The Plan Would Prioritize Merit-Based Immigration by Karie Luidens

Trump April 5 CBP Flickr.jpg

Trump Outlines 'Merit-Based' Immigration Plan, Still Far From Becoming Law

Tamara Keith
May 16, 2019 5:00 AM ET
NPR
https://www.npr.org/2019/05/16/723677591/trumps-new-immigration-plan-doesn-t-address-undocumented-immigrants

President Trump has announced an immigration proposal that would dramatically reshape the legal immigration system in the United States.

The plan "puts jobs, wages and safety of American workers first," Trump said in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday [5/16/19]. […]

The plan would prioritize merit-based immigration, limiting the number of people who could get green cards by seeking asylum or based on family ties. But it would keep immigration levels static, neither increasing or decreasing the number of people allowed to legally enter the U.S. each year.


What’s Missing in Trump’s ‘Beautiful, Bold’ Immigration Plan

His proposal represents another lost opportunity.

By The Editorial Board
New York Times
May 16, 2019
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/16/opinion/immigration-trump-kushner.html

Assembled over the past several months by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, this proposal does not address some of the thorniest elements of the immigration debate. Most notably, it avoids the question of what to do about the 1.8 million immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children and protected from deportation under an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. No proposal that fails to grapple with this vulnerable population will be taken seriously by Democrats — nor should it be.

The plan also does not address how to bring the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States out of the shadows.

Instead, as the president indicated, Mr. Kushner limited his focus on beefing up border security and reworking the legal immigration system.

On border security, the plan sticks with many of the administration’s aims to which Democrats have objected, such as overturning the prohibition on holding child migrants in custody for no more than 20 days, deporting unaccompanied minors back to their home countries, having some asylum-seekers remain in their home countries while their requests are processed and, of course, building the wall. […]

In terms of legal immigration, Mr. Kushner’s plan proposes a “merit-based” system, moving away from the program that gives priority to reunifying families that has been in place since the 1960s. The number of visas granted on humanitarian grounds would be reduced, and the diversity visa lottery would be eliminated altogether.

A Few of the Acts the State Has Criminalized by Karie Luidens

Arrest Wikipedia.jpg

As we go about our daily lives, let’s never forget what sort of government we live under.

Border Patrol agents accept assistance from vigilante militias who take it upon themselves to detain unarmed people at gunpoint.

ICE rounds up ordinary people in their homes and workplaces to be imprisoned for punitive lengths of time and eventually deported. The Trump administration even hopes to do so as dramatically as possible with a “blitz” of mass arrests explicitly designed to stoke fear among immigrants and deter others from coming to our country.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the acts the state has criminalized—commit them and you can expect the authorities to arrest you and press criminal charges against you in court:

Oh, and here’s another example from the last few days:

She Stopped to Help Migrants on a Texas Highway. Moments Later, She Was Arrested.

By Manny Fernandez
May 10, 2019
New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/10/us/texas-border-good-samaritan.html

MCALLEN, Tex. — Teresa L. Todd pulled over one recent night on a dark West Texas highway to help three young Central American migrants who had flagged her down. Ms. Todd — an elected official, government lawyer and single mother in a desert border region near Big Bend National Park — said she went into “total mom mode” when she saw the three siblings, one of whom appeared to be very ill.

Struggling to communicate using her broken Spanish, Ms. Todd told the three young people to get out of the cold and into her car. She was phoning and texting friends for help when a sheriff’s deputy drove up, followed soon by the Border Patrol. “They asked me to step behind my car, and the supervisor came and started Mirandizing me,” said Ms. Todd, referring to being read her Miranda rights. “And then he says that I could be found guilty of transporting illegal aliens, and I’m, like, ‘What are you talking about?”

Ms. Todd spent 45 minutes in a holding cell that night. Federal agents obtained a search warrant to examine her phone, and she became the focus of an investigation that could lead to federal criminal charges.

As the Trump administration moves on multiple fronts to shut down illegal border crossings, it has also stepped up punitive measures targeting private citizens who provide compassionate help to migrants — “good Samaritan” aid that is often intended to save lives along a border that runs through hundreds of miles of remote terrain that can be brutally unforgiving.

A Secret White House Plan to Arrest Thousands of Parents and Children by Karie Luidens

ICE raid.jpg

Before Trump’s purge at DHS, top officials challenged plan for mass family arrests

By Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey 
May 13, 2019 at 8:11 PM EDT
Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/before-trumps-purge-at-dhs-top-officials-challenged-plan-for-mass-family-arrests/2019/05/13/d7cb91ce-75af-11e9-bd25-c989555e7766_story.html

In the weeks before they were ousted last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and top immigration enforcement official Ronald Vitiello challenged a secret White House plan to arrest thousands of parents and children in a blitz operation against migrants in 10 major U.S. cities.

According to seven current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the administration wanted to target the crush of families that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border after the president’s failed “zero tolerance” prosecution push in early 2018. The ultimate purpose, the officials said, was a show of force to send the message that the United States was going to get tough by swiftly moving to detain and deport recent immigrants — including families with children. […]

Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence were especially supportive of the plan, officials said, eager to execute dramatic, highly visible mass arrests that they argued would help deter the soaring influx of families. […]

ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations branch had an initial target list of 2,500 adults and children, but the plan, which remains under consideration, was viewed as a first step toward arresting as many as 10,000 migrants. The vast majority of families who have crossed the border in the past 18 months seeking asylum remain in the country, awaiting a court date or in defiance of deportation orders.

