Helen—a smart, cheerful five-year-old girl—is an asylum seeker from Honduras. This summer, when a social worker asked her to identify her strengths, Helen shared her pride in “her ability to learn fast and express her feelings and concerns.” She also recounted her favorite activities (“playing with her dolls”), her usual bedtime (“8 p.m.”), and her professional aspirations (“to be a veterinarian”).
In July, Helen fled Honduras with her grandmother, Noehmi, and several other relatives; gangs had threatened Noehmi’s teen-age son, Christian, and the family no longer felt safe. Helen’s mother, Jeny, had migrated to Texas four years earlier, and Noehmi planned to seek legal refuge there. With Noehmi’s help, Helen travelled thousands of miles, sometimes on foot, and frequently fell behind the group. While crossing the Rio Grande in the journey’s final stretch, Helen slipped from their raft and risked drowning. Her grandmother grabbed her hand and cried, “Hang on, Helen!” When the family reached the scrubland of southern Texas, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended them and moved them through a series of detention centers. A month earlier, the Trump Administration had announced, amid public outcry over its systemic separation of migrant families at the border, that it would halt the practice. But, at a packed processing hub, Christian was taken from Noehmi and placed in a cage with toddlers. Noehmi remained in a cold holding cell, clutching Helen. Soon, she recalled, a plainclothes official arrived and informed her that she and Helen would be separated. “No!” Noehmi cried. “The girl is under my care! Please!”
Noehmi said that the official told her, “Don’t make things too difficult,” and pulled Helen from her arms. “The girl will stay here,” he said, “and you’ll be deported.” Helen cried as he escorted her from the room and out of sight. Noehmi remembers the authorities explaining that Helen’s mother would be able to retrieve her, soon, from wherever they were taking her.
Later that day, Noehmi and Christian were reunited. The adults in the family were fitted with electronic ankle bracelets and all were released, pending court dates. They left the detention center and rushed to Jeny’s house, in McAllen, hoping to find Helen there. When they didn’t, Noehmi began to shake, struggling to explain the situation. “Immigration took your daughter,” she told Jeny.
“But where did they take her?” Jeny asked.
“I don’t know,” Noehmi replied.
The next day, authorities—likely from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (O.R.R.)—called to say that they were holding Helen at a shelter near Houston; according to Noehmi, they wouldn’t say exactly where. Noehmi and Jeny panicked. Unable to breathe amid her distress, Noehmi checked herself into a local hospital, where doctors gave her medication to calm her down. “I thought we would never see her again,” Noehmi said. She couldn’t square her family’s fate with the TV news, which insisted that the government had stopped separating migrant families.
Helen had been brought to Baytown, a shelter run by Baptist Child & Family Services, which the federal government had contracted to house unaccompanied minors. Helen was given a pack of crayons and spent the summer coloring patriotic images: busts of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the torch on the Statue of Liberty. She was granted an hour of “Large Muscle Activity and Leisure Time” each day, and received lessons on the human respiratory system, the history of music, and “the risk and danger of social media.” “Helen,” a caseworker observed, “has excellent behavior at all times.” She had no major sources of stress, her reports noted, aside from “being separated from her family.” Her teachers encouraged her to develop “smartgoals”—ambitions that are “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.” Helen’s goal was simple: “Minor disclosed wanting to live with her mother and family in the U.S.”
According to a long-standing legal precedent known as the Flores settlement, which established guidelines for keeping children in immigration detention, Helen had a right to a bond hearing before a judge; that hearing would have likely hastened her release from government custody and her return to her family. At the time of her apprehension, in fact, Helen checked a box on a line that read, “I do request an immigration judge,” asserting her legal right to have her custody reviewed. But, in early August, an unknown official handed Helen a legal document, a “Request for a Flores Bond Hearing,” which described a set of legal proceedings and rights that would have been difficult for Helen to comprehend. (“In a Flores bond hearing, an immigration judge reviews your case to determine whether you pose a danger to the community,” the document began.) On Helen’s form, which was filled out with assistance from officials, there is a checked box next to a line that says, “I withdraw my previous request for a Flores bond hearing.” Beneath that line, the five-year-old signed her name in wobbly letters.
As the summer progressed with no signs of Helen’s return, Noehmi and Jeny contacted lupe, a nonprofit community union based in the Rio Grande Valley, to ask for help winning Helen’s release. Founded by the famed activists César Chávez and Dolores Huerta in 1989, lupe fights deportations, provides social services, and organizes civil mobilizations on behalf of more than eight thousand low-income members across south Texas; Jeny, employed as an office cleaner, was one such member. Tania Chavez, a strategy leader forthe organization, met with the family to hear their story.
Helen’s case didn’t fit the typical lupe mold. “Historically, we have served longtime residents of the Rio Grande Valley,” Chavez told me, “but since this new surge of refugees came about, we’ve been on the front lines of advocacy against family separation.” Freeing Helen struck Chavez as a tangible and urgent goal. “Right away, we said, ‘How do we help this little girl?’ ” she said. As Chavez saw it, the girl’s seizure by the government showed that the family-separation crisis hadn’t been resolved, as many Americans believed—it had simply evolved.
The first stage of the family-separation crisis unfolded largely out of public view, not long after Trump took office. By January, 2018, when I began collecting the stories of parents who had been separated from their children at the border, the government denied that these separations were happening without clear justifications, and insisted that they weren’t encouraged by official policy. In the late spring, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, was still espousing this line, even as she ramped up “zero tolerance” prosecutions—criminally charging parents with “illegal entry,” and seizing their kids in the process.
Stage two of the crisis unfolded in the national spotlight. As the number of separations soared past two thousand, and their wrenching details surfaced, hundreds of thousands of Americans protested in the streets. Laura Bush said that the practice broke her heart. The American Academy of Pediatrics denounced it as “abhorrent,” noting that the approach could inflict long-term, irrevocable trauma on children. On June 20th, the President issued an executive order purporting to end the practice.
Now stage three has commenced—one in which separations are done quietly, lupe’s Tania Chavez asserts, and in which reunifications can be mysteriously stymied. According to recent Department of Justice numbers—released because of an ongoing A.C.L.U. lawsuit challenging family separations—a hundred and thirty-six children who fall within the lawsuit’s scope are still in government custody. An uncounted number of separated children in shelters and foster care fall outside the lawsuit’s current purview—including many like Helen, who arrived with a grandparent or other guardian, rather than with a parent. Many such children have been misclassified, in government paperwork, as “unaccompanied minors,” due to a sloppy process that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General recently critiqued. Chavez believes that, through misclassification, many kids have largely disappeared from public view, and from official statistics, with the federal government showing little urgency to hasten reunifications. (O.R.R. and U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to requests for comment.)
Noehmi and Jeny connected with lupe’s newly hired attorney, Eugene Delgado. Delgado had grown up in the Rio Grande Valley, a child of migrant workers. He left the region for a life in corporate law, practicing in New York and in the United Arab Emirates. But, when the family-separation crisis flooded the news this summer, he told me, “I wanted to help my community.” He moved back to McAllen and joined lupe to fight deportations full time. He agreed to represent Noehmi and her family, and at the summer’s end he went with them to court to represent them in removal proceedings. There, a judge granted Noehmi and her relatives more time to apply for asylum. Toward the end of the hearing, Delgado brought up Helen.
“Judge, this case doesn’t stop here,” Delgado said. “What about the little child lost in the system?”
The judge looked confused. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, where is Helen, the five-year-old?”
The judge, Delgado recalled, seemed startled. Both he and the government prosecutor had no idea that Helen existed, let alone where she was being held. “I could give you a couple of phone numbers to call?” the prosecutor offered.
Delgado began the search. “It was just a complete maze, trying to trace the girl down,” he recalled. “I talked to at least ten people—case workers, social workers.” Eventually, he learned of Helen’s placement in Baytown, the Houston shelter. After that, Noehmi and Jeny were allowed two ten-minute calls with Helen per week, during which the girl often pleaded, “Come get me, Grandma!” The government collected fingerprints and other information from Noehmi and Jeny, to determine whether they were Helen’s rightful guardians; the Office of Refugee Resettlement soon deemed Jeny a fit sponsor, Delgado told me, but the completion of Noehmi’s background check was delayed for unexplained reasons.
On August 17th, Helen was transferred to a foster home in San Antonio. “I feared, did they give Helen away?” Noehmi told me; she worried about the prospect of adoption. Delgado managed to arrange a supervised visit between Noehmi and her granddaughter. At the visit’s start, Helen was gleeful, shouting, “Grandma, you came to get me!” But the girl exhibited strange new behaviors that troubled Noehmi. “She kept hiding under the table,” Noehmi said. After an hour, the two were separated again; again, they both cried. A case worker offered Noehmi a chance to ride the elevator downstairs with Helen before the girl was taken away. Noehmi declined. “I took the stairs, so I could scream and cry,” she told me. But she raced down to meet Helen outside and hugged her one more time before Helen was loaded into a minivan and carted back to foster care.
