Daily Dispatch 5/17/2019

Trump’s immigration plan


Yesterday Trump announced an immigration plan that was broadly focused on two themes: Border security and reform of our visa system. Video and transcript available here.

On border security, Trump’s plan calls for the construction of more wall along sections of the border. He is also calling for technological improvements at ports of entry that will allow scanning of all vehicles. A border security trust fund, would be created from fees assigned at the border, to cover the costs of these changes.

Trump also repeated his claims about abuse of the asylum process by those with “meritless claims.” However, there was little of substance on asylum proceedings. As we noted yesterday, Lindsey Graham has offered legislation that would gut the asylum process. We can only assume that some of these measures would be attached to any comprehensive reform effort. Indeed, Trump encouraged passage to Graham’s “reforms” during his speech.

On the visa system Trump was more specific on goals, less specific on means.

The reforms are touted as focused on creating a “merit-based” system that would replace current preferences given to family members of U.S citizens and permanent residents. From NBC News:

The White House estimates 12 percent of people who obtain green cards and citizenship do so based on “employment and skill,” while 66 percent enter via family-based connections and 22 percent through humanitarian visas and the diversity lottery. Under the new proposal, employment and skill would increase to 57 percent, 33 percent for family-based and 10 percent for everything else.

The merit-based system proposal is centered around what would be called the “Build America” visa. It recognizes three categories: extraordinary talent, professional and specialized vocations, and exceptional students.

The plan, as announced, would be a significant overhaul of the system, one that would impact millions of people currently waiting for visas around the world. Stuart Anderson, writing for Forbes, explains:

Under the proposal, more than 4 million people waiting in family and employment-based green card backlogs would have their immigration applications eliminated, even if they have been waiting in line for years to immigrate.

“Immigrants in the green card backlog would lose their place in line and would need to apply under the new point-based system,” according to an analysis from Berry Appleman & Leiden. “The White House has said people who are currently waiting for green cards will receive additional points, but no specifics have been released.” This was confirmed by Donald Trump’s May 16, 2019, speech, in which he stated that all current family and employment-based preference categories would be eliminated and replaced by new “Build America” visas awarded by points.

Anderson concludes: The most common argument made against helping Dreamers and others without legal status is that we should welcome immigrants to America who have waited patiently to immigrate and have “played by the rules.” The irony is that over 4 million people who have waited patiently in immigration backlogs and played by the rules have just been told they have wasted their time.

Part of the plan outlined by Trump would include a civics test that must be passed prior to receiving a visa. Some reflection on this:

“This test is at best unnecessary and could screen out some very skilled, ambitious immigrants who are ready to be productive in America, whatever the test says,” said Daniel Griswold, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and co-director of its Trade and Immigration Project.

“It could be a barrier to very productive immigrants becoming a part of American society,” he said.

Griswold and others said that while the details of Trump’s proposal remain unclear, they have never heard of such a requirement at that level in the immigration process. Such exams are usually part of citizenship tests, they said.

“It’s like asking for people to apply for citizenship when they arrive,” said Theresa Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank. “It’s a big thing to ask of people from other parts of the world.”

[Note: It might be interesting to require members of Congress to take the test before voting on any legislation related to immigration.

Trump’s plan did not directly address issues impacting people already living in the United States: No mention of a legislative solution for people currently protected from removal proceedings under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or Temporary Protected Status. As is, Trump’s efforts to end these programs is tied up in federal courts. 

The Trump plan will be presented to Congress at some point. Once it has been translated into legislative language that references the specific changes to current law necessary to implement these proposals, we will have a better sense of what is at stake. Currently, Trump seems to be mostly testing the waters and his re-election campaign talking points. However, these reforms would have a dramatic long-term impact on our visa system, so we must take them seriously.

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Statelessness: The Unending Plight of Haitians

Most Haitians, whether in Haiti or abroad, experience a form of statelessness. This refers to the condition of not being considered a national by any State under its laws. Jus soli Haitians living in Haiti are citizens by birth. Their statelessness, however, speaks to the nature of their existence in the world as they are not afforded the rights and protections that come with being a citizen inside or outside of Haiti.