DHS officials said the objections Vitiello and Nielsen raised regarding the targeted “at large” arrests were mostly operational and logistical and not as a result of ethical concerns about arresting families an immigration judge had ordered to be deported. […]

[A]dministration officials who described the plan said Vitiello and Nielsen’s pushback was a factor in President Trump’s decision to oust both officials — particularly Vitiello.

The president has been livid about the number of unauthorized border-crossers being released into the U.S. interior, and he has repeatedly urged his aides to take the “toughest” approach possible. […]

Though Albence, a Miller ally who replaced Vitiello as acting director at ICE, was eager to execute the plan, current and former officials said, Vitiello urged caution and insisted that Nielsen should be consulted first. Her staff had concerns about how agents would handle families with children who are U.S. citizens and a lack of bed space to keep the families in detention, among other things.

Vitiello urged ICE agents to conduct more surveillance work, in particular to ensure that children would not be separated from their families in the blitz — such as in instances when a child might be at school or at a friend’s house when their parents were taken away.

Their objections reflected a deeper concern that the White House was pushing a shock-and-awe operation designed for show, but lacking in deliberative planning and research.

A Pattern of Criminalizing Humanitarian Aid and Those Who Decry State Sanctioned Violence by Karie Luidens

Lady Justice.png

Let’s pause and reflect on the significance of what we read yesterday.

I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

450 miles west in Tucson, Arizona, No More Deaths volunteer Scott Walker is on trial:


No More Deaths volunteer testifies leaving water for migrants is a 'sacred act'

Paul Ingram
Posted May 7, 2019, 2:45 am
Tucson Sentinel
http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/050719_warren_trial/no-more-deaths-volunteer-testifes-leaving-water-migrants-sacred-act/

The barren desert land where migrants have suffered and died, often alone under “excruciating” circumstances is “sacred” and leaving water there is an act of faith, a volunteer for No More Deaths testified as his trial began Monday 5/6/19].

Scott Daniel Warren, 36, is the last of nine volunteers with the Tucson-based humanitarian aid organization facing misdemeanor charges for leaving water, food, clothing, and medicine in the desert in the 860,000-acre Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, near Ajo, a small Arizona town west of Tucson.

Warren faces two misdemeanor charges stemming from an incident in June 2017, when he and a dozen other people entered the refuge to leave humanitarian supplies. Warren was charged with operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area because he drove a white Dodge Ram pickup along an administrative road closed to the public, and for abandonment of property because he and the other members of his group left one-gallon plastic water bottles, cans of beans, blankets, and other supplies near Charlie Bell Well, a remote water station established by ranchers that is now resupplied periodically for animals.

Warren also faces felony charges for harboring after he was arrested on Jan. 17, 2018, at the "Barn," a privately owned building in Ajo, regularly used as a staging point for volunteers. […]

On Monday, Warren testified that his actions that day were part of a sincerely-held religious belief that all life is sacred, and that he was “compelled” to provide aid to migrants, as well as search for their remains, as a volunteer with several aid organizations, including No More Deaths, which operates as a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.


Meanwhile, 250 miles south in El Paso, Texas, activists with Tornillo: The Occupation have now been arrested:


Tornillo: The Occupation

Monday, May 13, 2019 at 10 AM
Facebook post
https://www.facebook.com/creativebrownresistance/posts/2659981200739663

UPDATE: the four activists have been taken into custody inside the El Paso County Jail. […]

The sixteen activists facing criminal charges are part of Tornillo The Occupation, a coalition of various individuals and organizations from El Paso and across the nation that travelled to the borderland to bring attention to the inhumane detention of children at the now-infamous Tornillo detention facility.

The 15 minute action highlighted the stories of Jakelin Caal Maquin, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, and Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, three migrant youth who have died in Border Patrol custody in recent months.

The coalition maintains the allegations made against its members are grossly exaggerated and especially egregious in light of the human rights violations that activists are speaking out against. […]

The coalition believes the charges are part of a deeply troubling pattern of criminalizing both humanitarian aid and those who decry state sanctioned violence. Days before the #Borderland16 warrants were issued in El Paso, students at the University of Arizona were issued criminal charges following a protest against Border Patrol representatives during a presentation on campus. As a result of people pressure, those charges were dropped. In January of 2018, eight members of No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid organization, were arrested for leaving water along known migrant paths in the Arizona desert following their release of a report that exposed a practice of Border Patrol agents destroying life-saving humanitarian aid.

Urging the State to Drop the Charges Against the Tornillo Activists by Karie Luidens

2019-05-13 - Tornillo.png

Monday morning—two hours later. (The week is off to quite a start.)

After checking my email I clicked over to Facebook and found this post at the top of my newsfeed.


Tornillo: The Occupation

Monday, May 13, 2019 at 8:45 AM
Facebook video and press release
https://www.facebook.com/creativebrownresistance/videos/1166745143504873/

BREAKING: The sixteen activists from seven different states including California, New York, Missouri and Texas have been charged in connection with a Feb. 16 protest at the Border Patrol Museum in El Paso, Tx. Three individuals were charged with misdemeanor trespassing and thirteen were charged with felony criminal mischief. 