By the end of August, Noehmi felt desperate. She ate only a few spoonfulsof beef stew each day. Again, she sought hospitalization, for anxiety. “I was sick in the head,” she told me. Tania Chavez asked if the family wanted to escalate their tactics for getting Helen back. “People forget that family separation has been happening in our community for decades—it’s not a new thing,” Chavez told me, referencing the routine nature of deportations for mothers, fathers, and grandparents with deep Texas roots, and the children often left behind. Chavez had found, in these cases, that authorities sometimes responded to public pressure; she’d never tried this in family-separation cases, but it seemed worth a shot. Chavez reached out to Alida Garcia, the vice-president of advocacy for the group FWD.us, and Jess Morales Rocketto, the chair of an alliance known as Families Belong Together. These teams worked together to craft a national social-media campaign, using Helen’s O.R.R. case-file photograph: an image that eerily resembled a cherub-cheeked mug shot. On August 31st, they began to circulate a petition addressing the O.R.R. official in charge of Helen’s case. “By that Friday, we already had six hundred signatures,” Chavez said. Right away, they began receiving calls from O.R.R., promising that Helen would be returned to her family as soon as possible. There was simply a holdup with her grandmother’s fingerprint check, they said.
On September 7th, lupe was told that Helen would finally be released, nearly two months after she was taken from Noehmi. “We were attached to our phones all freaking Saturday,” Chavez said. “Then she wasn’t released—they played us!” lupe’s team adjusted the petition to address a greater number of O.R.R. officials, each of whom received a personal e-mail every time a person signed. Paola Mendoza, an artist and prominent voice for immigrant rights, tweeted about the petition, as did the actress Alyssa Milano. “We got six thousand signatures, then ten thousand,” Chavez said. Then, that Monday, Noehmi and Jeny got a phone call: they should be at their local airport at 6:20 p.m.
At the airport, Noehmi breathlessly scanned the gates: nothing. Then, she heard a little voice cry out, “That’s my grandma! That’s my grandma!” Helen raced into her arms. “Is that my mom?” Helen asked. She hadn’t seen her mother since she was an infant. The whole family held one another, and then went home. Noehmi had prepared a surprise for Helen: a giant Teddy bear, a pizza party, a stack of new clothes, and a Disney princess castle with a “Mulan” theme (“She’s a princess fanatic,” Noehmi told me).
Soon after, the shelter sent a small black backpack that Helen had left behind. It held Helen’s legal paperwork, including the document that the five-year-old had been told to sign, withdrawing her request to see a judge. The backpack also held Helen’s colored sketch of Lady Liberty. Beneath the statue’s image, a lesson summary, in Spanish, read, “Objective: That the students draw one of the most representative symbols of the United States.”
Last Thursday, Helen’s family held another party, with cake and more princess gear, to celebrate the reunion and to thank the advocacy groups that helped make it happen. Chavez hoped that the party would also help the family’s healing. “Helen had resentment,” she said, “because I think she thought she was abandoned by her family.”
Jess Morales Rocketto, of Families Belong Together, told me that Helen’s reunion—the result of the first known public mobilization to free a specific kid from O.R.R. custody—holds lessons for a broader organizing effort. “One of the things Helen’s story really showed us is that the Trump Administration never stopped separating children from their families,” Morales Rocketto said. “In fact, they’ve doubled down, but it’s even more insidious now, because they are doing it in the cover of night.” She added, “We believe that there are more kids like Helen. We have learned we cannot take this Administration at their word.”
Noehmi fears that some of the damage inflicted on her family can never be mended. “Helen was always a very calm girl,” she told me, sitting in lupe’s office on a recent Friday night. “Now I have to be very patient with her—she’s very attention-seeking.” Lately, at bedtime, Helen hides in the closet and refuses to go to sleep, afraid that her family might leave her in the night. Sometimes Noehmi wants to hide, too; she buried her round face in her hands, weeping, when she recounted one of Helen’s declarations upon her return: “You left me behind.” But Noehmi decided to share their story with me because she worries that other families are still living out a similar search. “I fear there are still other children suffering,” she said. “Other families are feeling this anguish, this struggle, and they need us to act.”
A document from July shows a checked box where Helen asserted her legal right to have her custody determination reviewed by a judge. See document here at Source
June 27, 2018 thisisinsider.com A photo of rosaries taken from migrants at the US border became a viral symbol — and the artist who took it hopes it can change things
A picture of 43 rosaries taken from migrants trying to get into the US in Ajo, Arizona, went viral in the past week as the crisis at the US border intensified.
The image was actually taken years before, by Tom Kiefer, who used to be a janitor at a US Customs and Border Patrol facility.
Nonetheless, it became a symbol of what many see as the inhumanity with which migrants are treated at the border.
The policies under which the rosaries are taken are still in effect today.
Kiefer spoke to INSIDER, explained how he came to take the photos, and said he hopes they help people agitate for change in US border policy.
An image of rosaries taken from migrants at the US-Mexico border has become one of the symbols of the crisis there.
This photograph, showing a collection of rosaries taken from migrants trying to enter the US, has been going viral on social media since the crisis at the border became the number one political issue in America.
It shows 43 strings of sacred beads, classified as non-essential by US border agents and thrown into the trash, along with scraps of food and other refuse from a US Customs and Border Patrol processing center in Why, Arizona.
They would be in a landfill by now if it weren’t for Tom Kiefer, a part-time janitor who removed the items and made them part of a photography project, “El Sueño Americano.”
Speaking to INSIDER, Kiefer said: “Being a lowly janitor I couldn’t say anything, I just knew it was morally wrong.” So instead of protesting, he documented them.
Alongside the rosaries were hundreds more items. Bibles, wallets, combs, toothpaste, keys, and soft toys also featured in the images, some of which are republished with permission in this article.
But it was nothing on the scale of the attention they have been given since, by hundreds of thousands of people who have retweeted and interacted with the images as a symbol what they say is the US government’s inhumane approach to policing its borders.
The political issue animating the photos’ virality — which caught the notion of internet superstars like Chrissy Teigen — was of people being separated from something even more precious than a rosary or a Bible: their children.
That practice was brought to an end by the tide of outrage washing up against the White House, prompting a notable U-turn by President Trump, and a stuttering effort from his officials to reunite separated families.
The short-term crisis is over, but the intense scrutiny of US government action at the border has yet to fade. And though they can keep their families intact, the policies which part people from their rosaries and other possessions remain unchanged.
In an interview with INSIDER, Kiefer recounted watching detainees have their backpacks searched when they were bussed to and from the center, which is itself 27 miles from the border. He said:
“Yeah, there was something called the sally port, which was this fenced-in secured area the vehicle would pull into.
“Sometimes the agents would be going through the backpacks and discarding items, or the agent would be supervising the group of migrants, going through, lifting up things, getting the OK of whether to keep it or if it had to be thrown out.
“I was right there, I was in the background.”
Kiefer — who does not tweet so didn’t see the photos going viral — told INSIDER that the only indication he saw that his photographs had become part of the conversation was an uptick in traffic to his website.
He urged anybody moved by the issue to agitate for change — a strategy that appears to have helped reverse the child separation policy. Kiefer said:
“If people are moved and saddened and outraged, I would hope that they would find whatever actions that they could find to stop this.”
“If that means voting, if that means humanitarian aid efforts, whatever, just to act on that. There are plenty of assistance that people can give, or ways to donate.”
A spokesman for the US Customs and Border Patrol told INSIDER that “all personal property is itemized and stored for the individual until their release or transfer from CBP custody.”
The typical detention is 72 hours, he said, after which they can retrieve items. However, given the distances involved and complexities of the immigration system, many never see their things again. Source
August 9, 2018 cnn.com Judge blocks administration from deporting asylum seekers — but the government already had two on a plane
ashington (CNN)A federal judge on Thursday erupted at the Trump administration when he learned that two asylum seekers fighting deportation were at that moment being deported and on a plane to El Salvador.
DC District Judge Emmet Sullivan then blocked the administration from deporting the two plaintiffs while they are fighting for their right to stay in the US — excoriating the administration and threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt.
The government raced to comply with the court’s order, and by Thursday evening the immigrants had arrived back in Texas after being turned around on the ground in El Salvador.
Sullivan agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that the immigrants they are representing in a federal lawsuit should not be deported while their cases are pending.
The emergency hearing in the case turned dramatic when attorneys discovered partway through the hearing that two of their clients were on a plane to El Salvador.
Lead ACLU attorney Jennifer Chang Newell told CNN after the hearing the administration had pledged Wednesday that no one in the case would be deported until at least midnight at the end of Thursday. But during a recess in the proceedings Thursday, she got an email from attorneys on the ground in Texas that her client, known by the pseudonym Carmen, and Carmen’s daughter had been taken from their detention center that morning and deported. After investigating during recess, she informed government attorneys and Sullivan what had happened.