Image result for Haitian Citizens leaving country
Children march with the Haitian and American flags. Joe Raedle/Getty

Citizenship is a legal concept denoting ‘in-ness’ and ‘out-ness.’ It serves as a framework for the social contract that exists between a government and its constituents. This contract suggests a mutual obligation between the state and its citizens: the state provides the security of law, and in exchange citizens provide support to the state, materially in the form of taxes, or less directly, allegiance to, or participation in, the process of governing. The state of Haiti exists, but lacks capacity to deliver basic services to its citizens. And because the state is unable to fulfill the basic functions, third parties step in to do the job (NGOs, philanthropists, etc.). This has created a cycle, whereby the state’s weakness becomes the entree for non-governmental organizations, whose very presence acts to further weaken the state’s capacity. Which is to say, Haitians, even within Haiti, are living a stateless existence.

Haitians are leaving this situation of de facto statelessness in Haiti. But when they do, they become “othered” elsewhere – i.e., in but not of the community – physically present but not deserving of legal status. Which is to say, when people do leave Haiti, they are met with inexplicable contempt that reeks of anti-blackness and classism.

Traditionally, Haitians have migrated in large number to the Dominican Republic, the United States, neighboring Caribbean islands, and Canada. A number of Haitians have recently sought refuge in Chile, where nearly 150,000 Haitians (a little over 1% of the country’s population) have migrated in the last two years alone. Chile has become a promising destination  (or really just an alternative) for thousands of Haitians seeking work in Chile’s growing economy. Concerned, the Chilean government has returned hundreds of Haitians to Haiti on what it refers to as “humanitarian flights” in recent months. This forced deportation has been described by the Chilean government as “voluntary” even though it requires that Haitians leaving Chile sign a declaration saying they won’t return for nine years and must take any immediate family back with them.

Haitians do not pose a threat to Chile.

Yet they have been shipped back to where they came from by the boatloads for the sole purpose of cutting migrant numbers. It appears that no matter how willing Haitians are to work or even to renounce their citizenship, they remain unwelcomed.

Since the Trump administration’s announcement to end temporary protected status for Haitians back in 2017, much fear and anxiety have ensued. Haiti has yet to recover from several natural disasters, incidents of international theft, and indemnity. TPS recipients living in the United States do not necessarily have homes in Haiti, let alone family. And even if they do, 25% of Haiti’s GDP stems from the Haitian diaspora sending money back home. This decision would take an even worse toll on the Haitian people who rely on their family members living in the U.S. for support.

In March of this year, House Democrats proposed the Dream and Promise Act, which would allow for over 2.5 million people living in the U.S. (through DACA, TPS, etc.) to apply for legal status which could place them on the path to permanent citizenship. While this news is exciting for Haitian TPS recipients who feared deportation, it doesn’t guarantee that they will remain in the United States. For one thing, the bill is not likely to pass in the current environment.

What says the Haitian Constitution of the government’s duty to the Haitian people? What makes someone a citizen of Haiti other than having been born on Haitian soil and a legal document to prove (if even they are able to gain access to this)? Have we lost faith in the democratic process? Or have we lost faith in the Haitian government; did we ever have faith in the Haitian government – let alone imagine that they were capable of governing? It is still the job of the Haitian government to maintain a system of checks and balances, so that development NGOs don’t have the option of trading aid for sex with teenage girls? It is still the job of the Haitian government to maintain a sanitation system so that the Haitian people don’t have to burn their trash in the streets, releasing pathogens into the air and further spreading disease-causing bacteria?

It is fair to argue that when a government ceases to invest in its citizens and ceases to maintain security for its citizens, especially from harm done by foreigners, those citizens are not citizens. They become people moving from one place to another in search of the protections that governments are supposed to provide.

Obviously, the role of the U.S. government and outside aid organizations crippling Haiti’s economy and state building capacity has to be explored. While the exploitative practices that have plagued Haiti for generations persist, it is no longer enough to say that they are the primary reason why the Haitian government has not been able to carry out the most basic functions of the state.