El Paso Police Department announced warrants have been issued during an April 4 press conference. Today at 8:30 a.m. four of the activists Amanda Tello, Nicolas Cruz, Monica Chan, and Skylar Ruch, are preparing to self-surrendered following a march from Aztec Calendar Park to El Paso County Jail. The activists read personal testimonies about what calls them to this work and are joined by supporters who carry signs urging the state to drop the charges. 


About seven minutes into the video, activist Monica Chan reads this statement:

Our young people who are fleeing from the south are devastatingly criminalized as they live in detention. They are incarcerated by design of our settler colonial society. The world has witnessed the spirit-crushing conditions of pop-up detention centers that separate families and ignore the dignity of people with darker skin. […]

There are many innocent people in prison. It weighs heavy on me that black women are imprisoned at twice the rate as white women. It weighs on me that U.S. policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement devastated the livelihoods of Mexican farmers and forced many to flee their homelands in the first place and come to the U.S. out of survival. They’re only to be met here by hieleras and paramilitary white supremacists with guns. […]

In the revolutionary and loving words of Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Demand They Drop All Charges Against Dr. Scott Walker by Karie Luidens

Humanitarian Aid Is Never a Crime.png

Monday morning—a new week. Things kicked off with a new email from No More Deaths in my inbox:


Pressure the USAO to drop all charges!

Mon, May 13, 2019 at 7:19 AM

From: No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes <dropthecharges@nomoredeaths.org>
To: kluidens@gmail.com

Today in Tucson Federal Court, Dr. Scott Warren's lawyers will argue in a pre-trial hearing that all charges stemming from his January 2017 arrest should be immediately dropped due to the selective nature of Border Patrol’s enforcement activities and that the arrest was a targeted act of political retaliation resulting from No More Deaths’ open criticism of Border Patrol’s human rights abuses.  Read more here.

In response to the growing evidence that we have clearly been targeted by the US Border Patrol, we are asking supporters to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office and demand they drop all charges against Dr. Warren.

CALL TODAY

And then call every day for the next two weeks!  Follow us on social media for updates about the trial and our efforts to get the charges thrown out.


Follow the email’s links and you’ll land on this page, which contains the text below:


From May 13th to May 24th, No More Deaths is asking all supporters to call newly appointed US Attorney Michael Bailey and demand that he drop all charges against Dr. Scott Warren

520.620.7300

Use the sample script below or create your own.  After you calllet us know and sign our petition.

I am calling to demand USDOJ drop all charges against Scott Warren. This is in reference to case 4:18-cr-00223-RCC-BPV.Given the crisis of death and disappearance of undocumented people on the border, humanitarian aid workers must be allowed to perform their life-saving work without government harassment and prosecution. I oppose the intimidation of aid workers.  Humanitarian aid is never a crime!

The Unbearable Weight/Lightness of the Desert by Karie Luidens

2019-05-12 - Foothills.jpeg

This morning I headed out, backpack stocked with sunscreen and a full water bottle. I stopped at Coda Bakery for the number seven—banh mi with tofu—then drove the length of Menaul east to the Sandia Mountain foothills and their many trailheads.

I needed a day outdoors to clear my head.

This wasn’t going to be a hike so much as a light walk. I didn’t even wear my boots; cheap sneakers were enough to grip the gravelly dirt of well-trod paths. I passed guys on mountain bikes, a slow-moving elderly couple with walking sticks, eventually a dozen or more joggers out with their dogs.

What a lovely Sunday, right?

This is the desert, out here on the edges of Albuquerque. But it’s not, you know, the Desert. You can see the city right there in the valley, green with riverside cottonwoods and landscaped parks, glittering under the mild spring sun. The trails aren’t meant to cut the shortest route to a destination: they meander among cholla and flowering prickly pears. The better to let you spot tiny yellow butterflies dancing around your ankles. To stop and press a fingertip into the rubbery new growths cacti put out after the rain like leaf buds on a deciduous tree. To admire the texture of the foothills’ granite boulders and scan the horizon’s haze for other mountain ranges to the west, to the south.

The trails are professionally maintained and labeled with small posts at each fork. One sign pointed to sheltered picnic tables, and that’s where I walked. I settled in with my barely-sipped water bottle and unwrapped my sandwich. Each time a hiker or bicyclist passed, I waved.

What a lovely Sunday.

It is so easy for me to feel safe in my life. My home is secure, my neighbors are friendly, my water is clean, my future looks bright here.

Thus I have the luxury of forgetting day by day that this city, Albuquerque, is an oasis of infrastructure in the desert. In the Desert—the one that stretches endlessly, beyond that hazy horizon, all the way west into Arizona and south into Mexico.

The paths I walked here this morning were blazed for pleasure. There, hidden from view, migrant trails cut carefully through thorns and brush and mountains out of desperate necessity.

I remember hiking out there, however brief the experience was. I remember how my back ached and sweat with the weight of five gallons of water as I struggled on those unseen trails back in March. I found it so hard, even thought I wasn’t in danger—I was just trying to help for a few days.

Now I’m free to forget that weight and stroll with just one small bottle of water for myself.

It’s lighter, easier, leisurely. Lovely. It’s lovely to spend a Sunday thinking only of oneself.

But I won’t forget. Especially now that the Desert is among my memories I won’t forget those who are out there each day, weighted down by supplies and fear, trying to make good time as they work toward their paths’ destinations.