“Oh, I want those people brought back forthwith. … I’m not asking, I’m ordering,” Sullivan said upon learning what had happened, which Justice Department attorney Erez Reuveni confirmed, according to a transcript of the hearing.
Sullivan later added he was “directing the government to turn that plane around either now or when it lands, turn that plane around and bring those people back to the United States. It’s outrageous.”
Sullivan then threatened to hit Sessions with contempt, saying that if the immigrants weren’t returned he was going to order officials to explain “why people should not be held in contempt of court, and I’m going to start with the attorney general.”
The judge apparently grew visibly agitated, assuring Reuveni in court that it wasn’t “personal.”
“I know I’m raising my voice, but I’m extremely upset about this,” the judge said. “This is not acceptable.”
Sullivan continued with the hearing, which was near its end, but kept reflecting on how he was “really upset” and found it “pretty outrageous” that “somebody in the pursuit of justice … is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her.”
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of immigrants referred to only by their pseudonyms in court: Grace, Mina, Gina, Mona, Maria, Carmen and her daughter J.A.C.F. and Gio.
After the hearing, Sullivan issued an emergency order halting the deportation of any of the immigrants as he considers whether he has broader authority in the case.
Sullivan also ordered that if the two being deported were not returned, Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Francis Cissna and Executive Office for Immigration Review Director James McHenry would have to appear in court and say why they should not be held in contempt.
The lawsuit brought by the ACLU is challenging a recent decision by Sessions to make it nearly impossible for victims of domestic violence and gangs to qualify for asylum in the US. That decision was followed by implementation guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that almost immediately began turning away potentially thousands of asylum seekers at the southern border.
According to their lawsuit, Carmen and her young daughter came to the US from El Salvador after “two decades of horrific sexual abuse by her husband and death threats from a violent gang.” Even after Carmen moved away from her husband, he raped her, stalked her and threatened to kill her, the lawsuit states. Further, a gang held her at gunpoint in May and demanded she pay a monthly “tax” or they would kill her and her daughter. Carmen knew of people killed by their husbands after going to police and by this gang and thus fled to the US.
But at the border, the government determined after interviewing her that she did not meet the “credible fear” threshold required to pursue an asylum claim in the US, and an immigration judge upheld that decision.
The ACLU is using Carmen’s story and the similar experiences of the other immigrants to challenge Sessions’ ruling on asylum. Source
August 10, 2018 Sydney Morning Herald Trump’s in-laws just became US citizens via the ‘chain migration’ he hates
Washington: First Lady Melania Trump’s parents became US citizens in a naturalisation ceremony in New York on Thursday, US time, completing a years-long immigration process even as President Donald Trump has called for new laws to bar Americans from sponsoring parents and other relatives.
Michael Wildes, a lawyer for Viktor and Amalija Knavs, who had been living in the country as legal permanent residents after leaving their native Slovenia, confirmed his clients took the oath of citizenship.
News photographers captured images of the couple as they arrived at a Manhattan federal building accompanied by Department of Homeland Security officers. Wildes did not elaborate, citing the couple’s privacy.
“Citizenship was just awarded,” Wildes said. “They have prevailed in a wonderful journey as millions have.”
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the First Lady, also declined to comment “as they are not part of the administration”.
The Washington Post first reported in February that the Knavs had gained legal permanent residency and that legal experts believed it was likely Melania Trump had sponsored their applications for family-based green cards.
Wildes said the Knavs satisfied the requirement that permanent residents hold their green cards for five years before they can apply for US citizenship. It is unclear when the Knavses first moved to the United States, but by late 2007, Viktor Knavs was listed in public records as residing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida.
The Knavses received no special treatment because of their relationship with the first family, Wildes told reporters in New York.
“The application, the process, the interview was no different than anybody else’s, other than the security arrangements to facility today,” he said. “This is an example of it going right. They’re very excited.”
Questions about the couple’s immigration status intensified last year as Trump mounted a push to slash legal immigration, including provisions to constrict the ability of US citizens from sponsoring their parents, adult children and siblings for green cards.
In November he tweeted: “Chain migration must end now. Some people come in and they bring their whole family, who can be truly evil with them. Not acceptable.”
In fiscal 2016, the United States granted nearly 1.2 million green cards, of which 174,000 went to parents of US citizens, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Trump has railed against what he calls “chain migration”, which he contends has resulted in fiercer competition for blue-collar jobs for native-born Americans and introduces increased national security concerns.
Studies have shown, however, that immigrants have boosted the economy and commit crimes at lower rates than the native born.
Trump falsely asserted in November that Uzbekistan-born Sayfullo Saipov – who had gained legal permanent residency in an annual visa lottery before allegedly killing eight people on a bike path in New York – had brought nearly two dozen relatives into the country on family visas. Saipov has pleaded not guilty and his trial is set for next year.
“We want to get rid of chain migration,” Trump said at the time.
The Senate has defeated several immigration bills, including one that included the proposals backed by Trump. A spokesperson for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who sponsored that bill, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did spokespeople for Republican Senators Tom Cotton, and David Perdue, who have authored similar legislative proposals.
Critics said the Knavs’ ability to secure green cards and citizenship smacks of hypocrisy given the President’s hard-line immigration stance.
“This is the most anti-immigration administration probably in history of the country except when it comes to this family, and the hypocrisy is just stunning,” said David Leopold, an immigration lawyer in Cleveland. “He and his administration are on a crusade to rid the country of immigrants, particularly immigrants of colour. What can you say when the First Lady and her family have such an easy time?”
A White House spokesman declined to comment when asked about the criticism. The President is on a working holiday this week at his private resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Supporters of Trump’s efforts to slash family-based migration said his wife and her parents should not be criticised for taking advantage of current laws.
“Until the rules change, the rules are there to be used,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration levels.
“If they didn’t break the rules, there’s really no issue here,” Krikorian said. “I want the rules to be changed for the future. But that doesn’t delegitimise anyone in categories I want to get rid of who are already here fair and square.”
Melania Trump’s own immigration path also has been scrutinised. A former model known as Melania Knauss, she arrived in New York in 1996 and began dating Trump in 2000.
In 2001, Knauss was granted a green card in the elite EB-1 program, which was designed for renowned academic researchers, multinational business executives or those in other fields, such as Olympic athletes and Oscar-winning actors, who demonstrated “sustained national and international acclaim”.
The year that Knauss got her legal residency, only five people from Slovenia received green cards under the EB-1 program, according to the State Department.
The Knavs raised Melania Trump in the rural town of Sevnica when Slovenia was a part of communist Yugoslavia. Viktor Knavs, now 74, was a car dealer while Amalija Knavs, now 73, worked in a textile factory.
In an interview on CNN in June, amid a public outcry over the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the border, Wildes said that his immigration firm was in “overdrive because of the challenges that are going on here.”
Asked by host Don Lemon if the Knavs’s successful journey to join their daughter in the United States amounted to “family reunification”, Wildes replied: “I think so, don’t you? And I’ll do it again and I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do it for people in provocative ways.” Source
July 5, 2018 qz.com The scramble to reunite immigrant kids with their families is a case study in poor project management
The Trump administration is behind deadline. A court has ordered that all immigrant children who were separated from their parents be reunited within the month: Kids who are younger than five years old are supposed to be reunited by July 10. The remainder of the estimated 3000 kids are supposed to be reunited by July 26.
Today, the government asked for an extension, saying that it cannot fully vet all child-parent matches by that time.
Records of the separated children are embarrassingly spotty, a Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson admitted on a July 5 call with press. HHS is charged with reuniting the children, who were originally separated and processed by agents from another federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security. Its own records must therefore be cross-checked with data from other sources, including records from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (which reports to DHS) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Cross-referencing may not be enough, said the spokesperson. As the New York Times reported, hundreds of files have already been deletedby border patrol staff. HHS secretary Alex Azar has additionally “ordered a hand audit of the records of every single child in our care,” but that’s more than 12,000 children, only some of which came to the border with their families.
That’s right: The HHS needs to review thousands of case files by handfor clues to which children were taken from their parents—just the beginning of a process that would also require talking with case managers to verify information and then trying to locate their families. The task is so massive that the agency is asking staff to work overtime reviewing the records, according to the Times, which obtained an internal email stating that “[e]veryone here is now participating in this process, including the Secretary who personally stayed until past midnight to assist.”
Because these aren’t necessarily employees specialized in this kind of work, the file processing is likely to generate errors.
Once children are identified, the agency says it is using DNA tests to confirm that the children are matched with the right parents. This, according to the government’s request for a deadline extension, is what’s delaying the whole procedure. The petition also asks that HHS be allowed to shorten its vetting process, if the deadline is not extended.