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Isabella Louis is a recent graduate of Goucher College. She majored in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies with a focus on Africana Studies. Louis identifies as a Haitian-American, first-generation, black feminist. In her free time, Louis enjoys reading and writing on the Haitian state, singing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.

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Daily Dispatch 5/16/2019

Trump to discuss immigration plan in speech today

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Daily Dispatch

May 16, 2019


Image result for daca immigration

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump is scheduled to give a speech today in which he will unveil details of a plan on immigration crafted by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Administration officials have already released some information on the plan, which does not address the situation of undocumented immigrants within the United States at all. Rather it is a mix of border security proposals and introducing new formulas for legal entry. A summary from NPR

The plan, as described by the administration official, 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 US each year. Here are the elements of the proposal as described to reporters:

      • Securing the border: Finishing the border wall
      • Protecting American wages: Stemming the flow of low-wage labor
      • Attract and retain the best and brightest immigrants
      • Prioritize nuclear families: It would limit which family members can come to the country to children and spouses
      • Import labor for critical industries
      • Preserve humanitarian values: Keep asylum system, but limit it.

The plan does not include any provision for Dreamers, young people brought into the country as children, who currently have protection from deportation proceedings and can get work permits – provided they register with DHS. Trump has tried to end the Obama program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that provides these protections. The future of DACA is currently tied up in court actions. Creating a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers has been a primary concern of Democrats. They have been working on a bill in the House, but that is tied up in disagreements over qualifications for protection.

Trump’s plan seems geared toward securing Republican support around this particular set of ideas, and may be best read as an election strategy more than a legislative proposal. Because Trump’s plan does not reduce legal immigration levels, it is already facing criticism from the hardliners. Absent some proposal to extend DACA through legislation, the Democrats won’t join on board. So, in its current form, the plan is not likely to go far.

If interested in watching Trump’s address in the Rose Garden today, it can be viewed here at 2:30 EST.

Image result for Lindsey Graham Immigration

Meanwhile Lindsey Graham…

…has introduced legislation to revamp the asylum process. From CNN:

The legislation would change the system in three substantial ways: It would require migrants seeking asylum to apply at a consulate or embassy in their home country or in Mexico, instead of at the southern border; it would increase the amount of time that migrant children could stay in custody from 20 days to 100 days; and make it easier for officials to deport unaccompanied minors to Central America.

The measure also calls for 500 new immigration judges to chip away at the massive immigration court backlog.

There are a lot of problems with this plans. First, it is worth noting that the Trump administration ended a program set up by the Obama administration to allow people to apply for asylum at embassies in Central America last year. The program was not very effective in the sense that it took a very long time to process claims, but it did offer a way for people to seek asylum before making the trip to the United States border. Increasing the amount of time that children can be held to 100 days is an end around the Flores Settlement Agreement and won’t work. The administration is already trying to establish new rules to get around the 20 day limit – these will be reviewed by the judge responsible for administering the Flores Settlement, and is not likely to be approved. Adding new immigration judges is not an inherently bad idea – but immigration judges operate under the Department of Justice, not the Federal Courts, and thus the Attorney General will oversee this process with little oversight. That is not good news for immigrants.

Graham’s bill is not likely to go far. But provisions could get bundled with other elements of Trump’s plan if that plan ever makes into actual legislation. For now though, immigration remains the vehicle for political grandstanding. Workable solutions seem a distant prospect.

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You Can’t Separate Immigration from Family Values

Whenever an election comes around, people want to know about candidates’ position on “family values.” Most of the time when people talk about family values they mean where a candidate stands on marriage or abortion. Very rarely does this coded language include genuine concern about families because if it did, we wouldn’t see the continued abuse of migrant children and families at the border under the Trump’s administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

Photo courtesy of CNN

CNN released heart-wrenching photos of migrant families at the McAllen, Texas Border Patrol station that show children sleeping outside on the ground, some covered by Mylar blankets. Another photo shows a woman clutching a child and leaning against a wall. All of the photos confirm the horrific conditions migrants face at the hands of the U.S. government.

