police and, in anonymized form, to outside companies.

As they note in their privacy policies, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile all analyze your information to send you targeted ads for their own services or from outside companies. At least tens of thousands of times a year, they also hand cellphone location information to the FBI or police officers who have a court order.

But ProPublica discovered that there’s one person cell phone companies will not share your location information with: You.

We asked three ProPublica staffers and one friend to request their own geo-location data from the four largest cellphone providers. All four companies refused to provide it.
Here’s how they responded:

On releasing location data to you: “Verizon Wireless will release a subscriber’s location information to law enforcement with that subscriber’s written consent. These requests must come to Verizon Wireless through law enforcement; so we would provide info on your account to law enforcement— with your consent— but not directly to you.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “ Unless a customer consents to the release of information or law enforcement certifies that there is an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury, Verizon Wireless does not release information to law enforcement without appropriate legal process.” A spokesman said being more specific would “require us to share proprietary information.”

On releasing location data to you: “We do not normally release this information to customers for privacy reasons because call detail records contain all calls made or received, including calls where numbers are ‘blocked.’ Because of an FCC rule requiring that we not disclose ‘blocked’ numbers, we only release this information to a customer when we receive a valid legal demand for it.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “For law enforcement agencies, we release customer information only when compelled or permitted under existing laws. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances under which there is a declaration from law enforcement of an exigent circumstance, as well as other valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.”

On releasing location data to you: “Giving customers location data for their wireless phones is not a service we provide.”
On responding to requests from law enforcement: A spokesman from AT&T declined to specifically address this question.

On releasing location data to you:
“No comment.”
On responding to requests from law enforcement: “For law enforcement agencies, we release customer information only when compelled or permitted under existing laws. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances under which there is a declaration from law enforcement of an exigent circumstance, as well as other valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.”
As location tracking by cell phone companies becomes increasingly accurate and widespread, the question of who your location data actually belongs to remains unresolved. Privacy activists in the U.S. say the law has not kept pace with developing technology and argue for more stringent privacy standards for cell phone companies. As Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania professor put it, “all of the rules are in a state of enormous uncertainty and flux.”

The Obama administration has maintained that mobile phone users have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.” The administration has argued against more stringent standards for police and the FBI to obtain location data. The FBI also says data collected by cell phones is not necessarily accurate enough to pose much of a threat to your privacy— for instance, in a strip mall, cell phone records may not show whether you are in a coffee shop or the apartment next door.

But that is quickly changing. Blaze said as the number of mobile phones continues to rise, cell phone companies are now installing thousands of small boxes known as microcells in crowded places like parking garages and shopping malls to enable them to provide better service. Microcells, he said, also enable the phone companies to record highly precise location data. While your phone is on, he said, it is constantly recording your location.

T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T all refused to disclose how many requests from law enforcement they receive.

Our idea to test whether cellphone companies will give users their own location data came from a German politician who successfully obtained his data last year from Deutsche Telekom. Consumers in Europe have greater protections.






4 years ago

Take a look at how a tech startup has helped African communities in informal areas use GPS technology on their mobile devices to get and share proper street adresses with eachother.

sruthi sree

5 years ago

hi. my name is sreelakshmi. what is your name.

Personal Finance Exclusive
RBI asks urban coop banks to stop levying pre-payment penalty

RBI said urban co-operative banks will not be permitted to charge foreclosure charges or pre-payment penalties on home loans on floating interest rate basis


Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India has asked urban co-operative banks (UCBs) to stop levying penalty on pre- payment of home loans on floating interest rates with immediate effect, reports PTI.

"Though some banks have in the recent past voluntarily abolished pre-payment penalties on floating rate home loans, there is a need to ensure uniformity across the banking system.

"It has, therefore, been decided that UCBs will not be permitted to charge foreclosure charges / pre-payment penalties on home loans on floating interest rate basis, with immediate effect" RBI said in a notification.

Earlier this month, RBI had also asked the commercial banks to stop charging such penalties.

RBI said the removal of foreclosure charges or pre- payment penalty on home loans will lead to reduction in the discrimination between existing and new borrowers and competition among banks will result in finer pricing of the floating rate home loans.

RBI in its monetary policy for 2012-13 had proposed that banks should not be permitted to levy such charges with a view to bring uniformity across the banking system in the home loan segment.

The committee on Customer Services in Banks under M Damodaran had expressed that foreclosure of charges levied by banks on prepayment of home loans was resented upon by home loan borrowers and the banks were hesitant in passing on the benefit of lower interest rates to existing borrowers in a falling interest rate scenario.

"As such, foreclosure charges are seen as a restrictive practice deterring the borrowers from switching over to cheaper available source".


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