Current DHS officials worry that HHS already doesn’t do a good enough job vetting children’s guardians. “HHS will take your word for it if you say ‘This is my son, I have come to pick him up,’ ” they said. In 2015, a whistleblower said that thousands of sponsors in HHS’s data base had criminal records.
Coordination across agencies is a concern. “There is no one in charge of the crisis,” one former DHS official who worked with the George W. Bush administration tells Quartz. In other situations, like, say, an outbreak of bird flu, or a hurricane, the federal government would put together a task force that would include representatives from different agencies and offices, who would meet and plan, the official says. There’s no indication of such an interagency effort right now, part of an ongoing pattern of federal chaos under the Trump administration.
The US federal government’s computer systems, and particularly the ones that deal with immigration and refugee resettlement, are so outdated and incompatible that they’re rarely even able to share information directly, numerous federal employees told Quartz. Source
July 5, 2018 The New Yorker Parents Are Struggling to Reclaim Their Children from the Office of Refugee Resettlement
Last week, after spending a month in a federal prison, a Honduran woman named Rosalinda Hernández finally received some good news: the government was ready to release her. In May, she and her nine-year-old son had crossed the U.S. border, seeking asylum. Under the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy, she had been arrested and charged with entering the country illegally, while her son was sent to a children’s shelter in the Midwest. Now, however, the government was no longer prosecuting families for illegal entry, and the charges against her were being dropped. Hernández was sent by bus to a migrant shelter in downtown El Paso. “I only spoke to my son twice while I was a prisoner,” Hernández told me. “Now we talk on the phone every afternoon.” At the end of each conversation, she said, he asks when they’ll see each other. She tells him, “This month, in July, for sure.”
A few days ago, Hernández learned that it will be several more weeks, at least, before the government can return her son. In order to regain custody of their children, immigrants like Hernández need to collect documents that prove their fitness as parents and submit their fingerprints—and the fingerprinting alone takes about twenty days to process. “Making the decision to seek asylum and leave everything behind often means that parents don’t have certain documents,” Linda Corchado, Hernández’s immigration lawyer, told me. “And those documents are required just to begin the conversation with the government.” Hernández’s family in Honduras has been frantically sending Corchado documents. “I’ve been getting photographs, transcripts from the boy’s third grade class, vaccination records, even a letter from his school teacher,” Corchado said.
But the government also needs information that Hernández doesn’t have: an address, a full criminal background check on every other adult who might live in the same household as her child, and proof of income. Having just left federal prison, Hernández is effectively homeless. She told me, “Once I realized what was happening, I said, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’ ”
The Trump Administration ended the zero-tolerance policy without a plan for reuniting the children it has taken from their parents (more than twenty-five hundred in the past year) with their families. In late June, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the division of the Department of Health and Human Services that is in charge of the separated children, had two thousand and fifty-three kids in its custody. The Department is no longer disclosing how many children it is holding, but immigration lawyers at the border say that many parents still don’t know where their children are. Last week, a federal judge in San Diego issued an injunction ordering the Trump Administration to reunite the separated families within the next month. Given the government’s disorganization, it’s impossible to see how the judge’s deadline can be met.
While Corchado gathered documents, Hernández called her sister, who lives in New York, to ask if she could use her home address. “My sister wanted to help, but she got scared that the government will come after her,” Hernández said. “She’s undocumented.” Under past Administrations, O.R.R. reassured parents and family sponsors that it would never scrutinize their immigration status. But, based on a new memorandum of agreement, signed in April, O.R.R. is now required to share the information it compiles on sponsors with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now case managers tell parents and potential sponsors that, if they submit personal information for vetting purposes, it could lead to deportation. Hernández told me, “When I heard that, it changed everything. It’s not just me who’s at risk here.” (Some names in this article have been changed.)
Hernández and her sister decided to ask a friend who is a legal permanent resident if she could serve as a sponsor, but the woman’s husband got nervous when he heard that the government would have to fingerprint him. “He said to me, ‘What does this all have to do with your kid?’ ” Hernández told me. “I don’t have anyone now,” she said. “Everyone’s scared. They all have doubts. It’s just me, and I can’t get my son.”
When the Trump Administration started separating families at the border, it treated the children who had been taken from their parents as though they had come to the United States alone, and sent them to O.R.R. “The office was never set up for this,” Bob Carey, the head of O.R.R. under President Obama, told me. “It was set up to reunify children who arrived here on their own”—so-called unaccompanied minors—“who had parents living in the U.S.” In the past few years, O.R.R. created vetting standards to insure that children were released to reliable sponsors. Those standards have now become an impediment. “You’re talking about children who’ve been separated from their parents by the U.S. government,” Carey said. “The government has a new responsibility. How do you streamline these processes for them?” In 2016, during a period of increased child migration, O.R.R. frequently waived a requirement that sponsors pay the cost of transportation for children leaving government custody. The Trump Administration hasn’t done so. According to the Times, separated parents who have managed to locate their children and find sponsors have been spending thousands of dollars on airfare. “It’s this grotesque scenario where children have been removed from their parents, and they’re essentially being held hostage while their parents try to come up with the money,” Carey said.
Hernández hasn’t even considered the costs of reunification. On Tuesday, she left the shelter for her sister’s house, where she plans to start looking for someone else who can help her sponsor her son. She worried, though, that staying there for too long could put her sister at risk of deportation. “Maybe I can try to find an apartment or something,” she told me. Hernández is fortunate in one respect: she has a lawyer. Corchado told me, “Many parents are leaving town before they get connected with lawyers. I fear that they will have no one to help them navigate a system full of potential landmines.”
Last week, at the migrant shelter in El Paso where Hernández was staying, I spoke with Herman, an affable Guatemalan from a rural town in the northern part of the country. “My boy is in New York,” he said. “We’ve talked on the phone, but it’s been difficult. He’s having trouble communicating at the shelter.” His son, who is five, speaks Q’eqchi’, a Mayan dialect, and his Spanish is shaky. Herman asked me if New York was far away. When I told him it was, he said he’d have to stick to his plan to stay with his father-in-law, who lives in California. “He’s the only person I know in this country,” he said. “I’ll go to him and make arrangements for my boy from there.”
Last Wednesday, Herman boarded a bus to Los Angeles, carrying a shopping bag that contained a change of clothes, a packet of food, and a Bible. We spoke several times the next day, after he arrived, as he tried to figure out how the caseworker could send him the necessary sponsorship paperwork. On Friday, the papers were faxed to a copy store Herman had found near his father-in-law’s house. He called me the next day with a question. “What is a patrocinador?” he asked, using the Spanish word for “sponsor.” I tried to explain. “I see, I see,” he kept saying, but his voice was growing distant. He said he’d call me back. I haven’t heard from him since. Source
July 3, 2018 theintell.com Sen. Bob Casey, Gov. Tom Wolf press feds for details on immigrant children
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey pressed the Trump administration Tuesday for information about immigrant children being held in the state, separated from their families at the border after entering the country illegally.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey pressed the Trump administration Tuesday for information about immigrant children being held in the state, separated from their families at the border after entering the country illegally.
In a letter sent to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Wolf and Casey, both Democrats, asked for answers on how many unaccompanied immigrant children are being held in Pennsylvania, where precisely they are living and what plans there are to reunite them with their parents.
The state, they wrote, is legally required to inspect facilities that house the children and they want to ensure that immigrant children detained in Pennsylvania without their families are receiving the care required under state law.
Wolf’s administration said it asked the questions once already, on June 26, to the acting regional administrator for the department’s Administration for Children and Families.
Casey’s office said the Trump administration told senators that approximately 24 migrant children were being held in Pennsylvania, as of June 26.
In addition, Wolf and Casey asked in the Tuesday letter whether the Health and Human Services Department knows precisely where the children’s parents or guardians are, which facilities contracted to hold the children and how the department is safeguarding their well-being.
Wolf and Casey say they oppose the practice of detaining families of asylum-seekers and separating migrant children from their parents.
The department did not immediately respond to a request for answers Tuesday.
Casey signed a separate letter Monday to Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen with 10 other Democratic senators asking for details about efforts to reunify migrant parents and children who were being held separately.
Wolf, in the meantime, is under fire from immigrant rights activists to shut down a Berks County facility that is one of three family detention centers in the United States that hold children and parents who have entered the country illegally. The low-security facility north of Philadelphia is run by the county through a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and residents there are federal detainees.
Wolf’s office said he has done everything in his power to revoke the license from the Berks County Residential Center and that he has urged the Trump administration to shut it down in favor of community-based services.
However, Wolf’s office said that, regardless of any state action, the federal government will continue to operate the facility because it is run under a contract with Berks County.