The article states:

An official from the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Customs and Border Protection, responded to the photos in a statement saying in part: ‘As multiple DHS officials have been warning for months, the border security and humanitarian crisis continues to worsen. Current facilities and funding are inadequate for migrant flows.’ The official cited the administration’s request for additional resources to house migrants, and legislative changes to stem the flow of migrants.  

Investigations into the conditions at holding stations and in detention centers have already uncovered inhumane conditions and gross abuses. We’ve heard audio of children crying for their parents and families, and we’ve seen the videos of children who’ve been reunited with their parents and the concerning behavior they demonstrated after the trauma of being ripped from their families for months. On Mother’s Day, the Phenomenal Women Action Campaign and Families Belong Together mobilized mothers all over the country and launched the Phenomenal Mother Movement in an attempt to stand in solidarity with migrant families and raise awareness.  

When are we going to get real? If we don’t think about the conditions of migrant children and families in these holding stations and detention centers and demand answers from the administration, then we can’t honestly say we care about family values. You can’t compartmentalize immigration and family values.

If you want to learn more about how you can help, please check out the following organizations:

Families Belong Together

Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign


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Daily Dispatch 5/15/019

State and local edition

Adelanto cuts ties with ICE detention facility

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Daily Dispatch

May 15, 2019


Adelanto, California is home to a large detention facility run by the GEO Group – the largest private prison company contracting with Immigration and Custom Enforcement to incarcerate immigrants. Last month the city-manager announced that the city would end its agreement with ICE to manage the facility. What might look like a local victory to cut ties with a detention facility is, under the surface, an apparent move by the GEO Group to escape local and state oversight. Liz Martinez of Freedom for Immigrants and others expressed their concerns in a report in the Guardian yesterday:

Martinez and other critics fear Geo is manipulating local officials and hoping to directly contract with Ice. Without a local government involved in the contract, the company could sidestep a new, strict state law that restricts and regulates the private prison industry…

“If you’ve got a communication string just between Ice and a private facility, there’s obviously going to be a lot less transparency, which leads to less accountability,” said Phil Torrey, managing attorney of Harvard University’s immigration and refugee program. Torrey also noted that without the city involved in the contract, Ice and Geo would not have to comply with several disclosures required by federal and state law.

The decision emerged from an agreement between the city manager, Jessie Flores and ICE CEO, George Zoley, with no input from the city council or public comment. There was an effort to reopen discussion of the decision by the city council in late April, but the city’s attorney indicated that neither ICE or GEO group was willing to revisit the decision. GEO is likely looking to expand the facility – and the city could push back by refusing to issue land use permits. This looks like the next battle.

“We demand a just and proper [facility] closure that ensures everyone is released and has access to legal representation,” said Martinez of Freedom for Immigrants. “The city of Adelanto can’t simply wash their hands of this. They have an obligation to answer to the community and to intervene and prevent any future permitting of an expansion.”

Read the full story here.

Georgia shutters Immigration Review Panel

The state of Georgia’s legislature created the Immigration Enforcement Review Panel in 2011 as part of a package of anti-immigration laws. The purpose of the panel, officially at least, was to hear complaints from individuals concerning the failure to enforce state immigration laws. The eight person panel, however, never achieved anything and simply became a platform for grandstanding. During its first six years the panel heard 20 complaints, all but one from the same person D.A. King, “the well-known anti-illegal immigration activist.”

The panel got into trouble during the last gubernatorial election:

Its demise was hastened last year by then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a candidate for governor who filed a complaint shortly before the GOP primary alleging that the city of Decatur was creating sanctuaries for criminals.The city’s officials accused Cagle of trying to use the board to pander to conservatives with a baseless claim, noting that the Republican quickly invoked his fight against the liberal bastion of Decatur in digital ads and stump speeches. Cagle failed to show up at a hearing on the complaint, and at another meeting weeks later, a board member challenged a Decatur attorney to “talk to me out in the hall” in a bizarre and testy confrontation.

The review panel was sued by the city of Decatur and lost, forced to pay the city’s attorney’s fees. The panel had become so unpopular, that even the staunchly anti-immigrant governor Brian Kemp signed off on legislation to shut it down.

