Trump’s Immigration Policy

March 6, 2019
Kirstjen Nielsen’s Immigration Word Games

In her first appearance before House lawmakers since Democrats took over the chamber in January, a committee hearing that focussed much of its time on last year’s family-separation spree at the southern border, Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, proved a downright stickler for language. She referred to migrant kids in federal custody as “U.A.C.s,” shorthand for “unaccompanied minors.” She spoke of the need to take “operational control” of the border, and of the Administration’s fear that pro-immigrant policies—such as granting citizenship to Dreamers—will act as “pull factors,” inspiring more migrants to come to America. When Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, asked about the conditions in which kids taken from their parents were kept, she told him, “Sir, they’re not cages.”

“What are they?” Thompson demanded.

“They are areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they’re being processed,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen had a similar exchange with Kathleen Rice, a Democrat of New York. Nielsen had been arguing that family separation wasn’t a formal policy of the Trump Administration, just a side effect of upping the number of prosecutions of migrants crossing the border illegally. “It was a policy announced by the Attorney General of this country—that families were going to be separated,” Rice said. Nielsen disagreed. “The consequence of any adult going to jail in this country is they are separated from their child,” she said. “That wasn’t the point of it. The point was to increase prosecutions for those breaking the law, and not exempting any class of aliens.”

What was the point of the hearing, though? It’s been nearly a year since the Administration separated thousands of kids from their parents at the border. As Jonathan Blitzer has reported, no one in the Trump Administration has ever been held accountable for the family-separation policy, even as the misery and harm that it has caused has been acknowledged by Democrats and Republicans alike. What the Administration seems to have taken from that shameful episode is that it needed to be “smarter” about achieving its anti-immigrant goals. Wednesday’s hearing saw talk of “all of the above” approaches, and “gaps in the system,” and “statutory authority,” the language that the Administration has adopted since President Trump decided to turn the U.S. government upside down, in an attempt to shake loose some funding for the border wall that he promised his campaign supporters.

All this adherence to the language of bureaucracy cannot obscure the fact that the Trump Administration’s immigration policy isn’t a response to evidence or real-world conditions. Trump began his Presidential campaign with racism and fear, a message to his supporters that it was O.K. to fear and demonize immigrants. He has not wavered from that position. If there was a moment of clarity at Wednesday’s hearing, it came from Al Green, a Democrat from Texas. “There are those who believe that we already have too many people of color in this country,” Green said. “And these—one of whom happens to be the President of the United States of America—would institute policies that will prevent people of color from coming to this country. White babies would not be treated the way these babies of color are being treated, Madam Secretary. This is about color.”   Source


February 26, 2019
Thousands of migrant youth allegedly suffered sexual abuse in U.S. custody

Thousands of allegations of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors (UAC) in the custody of the U.S. government have been reported over the past 4 years, according to Department of Health and Human Services documents given to Axios by Rep. Ted Deutch’s office.

Data: Dept. of Health and Human Services; Note: The type of perpetrator is only known for cases ORR reported to DOJ; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
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Allegations against staff members reported to the DOJ included everything from rumors of relationships with UACs to showing pornographic videos to minors to forcibly touching minors’ genitals.

By the numbers: From October 2014 to July 2018, the HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 complaints, and the Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints. This includes 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff.

What they’re saying: Deutch said these documents were included in HHS’ response to a House Judiciary Committee request for information made in January.

  • “This behavior — it’s despicable, it’s disgusting, and this is just the start of questions that HHS is going to have to answer about how they handle these and what’s happening in these facilities,” Deutch told Axios.

HHS’ response, per spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley:

  • “The safety of minors is our top concern when administering our unaccompanied alien children program. Each of our grantees running standard shelters is licensed by the respective state for child care services. In addition to other rigorous standards put in place by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, background checks of all facility employees are mandatory.”
  • “These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances, and ORR fully understands its responsibility to ensure that each child is treated with the utmost care. When any allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect are made, they are taken seriously and ORR acts swiftly to investigate and respond.”

Details: One of the documents given to Axios, embedded below, gives some detail about the allegations, although it only includes descriptions of the incidences for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. We also don’t know what happened to the accused staffers in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

  • Based on the information provided in the documents, it’s unclear whether there’s overlap between allegations reported to ORR and those made to DOJ. Axios assumed that some OOR allegations are referred to DOJ, so the numbers included in our chart are conservative.
  • All allegations referred to DOJ are also referred to HHS, according to the documents.
  • In many cases, the staff members were removed from duty and ultimately fired.

ORR’s sexual assault policy

Details on the sexual abuse allegations


Feb 4, 2019
Force-Feeding Is Torture, and the United States Government Is Doing It in Your Name

Guantanamo Future

I don’t know if it bothers anybody, but this is considered to be torture by the people who study what torture really is. From the Washington Post:

Ten detainees at the facility are under a self-imposed hunger strike, ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said in an email Saturday. Of the 10, nine are from India, and one is from Nicaragua, Bennett said. Nine of them missed nine consecutive meals, triggering ICE’s hunger strike protocols — medical evaluations and health monitoring. At various points in mid-January, a federal judge ordered the nine to be fed and hydrated without consent, according to ICE.

ICE’s update comes on the heels of a report by the Associated Press, which revealed on Wednesday that six detainees were being force-fed at the El Paso facility. They are on a hunger strike to protest “rampant verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards.” The AP report triggered outrage from lawmakers and human rights groups who decried the practice as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”

(Let us note here for the record that a casual attitude toward torture carried out in facilities beyond the reach of human-rights law is a legacy from the second Bush administration and everybody on TV who spent the Aughts carrying water for that administration should be made to account for what it normalized.)