The Bodies in the Brush by Karie Luidens

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The bodies in the brush

By Manny Fernandez in Falfurrias, Tex.
April 18, 2019
The New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/18/us/mexico-border-deaths.html

Last week, President Trump told reporters during his visit to San Antonio that he was shocked to learn that migrants were dying in the South Texas brush after crossing the border illegally.

“I had no idea,” Mr. Trump said. “Nobody has any idea how bad this is.” He added, “Many, many are dying. That was what surprised me.”

The president spoke at a private club last Wednesday at 12:56 p.m. At that very moment, 186 miles to the south, Deputy Bianca Mora with the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office was driving a patrol truck on a caliche road. She was responding to a report of a migrant body on a ranch. It was her second body of the day.

“I don’t know how to explain it but you get used to it,” said Deputy Mora, 25. “I went to one last year and I didn’t have enough body bags. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of bodies that we found. I went initially for one. We picked up three.”


Six weeks ago, when I was working with a group of No More Deaths volunteers out in the desert of southern Arizona, bushwhacking in search of bones, the sight of white teeth in the dirt made my heart explode.

Yesterday, when I was reading the news and saw a headline about No More Deaths volunteers finding more bodies near the U.S.-Mexico border, my heart sank.

In the weeks between the two, there was another article that ruined me. The one quoted above. “The bodies in the brush.”

I didn’t write about this article when I first read it, because… well, because it ruined me. Because after I returned from Arizona I wasn’t just scratched up by catclaw, I was rubbed raw. I hovered in a state of tears or near-tears for days. Anything that’s already happened and is done happening is now just a memory, isn’t it? No, not in those first few weeks back home. My time working to try to prevent deaths in the desert wasn’t yet memory. It was still very much continuing to happen in my body. A faint sunburn glowed warm in my flesh; Sonoran dirt stubbornly lined my fingernails; the dark pricks of blood pulled from me by thorns were dry but not yet healed or peeling. I went about my chores and tried to ignore the desert-death-heat that still encrusted me until, time after time, someone’s careless question or the scent of cooking beans unleashed sudden weeping.

In those weeks it wasn’t a question of remembering or forgetting the desert and its pall of death. I was still wrapped in its dusty shroud. How could I remember or forget an experience that was ongoing in my body and mind?

But time passed. I washed myself each day. My mind and body cooled and healed and softened again. My mind slowly relaxed and slid back into different daydreams.

Here we are, mid-May: my time with No More Deaths at last feels like memories.

Back on April 18, when I read this in-between news story: No More Deaths deaths deaths was still alive in my skin, bones, brain.

And heart. The heart. That old cliché, the heart, the heart of a person, the heart of an issue, the broken hearts of those who grieve, the bleeding hearts of liberals who care about them, the hot wet fist of muscle that squeezes in every chest every second of every human life.

Six weeks ago my heart exploded. Yesterday my heart sank. What did my heart do on April 18 when I read this other news story?

It exploded and smoldered, sank and throbbed, burned and squeezed.

It took over the rest of me. I couldn’t catch my breath—my lungs went dry and tight. My hands shook. I keened so frightfully that my dog came clattering over with his velvety ears folded back to search my face and lick my tears. I said fuck with the intensity of a scream but in a low, soft voice. A hiss. Fuck you, I hissed. Fuck you, Trump, fuck you, fuck you, fuck, fuck, fuck, no more, no more deaths, deaths, death, fuck.

That’s what my heart did.

I didn’t know how to write about it then, so I didn’t.

I’m still not sure if I know how to write about it now, but there you go—I tried.

Multiple Remains Recovered This Week by Karie Luidens

Saguaro Dulcey Lima Unsplash.jpg

My heart sank when I saw this headline.

It sank right down through my chest into the deep well of sorrow that bottoms out in my belly.

It continued to beat down there, but it felt fainter. It felt less like it was pumping life through my now-cold fingers and more like it was weeping in soft throbs.

A different sensation—a very different sensation—from when I was hiking in that Arizona desert six weeks ago, volunteering with No More Deaths, combing thorny hillsides in search of human bones. In the heat and dust and sweat of that day I was all nerves. My tense limbs were like bundled kindling; when I saw the glint of white teeth in the dirt my body was was primed to explode.

A heart exploding is the opposite of a heart sinking.

Both times, though, whether I saw the bones myself or simply read about them, the sudden presence of death hit me hard in the heart.


Multiple remains recovered this week

MAY 8, 2019
No More Deaths release
http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/multiple-remains-recovered-this-week/

TUCSON, AZ:  On Sunday, May 5th, No More Deaths launched a search and rescue mission in the West Desert outside of Ajo, AZ, resulting in the ultimate recovery of four sets of human remains.  The remains were encountered in the Growler Valley, the same valley in which Dr. Scott Warren was issued as citation for leaving water in summer 2017. Dr. Warren has been on trial the past two days and continuing into today for charges related to that incident

The search and rescue was launched in response to a call that came through the No More Deaths Missing Migrant Hotline after family members calling the hotline asked for support in urging Border Patrol’s Search and Rescue arm to initiate a rescue operation and CBP refused to mobilize resources.  The first day of the search resulted in the team encountering a set of skeletal human remains that had been found and reported to the Pima County Sheriff in December 2017 by the Armadillos del Desierto, a San Diego based search and rescue organization. The Sheriff never recovered the body. The second day of the search, volunteers found three more sets of remains within a few miles of a newly installed rescue beacon. 