Read the full story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

051019 ICE jails Louisiana map

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Advocate

Louisiana’s prison population is shrinking – but immigrant incarceration is growing

The state of Louisiana has doubled its capacity to detain immigrants under new contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in recent months. Already the site of the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Jena, which is run by the GEO Group and holds 1,200 people, several Louisiana sherif departments have entered into agreements with ICE to detain immigrants. This comes as Louisiana’s incarceration rate, the highest in the country several years ago, has been falling following major reform legislation in 2017.

“It seemed that Louisiana was ready to move away from its dependence on mass incarceration through its efforts at justice reinvestment,” said Jamila Johnson, a senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s disheartening to see that it continues to rely heavily on it through its switch to the mass incarceration of civil detainees.”

This year, ICE began using River Correctional Center (500 beds), Jackson Parish Correctional Center (1,000 beds) and Richwood Correctional Center (1,000 beds) to house detainees, said Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman.

Johnson said these efforts began in September after the agency contracted with Bossier Medium Security Facility in Bossier Parish to house up to 240 detainees.

Read the full story here.

For more information, check out:
Adelanto cuts ties to troubled ICE detention center — and removes a layer of oversight
With Unanimous Approval, Georgia Shuts Down Immigration ‘Kangaroo Court’
As fewer inmates fill Louisiana jails, wardens turn to immigration officials to fill bunks, budgets

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Daily Dispatch 5/14/2019

Spotlight on local action: Father Roy Snipes

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Daily Dispatch

May 14, 2019


As the sun begins to rise, Father Roy Snipes opens a sunrise Mass at La Lomita chapel near Mission. Snipes began holding Mass each Friday at 6:55 a.m. last fall to ask for divine intervention for those seeking asylum. “When we come out here in the morning and you see the sun begin to peak up and you hear the birds chirping, it’s a special experience that brings you back to our roots in this land,” said Snipes.  
(Ryan Michalesko/Staff Photographer/Dallas Morning News)

The Dallas Morning News ran a nice profile of Father Roy Snipes, a Catholic priest, who has led the battle against the construction of the wall in Mission, Texas. If built as planned, the wall would cut off his small church, La Lomita, from the community. His and others’ efforts led Congress to include a ban on building a barrier around the church in a last minute budget deal this February. The victory is not certain, and Father Roy continues to speak out against the national mood on immigration:

The situation remains precarious. With this emergency, [Trump] can still take funds from somewhere else to build his wall,” said Snipes. “We are the world’s richest, most powerful and smartest [sic] people on earth, so we should be able to come out with something better than a damn wall. We need to remember our humanity, our decency and humility as a country and as a people.

Read the full profile here.

Immigration and Crime

From the first days of the presidential campaign Trump has peppered his stump speeches with claims that immigrants bring crime. He has never let up. While it is true that some immigrants commit crime, there is no evidence that increased immigration generally leads to more violent crime. None. No where. Last year a large study conducted by the Marshall Project, in collaboration with several universities, investigated the link between immigration and violent crime and concluded:

According to data from the study, a large majority of the areas have many more immigrants today than they did in 1980 and fewer violent crimes. The Marshall Project extended the study’s data up to 2016, showing that crime fell more often than it rose even as immigrant populations grew almost across the board.

In 136 metro areas, almost 70 percent of those studied, the immigrant population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell. The number of areas where crime and immigration both increased was much lower — 54 areas, slightly more than a quarter of the total. The 10 places with the largest increases in immigrants all had lower levels of crime in 2016 than in 1980.

Faced with actual evidence, true believers changed the argument: immigration may not lead to increased crime overall, but “illegal” immigration does lead to more violent crime.

Nope. Not true either. A new study by the Marshall Project that focused solely on the impact of undocumented migration similarly found no connection between undocumented immigration and increases in violent crime rates. The Marshall Project is not alone in these findings:

The results of the analysis resemble those of other studies on the relationship between undocumented immigration and crime. Last year, a report by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, found that unauthorized immigrants in Texas committed fewer crimes than their native-born counterparts. A state-level analysis in Criminology, an academic journal, found that undocumented immigration did not increase violent crime and was in fact associated with slight decreases in it. Another Cato study found that unauthorized immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated.