Wolf’s office said his Department of Human Services, which inspects the facility, has not found grounds to issue an emergency removal order and, in any case, the courts must agree that the residents must be moved. Source
June 21, 2018 nytimes.com The Billion-Dollar Business of Operating Shelters for Migrant Children
HARLINGEN, Tex. — The business of housing, transporting and watching over migrant children detained along the southwest border is not a multimillion-dollar business.
It’s a billion-dollar one.
The nonprofit Southwest Key Programs has won at least $955 million in federal contracts since 2015 to run shelters and provide other services to immigrant children in federal custody. Its shelter for migrant boys at a former Walmart Supercenter in South Texas has been the focus of nationwide scrutiny, but Southwest Key is but one player in the lucrative, secretive world of the migrant-shelter business. About a dozen contractors operate more than 30 facilities in Texas alone, with numerous others contracted for about 100 shelters in 16 other states.
If there is a migrant-shelter hub in America, then it is perhaps in the four-county Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, where about a dozen shelters occupy former stores, schools and medical centers. They are some of the region’s biggest employers, though what happens inside is often highly confidential: One group has employees sign nondisclosure agreements, more a fixture of the high-stakes corporate world than of nonprofit child-care centers.
The recent separation of some 2,300 migrant children from their families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossers has thrust this invisible industry into the spotlight in recent weeks, as images of toddlers and teenagers taken from their parents and detained behind locked doors have set off a political firestorm. President Trump’s order on Wednesday calling for migrant families to be detained together likely means millions more in contracts for private shelter operators, construction companies and defense contractors.
A small network of private prison companies already is operating family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, and those facilities are likely to expand under the new presidential directive, should it stand up to legal review, analysts said.
The range of contractors working in the migrant-shelter industry varies widely.
BCFS, a global network of nonprofit groups, has received at least $179 million in federal contracts since 2015 under the government’s so-called unaccompanied alien children program, designed to handle migrant youths who arrive in the country without a parent or other family member. Many of the contractors, some of which are religiously affiliated organizations and emergency-management agencies such as Catholic Charities, see their work as humanitarian aid to some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
But several large defense contractors and security firms are also building a presence in the system, including General Dynamics, the global aerospace and defense company, and MVM Inc., which until 2008 contracted with the government to supply guards in Iraq. MVM recently put up job postings seeking “bilingual travel youth care workers” in the McAllen area of South Texas. It described the jobs as providing care to immigrant children “while you are accompanying them on domestic flights and via ground transportation to shelters all over the country.”
The migrant-shelter business has been booming since family separations began on a large scale last month along the southwest border.
For years, including during the Obama administration, contractors housed children who were caught illegally crossing the border unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. After the new policy, the contractors put in new beds and expanded beyond their licensed capacities to house the growing numbers of children the government separated from their families. In Texas alone, 15 shelters have received variances from state officials to expand, including adding bedroom space and toilets, increasing the total licensed capacity in Texas to nearly 5,300 children, from around 4,500.
The shelters’ rush to house, and cash in on, the surge of children has made them a new target for Democrats, immigrant advocates and a vocal chorus of local, state and federal officials and community leaders.
Many of these contractors, including Southwest Key, whose president and chief executive, Juan Sánchez, has been a well-known and politically connected figure in South Texas for years, saw themselves as the good guys in all the years they were sheltering, housing and educating young people who had crossed the border on their own. But as their client base increasingly has included children forcibly removed from their parents, that public good will has eroded.
Critics have released tax records showing Mr. Sánchez’s compensation — more than $770,000 in 2015 alone — and his organization’s usually under-the-radar efforts to open new shelters have become pitched public battles. In Houston, a number of Democratic officials, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, called on Mr. Sánchez to abandon plans to turn a former homeless shelter into a new migrant youth shelter near downtown. Mr. Turner and others said they would urge state regulators to deny the proposed shelter a child-care-facility license.
Some have raised concerns that the rush to expand will make it difficult to properly manage the housing and care of infants, toddlers and teenagers, all of whom have a host of complex emotional, health and legal issues. In recent years, a number of migrant youth shelters have run into problems unseen by the public: fire-code violations, lawsuits claiming abuse, and complaints from employees alleging wrongful termination and unpaid wages.
The former Walmart shelter failed two of its 12 fire inspections, including for sprinkler-system problems, but passed its most recent inspection this month. State officials have investigated allegations of sexual abuse and neglectful supervision at numerous facilities.
Shelter executives and their supporters, as well as federal officials, say they stand behind the contractors’ management, their fiscal responsibility and their overall mission.
“Our growth is in direct response to kids coming to the border,” said Alexia Rodriguez, Southwest Key’s vice president of immigrant children’s services.
She said that Southwest Key shelters must be in compliance with hundreds of standards to keep their state licenses.
The majority of the thousands of potential violations that are investigated each year are self-reported by Southwest Key staff to state licensing officials, who conduct an investigation and decide whether there has been a violation. When applicable, Ms. Rodriguez said, staff members under investigation are suspended pending the results.
The 150 or so deficiencies cited over the past three years are out of tens of thousands of potential violations, most of which were reported by Southwest Key, Ms. Rodriguez said. “We may overreport. But what’s critical is how a company responds to a possible incident,” she said. “I can say we’ve never had a deficiency that was not addressed appropriately.”
While Southwest Key has garnered attention because of the Trump administration’s policy of breaking up families at the border, only 10 percent of children in its facilities were separated from their relatives. The vast majority in its care still came to the United States alone as unaccompanied minors, mainly from Guatemala and El Salvador.
The group’s shelter capacity has grown significantly: In 2010, it had capacity for up to 500 children a day across 10 shelters. Now it can serve up to 5,000 children a day across 26 shelters. The recent surge in family separations has put even more of a demand on its facilities.
In Harlingen one recent morning, the federal courthouse that hears immigration cases was packed. Teenagers who had been apprehended crossing the border sat in the courtrooms, fidgeting in their rolled-up jeans and sneakers.
In the lobby, a group of men and women whispered among themselves as they patiently waited for the hearings to end. They were there for the migrant youth. But they were neither relatives nor lawyers. They were contractors. Their job was to escort the detained children back to nearby shelters.
Transportation to and from shelters is but one service supplied by contractors on the federal dime.
Adults and children who are apprehended illegally crossing the border are detained and housed in a variety of facilities, some of which are run by the government and some by private contractors. There are detention centers at Border Patrol stations and at facilities operated by private-prison contractors such as CoreCivic. And then there are the migrant youth shelters.
One of the best-known is Casa Padre, the name of Southwest Key’s shelter for 10- to 17-year-old boys at the converted Walmart. It is the largest shelter of its kind in the country, with nearly 1,500 boys.
The building is owned not by Walmart but by private owners, who lease it to Southwest Key. The Walmart was gutted, redesigned and renovated into a kind of mini-city, with murals, classrooms, medical offices, on-call physicians, work cubicles, movie theaters, a barbershop and a cafeteria.
Pre-Trump, Southwest Key was warmly received by left-leaning immigration activists and civil rights organizations. Post-Trump, some of the group’s former allies are now leading the outcry.
Legal organizations including the A.C.L.U. and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represented Southwest Key in a 2015 lawsuit against Escondido, Calif., accusing the city of manipulating land use and zoning laws to block the opening of a new center that could house 96 children.
The lawsuit quoted Escondido citizens who had opposed the facility in letters and hearings. “I believe most of us are sick of paying for undocumented invaders,” one comment read.
Southwest Key eventually received a $550,000 settlement from Escondido, but during the case the organization opened housing elsewhere instead.
“I was taken aback by the venom that came out of certain members of that community, and the threats I received personally to my safety and security,” said Ms. Rodriguez, the Southwest Key executive. “These are innocent children that have done nothing wrong, fleeing violent communities, and this is the response we were getting in Escondido?”
Migrant shelter operators say they have been wrongly thought to be housing youths in the kind of heavily crowded facilities near border crossings at which migrants receive their initial processing.
Images of children in chain-link cages and pens that have circulated online recently are mainly taken at Border Patrol sites run by the government. Housing at places like Southwest Key facilities generally include dorms, classroom areas and medical and counseling centers.
“If we ever put a kid in a cage, we’d be shut down for mistreating children,” said Ms. Rodriguez. “People are conflating us with the facilities run by Border Patrol, which is a division of Homeland Security. We work with the social service side of the federal government. We are not law enforcement.” Source
nbcnews.com Trump admin’s ‘tent cities’ cost more than keeping migrant kids with parents Separating migrant kids from their parents will cost the administration more than placing them in permanent structures or keeping them with their parents.
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas.Mike Blake / Reuters
WASHINGTON — The cost of holding migrant children who have been separated from their parents in newly created “tent cities” is $775 per person per night, according to an official at the Department of Health and Human Services — far higher than the cost of keeping children with their parents in detention centers or holding them in more permanent buildings.