And the President Laughs and Smirks by Karie Luidens

2019-05-09 - Trump rally.png

President Trump laughs after supporter suggests shooting people who cross US border

Thursday, May 9, 2019 6:46AM
ABC 7 News
https://abc7news.com/5292213/

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. -- During a campaign rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Wednesday night [5/8/19], President Donald Trump joked after someone made a comment that migrants coming into the United States should be shot.

"When you have 15,000 people marching up, and you have hundreds and hundreds of people, and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great ...," Trump said about his concerns with the US-Mexico border. "And don't forget, we don't let them and we can't let them use weapons. We can't. Other countries do. We can't. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?"

That's when someone in the crowd yelled, "Shoot them."

Seconds after the comment, laughter ensued. Trump, who also laughed, shook his head and said, "That's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement."

Funding President Trump's border wall could take $500M from projects at 6 North Carolina military facilities

He then stepped back from the microphone and smirked and the crowd continued to laugh.

The Likelihood of Harm is Reduced Somewhat by the Mexican Government’s Commitment by Karie Luidens

Mexican flag Jorge Aguilar Unsplash.jpg

Trump Administration Can Keep Sending Asylum Seekers to Mexico, Court Rules

By Miriam Jordan
May 7, 2019
The New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/07/us/asylum-seekers-trump-mexico.html

LOS ANGELES — A federal appeals court on Tuesday [5/7/19] ruled that the Trump administration can continue to enforce a policy that returns asylum seekers to Mexico while they wait for an immigration court to decide their cases. […]

The Trump administration unveiled the “Remain in Mexico” program in December [2018] for migrants entering the country in San Diego and has since expanded it to El Paso.

It is intended to crack down on asylum claims, which have soared as Central American migrants have crossed the United States’ southwestern border in ever-larger numbers over the past year.

But forcing asylum applicants to remain in possibly dangerous conditions in Mexico represents a major break from longstanding practice that permitted most migrants who requested asylum to live in the United States while they awaited the outcome of their cases. […]

Legal advocates for migrants have denounced the policy, saying a spike in violence and overwhelmed shelters in Mexican border towns put the migrants at risk.

Being forced to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are being prepared also limits the migrants’ access to legal counsel because they cannot reach the help that is available on the American side of the border, immigration lawyers said. […]

[One lawyer] said that families are being dropped off on the streets of Ciudad Juárez, across the border, where they cannot find space in shelters that are at capacity. Many, she said, are being targeted by robbers and kidnappers. “We have had multiple families kidnapped for extortion,” she said.

But a majority of the three-judge panel concluded that allowing the policy to remain in place for now was not unreasonable.

To summarize…

When people approach our country and file paperwork requesting asylum, normally they’d then remain in the U.S. while they await their day in court. But six months ago the Trump administration created a new policy: immediately send asylum seekers back to Mexico. While they wait, they languish for months in crowded shelters in Tijuana and Juarez, just across the border from San Diego and El Paso.

There’s no practical reason for this policy—there’s no reason why these people shouldn’t be allowed to spend those months in the safety of the U.S. It’s simply punitive, more harsh treatment meant to scare off potential future border crossers.

As such, civil rights groups challenged the policy in court. This week a three-judge panel in San Francisco ruled that, while their legal challenge plays out, the administration can continue to enforce the policy.

The main logic behind that decision appears to be that, although the “Remain in Mexico” policy goes against both the spirit and the letter of international law, it’s acceptable in practice because, where the U.S. falls short in providing asylum seekers with due process and physical safety, Mexico is picking up the slack.

Here are a few quotes from the article reflecting the opinions of those involved:

  • The Republican-appointed judge who wrote the panel’s opinion: “The plaintiffs fear substantial injury upon return to Mexico, but the likelihood of harm is reduced somewhat by the Mexican government’s commitment to honor its international-law obligations.” In other words: The U.S. government is failing to guarantee the safety of these asylum seekers—failing to honor its international-law obligations—but that’s fine, because Mexico is doing it for us.

  • Meanwhile, in Mexico, the article’s author writes: “Mexican officials have said that while they disagree with the policy, which they have described as a unilateral decision by the Trump administration, they would accept the asylum seekers, protect their rights and allow them to lawfully remain in Mexico while their cases wind through the American courts.”

  • The Democrat-appointed judges who dissented: “The government is wrong. Not just arguably wrong, but clearly and flagrantly wrong.” “I’m at a loss to understand how an agency whose professed goal is to comply with non-refoulement principles could rationally decide not to ask that question.“

Detention Settings Compound Previous Trauma by Karie Luidens

Fencing Markus Spiske Unsplash.jpg

Central American women fleeing violence experience more trauma after seeking asylum

By Laurie C. Heffron
April 25, 2019 · 11:45 AM EDT
Public Radio International
https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-04-25/central-american-women-fleeing-violence-experience-more-trauma-after-seeking

According to many studies by scholars like psychologists Katy Robjant and Kalina Brabecklocking immigrants up can damage their mental health by increasing risks of depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. The effects can last years and even a lifetime. For parents, the damage extends beyond detention and may harm children of the detained.