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Daily Dispatch 5/13/2019

Net immigration is down…so why all the fuss?

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May 13, 2019


While the Donald and others preen about a crisis of “illegal” immigration, the reality is that immigration numbers are down – across the board. The recent spike in arrests at the border might seem like an exception – but two months is not yet a trend – and despite the panic exhibited by the GOP, even this spike is not that high by historical standards. Indeed, far from exceptional, it tracks with historical seasonal patterns where border crossing is higher in the spring. The crisis at the border is the disgraceful way people are being treated – not the number coming in.

That said, the U.S. Census Bureau released a detailed, county by county, map documenting migration patterns across the United States. The map breaks down “net immigration,” i.e. the number of immigrants who move into the United States, minus the number of people leaving the United States to move abroad. For the nation as a whole, net international immigration is down for last year: 978,826 people for 2017-2018 compared to 1,111,283 people in 2016-2017.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the country is unaffected. Geographically, 90% of the U.S. has seen either negative net immigration, no change, or an increase of 0-2 people per 1,000 residents. The parts of the country that have seen an increase tend to be larger cities; the state with the biggest growth rate being Florida.

There are exceptions. One is Beadle County, South Dakota which has the highest rate of growth at 26.8 net new immigrants per 1,000 residents (though the total number of new folk was just 499). The driving force there is meat packing. Dakota Provisions packs 200 million pounds of turkey a year in the county seat of Huron. Beadle County has also developed a reputation for being (relatively) welcoming of new folk, especially Karen refugees from Myanmar. According to an estimate from a few years ago, Karen immigrants held 1 out of 9 jobs in Huron, and the county was looking for ways to encourage more immigration while making their transition within the community easier.

Another outlier is Colifax County in Nebraska with a growth rate of 16.9 net new immigrants per 1,000 residents (193 total). Unlike Beadle County, however, Colifax is less officially welcoming. Nearby Fremont, for example, passed a city ordinance in 2016 banning the “harboring” or employing of undocumented immigrants. Last year, the city of Scribner in Colifax also considered an ordinance to ban the renting of housing to undocumented immigrants. Like Beadle County, the draw is meat packing. Costco is building a huge chicken processing facility in the area, and both the construction and the long-term employment are expected to bring immigrants into the community. Some of the nervousness from city officials is thus driven in part by anticipated impacts of new development. Nebraska overall has relatively low levels of net immigration. In some parts of the state net immigration is negative.

Donald Trump stands with Border Patrol agents and others after his visit to a U.S. Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, on January 10, 2019. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump stands with Border Patrol agents and others after his visit to a U.S. Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, on January 10, 2019. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) 

One lesson, or at least reasonable hypothesis, is that Trump’s rhetoric seems to have the most impact in places the least touched by actual immigration. Communities that have seen large influxes of immigration in recent years, even small towns, have responded in different ways. In Jefferson County, Iowa, for example, net immigration has grown 11.9 per 1,000 residents – also placing it in the top ten. Jefferson County responded to the increase by becoming a Sanctuary County. So, as much as it is tempting to read Trump’s immigration policy through the red-blue line, the social impact of immigration is far more nuanced. Communities where immigration is increasing are, by and large, more welcoming even in “red states.” Of course, there are exceptions. However, this does suggest that there is ample room for Democrats and others to craft a far more nuanced message regarding immigration, one that is positive and seeks a humane response.

For more information, check out:
5 Facts about Illegal Immigration in the U.S. (Pew Research Center)
What Immigration Crisis? The U.S. Isn’t Being Swamped (Bloomberg)
Falling Illegal Immigration Numbers Confirm No Border Crisis (Forbes)

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From Palaces to Courtrooms

Yesterday, Pope Francis released a motu proprio called “Vos estis lux mundi” [You are the light of the world”] offering new guidelines for leaders within the Catholic church on how to respond to clerical sexual abuse. 