Trump officials send migrant babies, toddlers to ‘tender age’ shelters
The reason for the high cost, the official and several former officials told NBC News, is that the sudden urgency to bring in security, air conditioning, medical workers and other government contractors far surpasses the cost for structures that are routinely staffed.
It costs $256 per person per night to hold children in permanent HHS facilities like Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas. And keeping children with their parents in detention centers like the one run by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement in Dilley, Texas cost $298 per resident per night, according to an agency estimate when it awarded the contract for the facility in 2014.
At those prices, the additional cost to operate a 400-bed temporary structure for one month at capacity would be more than $5 million. The average stay for separated kids is nearly two months.
The HHS official said the agency is “aggressively looking for potential sites” for more tent cities to accommodate the surge of migrant children who have been separated from their parents by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossing.
The Trump administration announced its zero tolerance policy in April. Adults crossing between border checkpoints are criminally charged, and children traveling with them are separated and placed in temporary shelters. Prior to zero tolerance, children and parents were kept together in ICE detention facilities for a maximum of 20 days before they were released with ankle monitors to await their court hearing.
The agency is currently exploring places to build temporary facilities at an Air Force Base in Little Rock, Arkansas and land formerly run by the USDA in Arizona.
As of Wednesday, according to the Department of Homeland Security, 2300 children have been separated from their parents since the Trump administration began separating migrant children from their parents in May. That number is expected to grow more rapidly as the administration streams more resources to the border for apprehending, transporting and detaining immigrants.
HHS has said it is holding nearly 12,000 immigrant children, most of whom crossed without a parent or legal guardian. The agency says the children stay in HHS facilities for 57 days on average before they are sent to live with a relative or placed in foster care. Source
June 20, 2018 nymag.com Trump Administration Keeps Babies and Toddlers in ‘Tender Age’ Shelters
As the uproar over the Trump administration’s new policy of separating children from their families at the border has grown in recent days, the government has not been forthcoming about where the children are, or how they’re being cared for. That’s particularly true of the youngest children. While previously, immigration officials did not need to care for large numbers of lone babies and toddlers, now children incapable of crossing the border on their own are being turned into “unaccompanied alien children” when they’re taken from their parents.
There have been anecdotal reports about the younger children – Democratic lawmakers described seeing an eight-month-old baby in one facility, and a teen girl claimed she and her cell-mates were changing the diapers of a preschooler they didn’t know – but the few images the government has released were from shelters for older boys.
The AP revealed on Tuesday night that the youngest children taken from their parents after crossing the border are being held in “tender age” shelters in South Texas. There are at least three of these facilities in operation, and the government is planning to open a fourth that can hold up to 240 young children in a Houston warehouse that previously house people displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Local officials have spoken out against opening the new facility, which has already drawn protests.
Doctors and lawyers who have been inside the shelters described seeing playrooms full of crying preschoolers. They say the facilities are clean and safe, but that isn’t the point. “The shelters aren’t the problem, it’s taking kids from their parents that’s the problem,” said pediatrician Marsha Griffin, who has visited many of the South Texas facilities.
Earlier this week Dr. Colleen Kraft, the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the Trump administration’s family separation policy “amounts to child abuse.” After touring one facility for small children, Kraft told CNN that the stress of being ripped from a parent and put in a shelter disrupts young children’s brain architecture, inhibiting their development.
“I can’t describe to you the room I was in with the toddlers,” Kraft said. “Normally toddlers are rambunctious and running around. We had one child just screaming and crying, and the others were really silent. And this is not normal activity or brain development with these children.”
Steven Wagner, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services, denied that what the government is doing to the children is inhumane.
“We have specialized facilities that are devoted to providing care to children with special needs and tender age children as we define as under 13 would fall into that category,” he said. “They’re not government facilities per se, and they have very well-trained clinicians, and those facilities meet state licensing standards for child welfare agencies, and they’re staffed by people who know how to deal with the needs — particularly of the younger children.”
However, Trump officials haven’t been consistent on the definition of “tender age.” The federal government said that as of Monday, they had 11,785 migrant children in custody, and were housing them in 100 shelters located in 17 states. That includes more than 2,300 children who were taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border since the start of May. But on Tuesday, officials from law enforcement and Health and Human Services said they couldn’t give journalists a breakdown of how many of those children are under 5, under 2, or infants, because they don’t know.
Agustin Arbulu, executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said in a statement on Tuesday that extremely young children are being sent to the state. “We have received reports and are very concerned that the children arriving here are much younger than those who have been transported here in the past,” he said. “Some of the children are infants as young as three months of age and are completely unable to advocate for themselves.”
Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, also challenged the claim that the facilities “meet state licensing standards” for young children, noting that no one is trained to care for a room full of traumatized toddlers.
“The facilities that they have for the most part are not licensed for tender age children,” Brane told the AP. “There is no model for how you house tons of little children in cots institutionally in our country. We don’t do orphanages, our child welfare has recognized that is an inappropriate setting for little children.”
The situation is even more horrific because it’s unclear how migrant parents and children will be reunited – and it’s possible some of them will never see each other again.
White House officials have stressed that the separation is only temporary – White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp claimed on Fox News that families are only apart for five to ten days – but John Sandweg, who was acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2013 to 2014, said separations can be permanent.
Sandweg told NBC News that parents can move quickly from detention to deportation, while children are processed more slowly because they’re a lower priority. “You could easily end up in a situation where the gap between a parent’s deportation and a child’s deportation is years,” he said.
Back in their home country, parents without access to legal representation or a good understanding of U.S. immigration laws, can struggle to locate their children. If left in state custody long enough, those children are put up for adoption. “You could be creating thousands of immigrant orphans in the U.S. that one day could become eligible for citizenship when they are adopted,” Sandweg explained.
June 18, 2018 thecut.com What to Know About the Detention Centers For Immigrant Children Along The U.S.-Mexico Border
Within the last six weeks, nearly 2,000 migrant children have been separated from their families while crossing the U.S.–Mexico border under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. That means an average of 45 migrant children are being ripped from their families per day and placed in detention centers on their own.
Reports have begun to emerge of horrifying conditions in these detention centers, several of which have been compared to jails. Photos from one facility in McAllen, Texas, show children being held in cages.
Members of the Trump administration have made conflicting statements about the justification behind separating families: President Trump himself blamed the policy on Democrats, while DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen denied its existence. In truth, the practice is new, a direct result of the administration’s extreme “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which was first announced on May 7.
Under this new policy, all adults who do not enter the U.S. through a port of entry are supposed to be criminally prosecuted. This is what results in the family separation: Adults have to appear before a federal judge before undergoing deportation procedures, so they’re held in federal custody while awaiting trial. Meanwhile, their children — who are not referred for prosecution, and thus aren’t incarcerated with their parents — end up being sent into the custody of the Office for Refugee Resettlement.
It’s incredibly difficult for families to reunite once they make their way through this byzantine process, as there is no formal protocol that ensures that separated migrant families are deported back to their home country together.
There’s been a deluge of coverage of the detention centers in recent weeks, and Trump has faced mounting backlash for his zero-tolerance policy. Here’s what to know.
There are at least 100 shelters in 17 states
Kenneth Wolfe, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times that the government contracts with 100 shelters that are located in 17 states. Some of biggest centers are in McAllen and Brownsville, both in Texas, and Estrella del Norte in Tucson.
On June 19, AP published a disturbing report about the existence of at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, where the government has been placing the youngest migrant children. The three centers are located in Combes, Raymondville, and Brownsville.
Overall, the number of centers are increasing. Last week, the Trump administration announced the creation of a new “tent city” just outside of El Paso that would house between 1,000 and 5,000 kids. The government is also reportedly constructing a fourth “tender age” shelter, located in an abandoned warehouse in Houston, that would house up to 240 children.
More than 11,000 children are currently in detention
According to Wolfe, the aforementioned 100 facilities house more than 11,000 children. As of Monday, the official count was 11,785.
At the central “Ursula” facility in McAllen, Texas — which one official called the “epicenter” of the family-separation policy — hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children are currently detained in cages made of metal wire, according to reports. At the center in Brownsville, Texas, approximately 1,500 boys between the ages of 10 to 17 spend an astonishing 22 hours per day inside the converted former Walmart, which one reporter described as “like a prison or jail.”
Furthermore, while few photographs in general have emerged from the detention centers, the ones that have are of young boys, prompting the question, Where are the girls? In disturbing audio that ProPublica obtained from inside one U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, though, one can hear the upsetting pleas of a young migrant girl begging a border patrol agent to call her aunt to “get me out of here.”
Federal agents have been accused of taking children away without giving their parents fair warning
In an interview with Texas Monthly, Anne Chandler, the executive director of the Houston office of the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, said that she’s heard accounts of agents taking children away from their parents, ostensibly to give them baths, and never returning.