Guantanamo Future
Force-feeding equipment at Guantanamo Bay

The World Medical Association has declared it anathema for any doctor to participate in a force-feeding program. In 2013, a leak to Al Jazeera provided us with a look into how grotesque the process is.

Hunger striking Guantanamo prisoners who are force-fed a liquid nutritional supplement undergo a brutal and dehumanising medical procedure that requires them to wear masks over their mouths while they sit shackled in a restraint chair for as long as two hours, according to documentation obtained by Al Jazeera. The prisoners remain this way, with a 61cm – or longer – tube snaked through their nostril until a chest X-ray, or a test dose of water, confirms it has reached their stomach.

At the end of the feeding, the prisoner is removed from the restraint chair and placed into a “dry cell” with no running water. A guard then observes the detainee for 45-60 minutes “for any indications of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting”. If the prisoner vomits he is returned to the restraint chair. That’s just a partial description of the “chair restraint system clinical protocol” which medical personnel are instructed to follow when administering a nutritional supplement to prisoners who have been selected for force-feeding by Guantanamo Commander Rear Admiral John Smith.

Immigration Detention, Lumpkin, USA
An ICE detention facility in Lumpkin, Georgia

As Clara Long of Human Rights Watch put it:

Force-feeding – which involves pushing a feeding tube down a patient’s nose – can be very painful and is inherently cruel, inhuman, and degrading. Medical ethics and human rights norms generally prohibit the force feeding of detainees who are competent and capable of rational judgment as to the consequences of refusing food. A relative of two men being force-fed with nasal tubes by ICE told the AP the men are having persistent nose bleeds and vomiting several times a day.

Hunger strikes are often the last resort of the otherwise powerless. Suffragettes employed them and, having done so, were brutally force-fed while in custody. They have a long history in Irish politics, from the death in custody in 1917 of Thomas Ashe, who succumbed immediately after having been force-fed, to the blanket protests of imprisoned IRA and INLA men in the early 1980s, during which the sainted Margaret Thatcher allowed an elected member of Parliament named Bobby Sands to starve himself to death rather than allow him to wear clothes of his own choosing while incarcerated. It is a last, desperate cry from people otherwise voiceless. And force-feeding these people is torture, no matter how many doctors are standing around, watching.

What the hell is wrong with us?    Source

February 4, 2019
ACLU Demands Government Account for Thousands More Separated Migrant Children

A top official with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is defending his agency’s efforts to identify migrant children separated from parents at the border — and the agency’s narrow definition of which children must be accounted for under a federal judge’s order.

In a court declaration filed Friday, Jonathan White, a commander with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps who is leading HHS’s efforts to reunify separated families, said his team had identified all the separated children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of HHS, as of June 26, 2018. That’s the date U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued an injunction to stop family separations and ordered the government to promptly reunite children with their parents.

Sabraw’s order came in a class action lawsuit — Ms. L vs. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — which challenged the Trump administration over family separation.

White said in his declaration that the total number of children his agency was responsible for returning to their families is 2,816.

That’s an increase over previous tallies.

In July 2018, ORR reported that there were 2,654 affected children. Officials later revised the number to 2,737. The vast majority of those children have since been released to their parents or another close relative.

But last month, the inspector general for HHS issued a watchdog report, which found that thousands of additional children may have been taken from their parents at the border beginning in 2017, “before the accounting required by the court.”

Sabraw asked the government to respond to the inspector general’s report, which states, “Public attention has focused largely on children separated from their parents who are covered by a widely reported federal court order. But, more children, over a longer period of time, have been separated from their parents or guardians and referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for care.”

Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing plaintiff parents in the Ms. L case, say the government should be held accountable for the earlier separations — and ensure that all those children are also returned to their parents.

“We believe that even if the family were separated and the children were released from U.S. custody before June 26, those families should be included,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney in the case.

“What we suspect is that many parents believed that the only way to get their child out of government custody was to agree to allow the child to be sent to a foster family or some other sponsor … And we have no idea if those parents have now gotten their children back or not.”

But in his declaration, White said it was unfeasible to try to account for children who had been separated from parents and then released by ORR prior to the June injunction.

“HHS has no statutory authority over discharged children, much less routine contact with all of them,” he wrote. “ORR grantees would face significant hurdles if they tried to collect information from separated children who were discharged before June 26, 2018.”

White said that over the past year and a half, close to 90 percent of unaccompanied or separated children released from ORR were placed with a parent or close relative. So he reasoned that any children separated in 2017 were most likely with their families now.

Even if it were possible to locate previously separated children, White stated that HHS lacks the authority to take a child back from a sponsor in order to reunite the child with their parent. White, a social worker, warned that doing so would “destabilize” the child’s environment and could be traumatic to the children.

“The option more consistent with the best interest of the child,” he asserted, “would be to allow the child to remain with their sponsor and focus instead on the ongoing work of reunifying parents with separated children presently in ORR care.”

The ACLU’s Gelernt called that answer horrific.

“It can’t be that we can’t account for thousands of children who were separated just because it may be too much work,” Gelernt said.

“The Trump administration’s response is a shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

Gelernt has asked Judge Sabraw to include any child taken from a parent since 2017 in the Ms. L. case. The court is expected to hear that motion later this month.  Source

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