In Vatican parlance, a motu proprio is an official statement from the Pope that lays out a situation and on which he then makes a papal decree. The motu proprio is the most hierarchical of all documents, since it is issued only in the name of the Pope.

“Vos estis lux mundi” deals with crimes of sexual abuse and, for most of the brief document, there is little to surprise anyone who understands the monarchy that we call the Roman Catholic church. And problems within a hierarchy can only propose hierarchical solutions, unless they want to threaten the system. We should not therefore be surprised that Pope Francis proposes escalating problems to higher authorities within the church as a key part of the solution.

Some are celebrating the answer of bringing the concern higher up in the chain of command but there is reason for caution on this front. We all know that John Paul II had been informed about the case against Marcial Maciel, a serial sexual abuser, and that he continued to publicly praise him.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta responded to a question about the myopia of escalating the matter internally. As covered in the National Catholic Reporter:

Asked about why the apostolic letter does not mandate the involvement of lay experts in abuse investigations undertaken by metropolitan archbishops, Scicluna noted that metropolitans can ask lay people for help, but said: “We’re a Catholic Church, we’re not a congregational church.”

The message here seems to be that Catholic male clerics do not really need lay people to resolve problems, but they can call on them, on the rare occasions they deem it advisable. Asking why lay people are not involved is tantamount to saying that you do not understand how power is distributed in the Catholic church.  

But what if a critical element of the cause of the abuse is somehow the hierarchical structure itself, which elevates some people to a god-like status that tells them they bear the indelible mark of Christ-like priestliness on their very souls? 

The truly groundbreaking piece of the motu propio, I would argue, is the last provision: 

Art. 19 – Compliance with state laws

These norms apply without prejudice to the rights and obligations established in each place by state laws, particularly those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities.

Some commentators have already noted that reporting is not mandatory in all cases, but rather only in cases where the local government requires such reporting. But if it is the case that a local state does not require such reporting, that is a matter that can be addressed locally, offering at least a possible path toward greater accountability, which is why this article seems to break new ground.

Even as the rest of the motu proprio reinforces the sense that more patriarchy is the solution to the problem, the final article shows openness to a secular judicial process that does not elevate the accused to the inaccessible exalted heights of a clerical Olympus – a place beyond human accountability. No more, we can hope, will members of the clerical class, even bishops and Vatican officials working abroad, be permitted to hide behind clerical privilege that would forgive their sins while shielding them from being held accountable for their crimes in secular courts. 

Francis knows this may not work, that he may not have gone far enough. The new norms take effect on June 1, 2019 and are enacted for an “ad experimentum” period of three years. Yet this experiment has, in sometimes awkward waysalready started and the initial results give some cause for optimism that secular authorities may be able to help survivors find justice they could not find within the church.

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Daily Dispatch 5/10/2019


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Daily Dispatch

May 10, 2019


Turning your body into a compass

Playwright Catherine Filloux has written a play about child separation, which will be livestreamed on Monday night. Below it an intro to a story about the play from Woman Around Town. Click here for the full story, including an interview with Filloux about her work.

When, in June 2018, Judge Dana Sabraw of California put a legal chokehold on the Trump administration’s unconscionable child-separation policy, one could sense a collective sigh of relief emanating from our nation’s soul. No matter your stance on immigration, tearing thousands of petrified children from their parents’ arms was a moral violation Americans could not stomach.

But nearly a year after Judge Sabraw’s ruling, the trauma orchestrated by Trump and his band of child-catchers continues, and, although the widespread outrage may have subsided, the immorality of it all has only intensified.

Last month, in a court filing, the Justice Department admitted that the timeframe for reuniting these children with their families would be one year, two years or maybe longer. Because no records were kept, bureaucrats must sift through reams of data to connect dots that may or may not lead them to each child’s family’s whereabouts. This filing lays bare a cruel truth. While officials devised a plan to separate children from their parents, they gave no thought to reuniting them.

Even if these children are miraculously, at some point, able to rejoin their families, their trauma will be far from over. As child healthcare advocates have been warning since the very beginning of this crisis, when young children experience such extreme trauma, their brain development is compromised, often irreversibly so.