Because detention relies on control, coercion and containment, it inherently makes frightened people more fearful, disrupts sleep and restricts access to medical, legal and social services. […]

Many detained women say they have been abused while being held by US immigration authorities in what appear to be inhumane conditions marked by incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The Department of Homeland Security itself has documented dangers that include the provision of food that isn’t safe to eat, like moldy bread and rotten meat, and delayed medical care.

There are signs of threats and intimidation as well. A woman I’ll call Adelia told my research team that when she asked an immigration official how much money she would have to pay to be released, she was told: “Stop asking me, or I’ll raise the amount.”

Investigative media outletsimmigrant rights advocates and researchers have documented that ICE detainees often face threats, insults, humiliation and stress brought on by constantly changing rules and expectations.

ICE itself has disclosed that 28 women had miscarriages while in detention during the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years.

I have heard directly and through media reports that these immigration detention centers sometimes isolate detained women, either in response to perceived mental health issues or as punishment, leaving them unable to interact with one another, their own children or the volunteer lawyers who are trying to help them.

These practices echo and exacerbate survivors’ experiences with past abuse and violence. That is, detention settings may resemble control tactics used by abusers, traffickers or other perpetrators, compounding previous trauma.

New Tent Structures Built to Detain Migrants by Karie Luidens

Donna TX Tents Border Patrol.jpg

The Reality At The Border: Inside A New Migrant Tent Facility

By REYNALDO LEAÑOS JR.
KSTX Texas Public Radio
MAY 2, 2019
https://www.tpr.org/post/reality-border-inside-new-migrant-tent-facility

DHS recently announced the agency will expand its border detention facilities in Texas with the opening of two new tent-like structures, which were completed this week.

Media gathered inside the 40,000 square foot facility, which is nearly the size of a football field, in Donna for a press briefing and tour.

Executive Officer Carmen Qualia of Border Patrol led the tour.

“What you are in right now is what we refer to as a pod -- one of four detention pods -- and the pods are approximately 8,000 square feet,” said Qualia. […]

The pod had high ceilings with tarp-like walls and was nearly empty. Stacks of thin-black plastic mattresses were pushed up against one wall.

The facility is meant to hold 500 people but could hold even more if necessary. Qualia said the facility was needed.

“I hope it’s enough. I hope it’s enough,” she said. “We would like the flow to slow down and stop all together.” […]

The structure was one of two new tent structures built to detain migrants when they are apprehended at the border or turn themselves in to border officials. The other facility is in El Paso. […]

The agency said migrants detained in these facilities will be released under 72 hours either to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, if they are unaccompanied minors, to Health and Human Services for placement in a shelter or with sponsors.

CBP said they don’t provide legal services to migrants at the temporary holding facility because the facility is not meant for long-term detention.

The first migrants were expected to arrive on Friday [5/3/19].

Over 670 Apprehended by Border Patrol Within 24 Hours by Karie Luidens

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Border Patrol Apprehends 3 Large Groups of Aliens within 24 hours

Border Patrol media release
Release Date: May 3, 2019
https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/border-patrol-apprehends-3-large-groups-aliens-within-24-hours

On May 1 at approximately 1:30 a.m. Border Patrol agents took custody of a large number of illegal aliens at the Camp Bounds Forward Operating Base adjacent to the Antelope Wells port of entry. The majority of individuals from this group are from Central America. The group included family groups with small children as well as unaccompanied juveniles that continue to put their trust and money in smuggling organizations while undertaking the dangerous journey. This particular group had a total of 243 individuals that made the treacherous journey.

About 40 minutes later at 2:10 a.m. U.S. Border Patrol agents in El Paso also encountered a large group of illegal aliens crossing the border and entering the U.S. illegally at the border wall near downtown. This group was made up of 219 people.

On Thursday morning [May 2] another large group was apprehended in Antelope Wells with a total of 209 illegal aliens. This bringing the total to three large groups, and over 670 illegal aliens being apprehended by Border Patrol within 24 hours. This group, like others before, is comprised primarily of Central American families and unaccompanied juveniles.

Strict—Even Cruel—Measures Will Not Stop Those Fleeing for Their Lives by Karie Luidens

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Violence drives immigration from Central America

Sarah Bermeo
Brookings Institute
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2018/06/26/violence-drives-immigration-from-central-america/

The U.S. government argues that people fleeing these places do not fit the technical definition of a refugee, so the U.S. is not obligated to offer them asylum. Yet they fit the spirit of agreements on refugees adopted after World War II. The U.N. refugee agency has concluded “that a significant percentage of those fleeing… may be in need of international protection, in line with the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.”

Under current U.S. policy, most individuals from Northern Triangle countries are subject to deportation. The Obama administration stepped up enforcement following the 2014 surge in unaccompanied minors, in an attempt to deter future arrivals. The Trump administration has recently implemented an even tougher stance. MSF calls these policies “a death sentence for Central Americans fleeing violence.” There are documented cases of individuals being murdered in their home country after being deported by the U.S. […]

U.S. lawmakers call for tougher policies to deter arrivals. But strict—even cruel—measures at our border will not stop those fleeing for their lives. If the violent route through Mexico is not a deterrent, it is unlikely that U.S. policy will be one. With tougher border rules, people fleeing violence are more likely to use traffickers and to pay higher prices, thus providing more resources that strengthen organized criminal groups.