“The officers say, ‘I’m going to take your child to get bathed.’ That’s one we see again and again. “Your child needs to come with me for a bath,’” Chandler said. “The child goes off, and in a half an hour, 20 minutes, the parent inquires, ‘Where is my 5-year-old?’ ‘Where’s my 7-year-old?’ ‘This is a long bath.’ And they say, ‘You won’t be seeing your child again.’”
The conditions inside the centers are reportedly horrifying
Children are literally being kept in cages, though border agents are “uncomfortable” with this characterization. “It’s not inaccurate, but they’re very uncomfortable with using the word ‘cages,’” read a statement from the U.S. Border Patrol.
In the McAllen facility, for instance, children are given bottled water and chips for sustenance, and foil sheets intended to serve as blankets. An advocate who spent several hours in the facility told the Associated Press that she met a 16-year-old girl who’d been taking care of a young, unaccompanied child for three days. “She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper,” she said. “She was so traumatized that she wasn’t talking. She was just curled up in a little ball.”
Antar Davidson, a former youth care worker at the Estrella del Norte shelter in Tuscon, told the Los Angeles Times that he quit after a few months because he was horrified by what he saw inside. According to his account, children aren’t even allowed to hug one another while they’re in detention, and many are struggling to deal with extreme trauma:
During his time at the shelter, children were running away, screaming, throwing furniture and attempting suicide, Davidson said. Several were being monitored this week because they were at risk of running away, self-harm and suicide, records show.
Here’s who to follow for on-the-ground updates
A number of publications have people working the immigration beat and/or reporting from the border. To follow along with their reporting, their Twitter handles are attached below.
There are ways we can help families separated at the border. Please see here. Source
June 10, 2018 nytimes.com Honduran Man Kills Himself After Being Separated From Family at U.S. Border, Reports Say
A Honduran man who was separated from his family after he had crossed the United States border into Texas with them last month strangled himself in his holding cell, according to Customs and Border Protection officials, public records and media reports.
The man, Marco Antonio Muñoz, crossed the Rio Grande with his wife and 3-year-old son in mid-May near Granjeno, Tex., The Washington Post reported.
In a statement, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman said Mr. Muñoz was apprehended by Border Patrol agents on May 11 for “attempting illegal entry into the United States” and taken to the Rio Grande Valley central processing center.
Once there, Mr. Muñoz and his family said they wanted to apply for asylum, The Post reported; Border Patrol agents then told them they would be separated.
While at the processing center, the Customs and Border Protection spokesman said, Mr. Muñoz “became disruptive and combative,” so the authorities moved him to a jail in Starr County, Tex. — about 40 miles west of the processing center — for an overnight stay.
Although the statement did not say whether Mr. Muñoz was with family members at the border, or explain why he became combative, media outlets reported that he grew upset after learning that his family would be split up.
A public report posted by the Texas attorney general says Mr. Muñoz, 39, was booked into the jail the night of May 12. He was “combative and noncompliant” and scuffled with a detention officer, the report said, before being placed in a padded cell late that night.
Throughout the evening, officers checked on Mr. Muñoz every 30 minutes, the report said, but during the morning shift, different officers found Mr. Muñoz dead on the floor.
The death was listed in the report as a suicide by self-strangulation and hanging. Law enforcement officials reviewed video recordings of what happened in the cell overnight, the report said.
“C.B.P. takes every loss of life very seriously and has initiated an internal review to ensure these policies were followed,” the agency’s statement said, referring to the agency’s standards on transport, escort, detention and search.
Representatives from the Starr County Sheriff’s Office did not return multiple calls and emails for comment on Saturday. A person who picked up the phone there said staff members were not available on weekends.
On May 7, days before Mr. Muñoz was apprehended at the border, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would criminally prosecute everyone who illegally crosses the Southwest border, in what he called a “zero tolerance” policy intended to deter new migrants, mainly from Central American countries like Honduras.
The policy imposes potential criminal penalties on border-crossers who would have previously faced mainly civil deportation proceedings — and in the process, forces the separation of families crossing the border.
Many who have criticized the policy have focused on its effect on children who are separated from their parents.
But Justin Tullius, a lawyer at the nonprofit Raices, which works with migrants in Texas, said adults who are detained have also suffered.
“We’ve worked with parents who have shared suicidal thoughts and who have attempted to take their own lives because of the experience of detention,” Mr. Tullius said. “We can’t allow policies that traumatize parents and children. Families must be allowed to go through the process of seeking protection in the U.S. together, without unnecessary and harmful separation.” Source
June 17, 2018 splinternews.com Stephen Miller Is One of Trump’s Biggest Advocates for Separating Immigrant Families
According to the Times, “for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the idea of crying children torn from their parents’ arms was simply too inhumane — and too politically perilous — to embrace as policy…”
In fact, when the Obama administration held a series of meetings to hash out all options on immigration policy, when it came to the issue of separating children from their parents, “We spent five minutes thinking it through and concluded that it was a bad idea. The morality of it was clear — that’s not who we are,” Obama’s domestic policy adviser Cecilia Muñoz told the Times.
But there is no morality in the thinking of Stephen Miller.
The report noted:
Privately, Mr. Miller argued that bringing back “zero tolerance” would be a potent tool in a severely limited arsenal of strategies for stopping migrants from flooding across the border.
The idea was to end a practice referred to by its detractors as “catch and release,” in which illegal immigrants apprehended at the border are released into the interior of the United States to await the processing of their cases. Mr. Miller argued that the policy provided a perverse incentive for migrants, essentially ensuring that if they could make it to the United States border and claim a “credible fear” of returning home, they would be given a chance to stay under asylum laws, at least temporarily.
Of course, Miller isn’t the only one responsible for the current inhumane disaster of a policy that has angered even Republicans and members of President Donald Trump’s religious base. In early 2017, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was then serving as homeland security secretary, threatened to use family separation as a tactic to deter undocumented immigrants from entering the U.S.
Others, including Trump himself, have claimed to dislike the policy, although his public response has been to lie about it by falsely blaming Democrats when he could end the ongoing cruelty with the stroke of a pen.
On Sunday, professional administration liar Kellyanne Conway said on NBC’s Meet the Press that, “As a mother, as a Catholic, as somebody who’s got a conscience…I will tell you that nobody likes this policy.” But, like a good Trumpkin, she added, “Congress passed the law that it is a crime to enter this country illegally. So if they don’t like that law, they should change it.”
Miller, on the other hand, isn’t even pretending to have any moral misgivings about the administration’s Nazi-like behavior, calling it a “simple decision.”
“No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” he told The New York Times. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.” Source
June 17, 2018 newsweek.com LAURA BUSH SAYS TRUMP PUTTING IMMIGRANT CHILDREN IN ‘CAGES’ IS LIKE WORLD WAR II INTERNMENT CAMPS
Former first lady Laura Bush is not happy about the Trump administration’s efforts to detain migrant children and separate them from their families. In a searing op-ed published by The Washington Post Sunday, Bush said the policy was “cruel” and “immoral” and compared it to Japanese-American internment camps in the U.S. during World War II.
“I live in a border state,” Bush, a Texas resident, wrote. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
Reporters who have visited the detention centers described young children being held in “cages.” Bush said the Trump administration policy led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions punishes children for their parents’ decision to cross into the U.S.
“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso,” she wrote. “These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.”
“In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis?” she added. “I, for one, believe we can.”
Trump administration officials have also been critical of the policy, blaming Democrats for not doing more to strengthen border security. Trump has pointed to a 2008 anti-trafficking law passed by President George W. Bush, although there is no federal law requiring family separation. Under Trump, Republicans control the White House, Senate and U.S. House.
“Non-citizens who cross our borders unlawfully, between our ports of entry, with children are not an exception,” the attorney general said in defense of his policy last week. “They are the ones who broke the law, they are the ones who endangered their own children on their trek.”
Donald J. Trump
Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High Taxes, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!
First lady Melania Trump said Sunday, in rare remarks on her husband’s policy, that both parties needed to come together to help migrant children. “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” said a statement from her spokeswoman. “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.” Source
June 15, 2018 - Sessions & Sanders Invoke Bible into Immigration Policy
June 17, 2018 nytimes.com A Legal Resident, an Arrest by ICE and Father’s Day in Jail
By Sarah Mervosh
is Garcia was watering his lawn and drinking his morning coffee outside his home in Southern California last Sunday when federal immigration authorities showed up.
Mr. Garcia — a 62-year-old Mexican immigrant who has been a legal resident since the 1980s, according to his family — shouted for help.
He spilled his coffee on the sidewalk as agents arrested him, said his daughter Natalie Garcia, who ran outside and saw her father handcuffed. She said the authorities told her they had a warrant for his arrest related to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge that was resolved nearly two decades ago.
“They are kidnapping people from their home, starting with my father, who has the legal status,” said Ms. Garcia, 32.