Playwright Catherine Filloux, a recipient of the 2017 Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre and 2015 Planet Activist Award, has made this grim truth the focus of her latest work. Set against the backdrop of this country’s escalating crackdown on immigrants, turning your body into a compass tells the story of two women, a human rights advocate and a neuroscientist, who join forces to expose the irreparable trauma inflicted on children separated from their families.

Conceived as a 360° web story, turning your body into a compass will be live-streamed on May 13th at 3 p.m. EST. For more information and to access the livestream go to the website.

National Bail Out prepared for another Mothers Day

The National Bail Out Collective was established in 2017 as an effort to raise bail funds so that black mothers could be reunited with their families. We have covered the bail industry here – and the sad fact that nearly a quarter of the number of people incarcerated in this country have not yet been to trial. They are in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. National Bail Out has freed over 300 women over the last 2 years.

From Bustle:

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and while many of us will be spending the day with our moms, not everyone is so fortunate — especially women who will spend the day in jail because they don’t have enough money to pay bail. This Mother’s Day, a second-year initiative is aiming to help as many Black families who have been directly affected by mass incarceration as they can. The National Black Mama’s Bail Out Day is raising money to help bail out incarcerated Black mothers, so they can be reunited with their children and families in the spirit of the upcoming holiday — and you can help them reach their goals.

The National Bail Out collective was established in May 2017 as a collaborative effort between many Black community organizers and organizations from across the states, including Southerners On New Ground (SONG), Black Lives Matter, The Dream Defenders, and more. According to their site, the goal of the National Bail Out is to “push against mass criminalization” by providing bail funds for Black community members who cannot afford to pay bail, and by providing additional financial support once they are released from jail.

For more information on National Bail Out check their website here.

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Daily Dispatch 5/9/2019


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Daily Dispatch

May 9, 2019


National Call-in Day: Block Trump Money Grab (From Detention Watch Network)

On Wednesday last week, the Trump Administration sent a $4.5 billion request for a supplemental funding package that includes billions for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Despite being cloaked in the language of humanitarian aid, the funding sought for ICE and CBP would instead increase human suffering by ensuring more people are detained in inhumane conditions, blocked from accessing due process, and criminalized through politically motivated prosecutions.

Don’t be fooled—this isn’t really for humanitarian aid!

The Trump administration, under guidance from white nationalist Stephen Miller, demonstrates daily that its approach to migration is rooted in hate and cruelty.

The Trump administration is co-opting “humanitarian crisis” to pay for more human suffering. This is an attempt to fast-track even more funding to fuel Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and to expand an already massive and inhumane immigrant detention system, all deceptively cloaked in the language of humanitarian response.

Today, May 9th, is the National Call-in Day to stop Trump’s harmful money grab! Join organizations across the country making calls to Congress to stop the supplemental funding request.

Call your member of Congress!

  • Dial 1-844-332-6361 and enter your zip code.
  • Once you’re connected, use this script: “Hello, my name is [first and last name]. I’m calling as part of the Defund Hate campaign. I’m calling to ask [Member of Congress] to publicly oppose Trump’s supplemental funding request. This request will only give billions to Trump’s agenda to maximize harm to those arriving at the border by building and expanding deadly immigration detention jails. More people behind bars is not a humanitarian response. [Member of Congress] should publicly speak out and urge leadership to reject the White House supplemental budget request. Thank you.”

ICE Blocking Legal Services in Texas Facility

RAICES has filed a formal complaint with the Trump administration over tactics employed at the Karnes Detention facility that is blocking immigrant access to free legal services:

An immigration legal group has filed a formal complaint against the Trump administration saying it is blocking detained immigrants from free legal services.

The complaint filed Wednesday by RAICES, a nonprofit immigrant legal services group, accuses Immigration and Customs Enforcement of creating barriers for people held at the Karnes, Texas, immigration detention facility to meet with legal teams.

The complaints are many and include such things as ICE failing to make space available for private meetings with clients, setting new requirements for lawyers to meet with clients, so that fewer people can meet with attorneys, and eliminating a “walk-in” signup list.

Read more on the story here.

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