The International Crisis GroupDoctors Without Borders, and the U.N. refugee agency have called for host countries to provide protection instead of repatriation. This would reduce the need to use traffickers to enter the U.S. illegally, keep people out of the shadows, and allow host governments to manage the flow of refugees. The vast majority of those detained at the border from Northern Triangle countries are not gang members, but innocent people fleeing violence. Screening and security precautions can be used to vet arrivals.

In 2016, the U.S. government detained 224,854 people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras —less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the U.S. population. If they were allowed to stay, and even if the rate were maintained for a decade, it would still be a much smaller share of the U.S. population than previous waves of Irish, Italians, and Russian Jews. These groups were also greeted with suspicion, but now few would deny their value as Americans. Far from being an economic drain, refugees contribute to the economy, driven to succeed and often innovative.

A Legal Challenge to Barr’s Order to Imprison Asylum Seekers Indefinitely by Karie Luidens

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Yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union announced it was filing a lawsuit challenging the Attorney General’s order from a few weeks ago.

Remember the order? William Barr instructed immigration judges to reverse years of precedent in which they allow border crossers who request asylum in the U.S. to be released on bond while they await their court hearing. If this order is implemented, thousands more immigrants will be incarcerated indefinitely.

This is an absurd decision to make at a time when DHS spokespeople say that immigration detention centers are already filled to capacity and they need to construct new tent cities to house everyone they’re arresting. A logical leader would be looking for ways to decrease the number of people in detention, not increase it.

More to the point, the order is an affront to human rights: it deprives immigrants of due process.

I’m so glad we have organizations like the ACLU that fight abusive policies and defend people’s rights and liberties. Here’s an excerpt from their press release on the latest turn of events, which not only explains the basic legal arguments in question but describes what they (and I) believe to be the true motivation behind Barr’s otherwise counterproductive move: treating immigrants inhumanely as a way to deter future immigration.

Attorney General Barr Says ICE Has Power to Lock Up Asylum Seekers Without Hearings

By Michael Tan, Senior Staff Attorney
ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
MAY 2, 2019 | 7:30 PM
https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/immigrants-rights-and-detention/attorney-general-barr-says-ice-has-power-lock

Today the ACLU, the ACLU of Washington, the American Immigration Council, and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project launched a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s latest assault on people who have come to the United States to seek refuge from persecution: jailing asylum seekers without even allowing a judge to decide if there’s any reason to lock them up. Attorney General William Barr’s recent decision in Matter of M-S- seeks to eliminate this basic form of due process and puts thousands of asylum seekers at risk of being wrongfully imprisoned.  […]

For more than a century, the Supreme Court has held that all persons who have entered the United States have due process rights, and the Court has emphasized that “[f]reedom from imprisonment . . . lies at the heart of the liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. The bedrock form of due process against unlawful detention is a hearing, before a neutral adjudicator, to decide if the person should be locked up. M-S- violates that basic right.

The decision is also pointlessly cruel and irrational. It makes no sense to lock people up without even having a judge consider whether they should be detained—it simply guarantees that we will imprison people who don’t need to be imprisoned. That is especially true when it comes to asylum seekers. Studies confirm that asylum seekers pose no threat to public safety and are highly motivated to fight their cases and show up for court. And nothing about a hearingprevents detention in the rare case where someone does pose a risk: the judge can just deny release. 

But ultimately this isn't about rational immigration policy or protecting public safety. The Trump administration always has made its real motives clear: it wants to deter immigrants from seeking refuge in the United States and punish people who apply for protection under our laws. But our Constitution does not allow the government to put people behind bars without due process of law.

 

Asylum Officers Forced to Refuse Safe Haven to People Facing Peril by Karie Luidens

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Exclusive: Civil servants say they’re being used as pawns in a dangerous asylum program

Asylum officers worry they’re being forced to send some Central Americans to wait in Mexico — even when they’re in danger of persecution there.

By Dara Lind
May 2, 2019, 11:20am EDT
Vox.com
https://www.vox.com/2019/5/2/18522386/asylum-trump-mpp-remain-mexico-lawsuit

The first time that one immigration officer interviewed an asylum seeker under new Trump administration protocols, the officer went back to their hotel room, turned up the shower as hot as it would go, and tried to wash off the feeling of being manipulated.

The officer had just listened to the Central American’s story of threats from drug cartels during his journey through Mexico en route to the US, and believed the man’s life was in danger. “This was a guy truly afraid he was going to be murdered, and frankly, he might be,” the officer told Vox.

But the officer “wasn’t even allowed to make an argument” that the asylum seeker should be allowed to stay in the US to pursue his case. They signed — feeling they had no choice — a form stating the migrant wasn’t likely to be persecuted in Mexico, and therefore could be safely returned.

Many asylum officers are concerned that the integrity of their office is at stake — along with their names. […]

As unprecedented numbers of Central American families come to the US-Mexico border, most of whom enter the asylum process, the Trump administration has put asylum officers in the crosshairs. The White House is pressuring the Department of Homeland Security to raise the standards for traditional screening interviews, and reportedly laying the groundwork for Border Patrol agents — who are assumed to be “tougher” on migrants — to conduct those interviews instead.

To human rights advocates, those plans risk running afoul of international law. The administration’s rhetoric, from President Trump’s tendency to mock asylum seekers at rallies to the claims of pervasive “fraud” in the system, conjures a future in which officers on the ground will be forced to refuse safe haven in the US to people who may well face peril when sent back.