A week later, Mr. Garcia was still being held by immigration officials, and his family was preparing to spend Father’s Day without him.
Mr. Garcia and his family are among those who have been swept up in the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which cracks down not only on undocumented immigrants but also on legal residents. The administration makes it a priority to remove those who have pending criminal charges or any convictions in their past.
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 162 people during a three-day roundup in the Los Angeles area last week. In a news release, the agency emphasized that the operation targeted immigrants who posed a safety risk, such as one Mexican who was a known gang member and had been convicted of rape.
But Mr. Garcia’s case appears to show just how sweeping ICE can be in making arrests regardless of an immigrant’s legal status or how long ago their criminal case was resolved. An agency spokeswoman said ICE did not exempt any class of “removable aliens” from potential enforcement as it seeks to uphold immigration law and protect public safety.
Mackenzie W. Mackins, an immigration lawyer representing Mr. Garcia, said it was a waste of taxpayer money to target her client.
“This is just an example of them going into our communities on a Sunday morning and picking people up who aren’t a danger or a threat or a flight risk,” she said.
But that is the new reality under the Trump administration, she said, adding, “Everyone is an enforcement priority.”
Mr. Garcia was 13 when he came to the United States, traveling from Mexico with his teenage brother, his daughter said. From then on, “he worked diligently to achieve the American dream,” she said.
He picked fruit in fields in Northern California, tried to make it as an amateur boxer and worked as a truck driver. But he has spent most of his career working as a machine operator at a factory, she said.
Her father received his green card and became a permanent legal resident in 1988, Ms. Garcia said.
In 2001, Mr. Garcia was convicted of a misdemeanor stemming from a dispute with his wife, according to his lawyer and his family. A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Superior Court said he was sentenced to 25 days in jail and three years of probation. Ms. Garcia said that her father completed probation.
It was a domestic dispute they settled years ago, and “they are still married to this day,” Ms. Garcia said.
A spokeswoman for ICE said in a statement that Mr. Garcia was arrested because he “has past criminal convictions that make him amenable to removal from the United States.”
The spokeswoman would not specify the convictions, citing privacy rules. Ms. Garcia said she was not aware of other convictions in her father’s past.
Today, she said, he is a husband, a father to his five adult children and a “jolly grandpa” to his nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Ms. Garcia, a single mother who works full time in public relations, said her father is helping to raise her 6-year-old daughter, Marley, who calls him Dad. Ms. Garcia often calls upon her father to pick up Marley from school or to help cook dinner.
The family had planned to celebrate Father’s Day with a barbecue, and Ms. Garcia had gifts already picked out.
Marley planned to give him a photo of the two of them, with the words “Best Dad!” in a heart. Ms. Garcia said she bought her father what she gives him for every occasion: clothing with the logos of his favorite teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the University of Southern California Trojans.
Instead, Mr. Garcia will spend Father’s Day at the Theo Lacy Facility, a maximum-security jail complex in Orange, Calif. His first court appearance is scheduled for June 29.
“It’s killing me,” Ms. Garcia said. “I’m a daddy’s girl. I miss him so much.” Source
June 14, 2018 nbcnews.com Surge in children separated at border floods facility for undocumented immigrants The nearly 1,500 boys living in the shelter sleep five in rooms built for four.
Boys in line at Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas, on Wednesday. It is the largest licensed child care facility in the nation for children brought to the U.S. illegally.Cliff Ranson / Dept of Health & Human Services
BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Life inside the biggest licensed child care facility in the nation for children brought into the U.S. illegally looks more like incarceration than temporary shelter.
The children, a mix of those who crossed into the U.S. unaccompanied and those who were separated from their parents under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new zero-tolerance policy, spend 22 hours per day during the week (21 hours on weekends) locked inside a converted former Walmart, packing five into rooms built for four.
It currently houses nearly 1,500 boys ranging from 10 to 17 years old.
NBC News was among the first news organizations granted access to the overcrowded Casa Padre facility.
The average stay at the center in Brownsville is 52 days. After that, minors are placed with a sponsor. Read more here
June 13, 2018 dailykos.com This tour of a child prison for boys torn from their immigrant parents is breathtakingly horrifying
I would say there are no words to describe the horrors of this child prison in Brownsville, TX, but that’s not true. Really, there are no printable words to that do justice to this unconscionably evil center of injustice.
The video and photos, which ran on MSNBC and Twitter tonight, are not easy to look at. But it’s absolutely necessary. There are 1500 boys ages 10-17 who are more or less incarcerated in an old Walmart. It’s horrifying.
All In w/Chris Hayes
.@jacobsoboroff on Texas immigrant child detention center: “Effectively, these kids are incarcerated” #inners
Just finished tour, don’t even know where to start.
One of the first things you notice when you walk into the shelter — no joke — a mural of Trump with the quote “sometimes losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”
Presidential murals everywhere. But that one is 1st.
This shelter, Casa Padre, is the largest licensed childcare facility of its kind in the country. Nearly 1,500 boys 10-17 in here now. They’re supposed to sleep four to room. Nearly every room has 5. They’ve received a variance from the state because of overcrowding.
There are more on Soboroff’s Twitter feed. That Trump mural alone should be enough to inspire mass outrage. He acts like Hitler more and more every day. And it’s important to note that things will only get worse. This camp is run by a licensed non-profit; it won’t take a license to run the tent cities that Trump and Sessions want to build to imprison kids.
There are so many things we have to do to fix this situation, both this November and in the long-term. We need systemic changes in our government and in our national attitude. Short term, we have to call our lawmakers and demand action. And we need to fight to overthrow the lawmakers who bask in these deplorable conditions.
A few weeks back, I highlighted some of the lawmakers, both nationally and in Texas, who we need to try to dispose of this November. Steve King — known Nazi-sympathizer — is one of them. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado is next in line to chair the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security with Rep. Raul Labrador retiring to run for governor of Idaho. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas is the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Committee. They’re all in favor of the Border Wall and have not complained one bit about Sessions’ immigration policy — in fact, they openly support it.
I think it’s unfortunate when families are separated. But it’s also unfortunate when families make a decision to break the law [by coming here.] And there are consequences in this country. We are a country of rule – a country of laws. And we believe in the rule of law. And I think it’s just a sad reality that there is going to be some unfortunate separation of individuals when crimes are committed.
January 6, 2018 theguardian.com Trump claims Mexico will pay for wall – day after seeking $18bn from Congress
At news conference, president says ‘we all want Daca to happen’ but highlights need for security after administration requests border wall funding
Donald Trump insisted on Saturday that Mexico would pay for a wall along the southern US border, one day after his administration asked Congress for $18bn over the next decade to start construction on the barrier.
“I believe Mexico will pay for the wall,” Trump said during a brief news conference at Camp David, where he was meeting congressional Republican leaders to plan for the 2018 midterms.
“I have a very good relationship with Mexico. But yes, in some form, Mexico will pay for the wall.”
Mexico has repeatedly stated that it will not pay to build the wall.
The administration asked lawmakers for $18bn in order to add 316 miles of walls and fencing along the border and bolster 407 miles of existing barriers, according to a financial blueprint sent to senators by US Customs and Border Protection on Friday.
If that work was completed, more than half of the nearly 2,000 mile-border with Mexico would be lined with a physical barrier.
Trump has demanded a border wall in exchange for passing legislation that would shield from deportation hundreds of thousands of young migrants brought to the US as children, known as Dreamers.
Lawmakers face a 5 March deadline to find a legislative fix for the young immigrants after the Trump administration rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Daca, the Obama-era program that offered legal status to roughly 800,000 younger undocumented migrants.
At Camp David, Trump convened members of his cabinet and Republican leaders to discuss, among a laundry list of legislative priorities, immigration.
“We all want Daca to happen but we also want great security for our country,” Trump said during the press conference, surrounded by members of his cabinet, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and the House speaker, Paul Ryan. “So important.”
Trump is also asking for changes to the legal immigration system. His priorities include tightening a family-based immigration policy that allows naturalized citizens and certain immigrants to petition for relatives to come to the US and eliminating the diversity visa lottery, a state department program that helps citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to come to the US.
The requests complicate already strained negotiations between Republicansand Democrats. The White House and lawmakers in both parties agree that Dreamers should be protected but remain divided over the details of a plan.
Republicans want action on Daca to proceed separately from budget negotiations but Democrats are hoping to tie the two in a rare moment of leverage for the minority party. Congress must pass a federal budget by 19 January to avert a partial government shutdown, and the vote will require Democratic support.
“President Trump has said he may need a good government shutdown to get his wall,” Dick Durbin, the No 2 Senate Democrat, said in a statement in response to the administration’s proposed border plan. “With this demand, he seems to be heading in that direction.”
Trump will host a bipartisan meeting early next week to discuss the issue.
I appreciate there not being a paywall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information.Thomasine, Sweden