But the asylum officers who spoke to Vox under the auspices of their union believe they’ve already seen that future — they see a US asylum system that has all but turned its back on people fleeing persecution in their home countries. And even if the specific “return to Mexico” policy is held up in court, they worry a fundamental norm has been broken that can’t be repaired.

What Is Unlawful is Turning Away Asylum Seekers by Karie Luidens

AJ+ video.png

Turned Away at the Border

“There isn't enough space”: Customs and Border Protection tells a young Guatemalan migrant seeking asylum to go back to Mexico.

AJ+
Facebook video
Posted Monday, April 29, 2019
https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/845876599109461/

U.S. border agent, standing in the center of an international bridge, speaking to a Guatemalan girl attempting to to cross from Mexico into the U.S. to claim asylum: Did you hear that more than 100,000 people are coming every month? That’s a lot of people. There isn’t enough space and so Mexico has been so gracious in helping us provide lodging to people.

Cynthia Pompa, ACLU Border Rights Center, explaining the scene to the camera: A young migrant girl showed up to present herself at a port of entry and was told by a CBP official that she needed to go back and find an agent, a Mexican agent, and get herself on a list. She was really confused and lost.

I saw a young boy who showed up by himself to request asylum.

What is unlawful is how CBP is standing in the middle of international bridges, right on the international line, turning away asylum seekers.

The State is Legally Bound to Listen to Refugees’ Stories by Karie Luidens

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A Citizen Is Obliged To Listen

When a refugee flees to another country and claims asylum, she is, in effect, petitioning the state to listen to her story.
Ankita Chakraborty
Longreads
February 2019
https://longreads.com/2019/02/26/a-citizen-is-obliged-to-listen/

When a refugee flees to another country and claims asylum, she is, in effect, petitioning the state to listen to her story. The state provides the refugee with lawyers, asylum officers and immigration judges who, each in their own capacity, have to just listenAccording to the 1967 Protocol of the Refugee Convention, the refugee has every right to tell her story to the state and the state is legally bound to listen to it. Listening to a story might also expose the state to the possibility of a change of mind and even a favorable decision for the refugee. It is for this reason, in a clever evasion of legal responsibility, that countries like France, Italy and the United Kingdom now surveil the seas, intercepting migrant boats en route and returning them to where they came from before they’ve even arrived; or why Donald Trump last December put a ban on asylum seekers from entering the country and has since then been keeping them detained in Mexico; or why he has recently attempted to ban Central American children from applying as refugees when they are already in the U.S., advising them to instead apply from where they live, through a process that does not exist. The point is to distance refugees from their legally-bound listeners, protecting the listeners from being moved by those stories. […]

In the world’s “safe” countries, there is still no stigma against deportation. When talking about refugees, we have been so focused on the number of them moving in, that it is appalling how little we talk about who is being sent back. […] this is not a world of citizens beleaguered by a tide of refugees, but a world of refugees trapped in the age of the citizen.

This Strategic Exploitation of Our Nation’s Humanitarian Programs by Karie Luidens

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Today, our president issued a memorandum to the attorney general and secretary of homeland security. Click here to read the whole document in PDF form; I’ve pulled excerpts below.


Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2019

MEMORANDUM FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL / THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY

SUBJECT: Additional Measures to Enhance Border Security and Restore Integrity to Our Immigration System

In March, more than 100,000 inadmissible aliens were encountered seeking entry into the United States. Many aliens travel in large caravans or other large organized groups, and many travel with children. The extensive resources required to process and care for these individuals pulls U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel away from securing our Nation's borders. Additionally, illicit organizations benefit financially by smuggling illegal aliens into the United States and encouraging abuse of our asylum procedures. This strategic exploitation of our Nation's humanitarian programs undermines our Nation's security and sovereignty. The purpose of this memorandum is to strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process.

Within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, as applicable, shall take all appropriate actions to:

(c) propose regulations setting a fee for an asylum application not to exceed the costs of adjudicating the application, as authorized by section 208(d)(3) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1158(d)(3)) and other applicable statutes, and setting a fee for an initial application for employment authorization for the period an asylum claim is pending; and

(d) propose regulations under section 208(d)(2) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1158(d)(2)) and other applicable statutes to bar aliens who have entered or attempted to enter the United States unlawfully from receiving employment authorization before any applicable application for relief or protection from removal has been granted, and to ensure immediate revocation of employment authorization for aliens who are denied asylum or become subject to a final order of removal.

DONALD J. TRUMP

###


Here’s what that means for people who flee their home countries and cross our border to seek asylum: they’ll be required to pay a fee to file their asylum request, and they won’t be allowed to apply for a temporary work permit while they wait for the courts to process that request.

Here in the borderlands, on the ground, churches, charities, volunteers, and local governments are doing everything they can to provide asylum seekers with basic help when they’re released from detention—hugs, hot soup, the first shower they’ve had in days or weeks, cots and blankets so they’re not sleeping on rocky dirt or concrete floors.

Back in Washington, far from the people affected, the Trump administration’s response to the border’s humanitarian crisis is always to criminalize and crack down. To victimize the victims, more and more, over and over. Now? Now they’re monetizing the asylum process, demanding money from the destitute while denying them any way to earn money in our country.