We continue to learn more about the effects of the massive ICE raids that recently took place in Mississippi food processing plants, the latest being that a four-month baby that is still nursing has been separated from her mother. The woman’s husband is facing his own deportation trial. Presently, he is raising their three children, including the baby, while they wait to see what their fate will be. All three of their children were born in the United States, and are, therefore, American citizens. Many migrant parents facing deportation will be forced to make hard decisions about where their children will go and who will raise them.
The husband spoke to the Clarion Ledger under condition of anonymity because of his undocumented status and fear of arrest or reprisal. His priest, the Rev. Roberto Mena of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Forest, served as translator.
He and his wife have three kids. The oldest, an 11-year-old boy, is in school. Their 3-year-old boy has a sweet smile and is full of rambunctious energy. And their youngest is the infant.
All three children were born in the U.S., and therefore are American citizens.
For people who entered the country without permission, like the parents, the few existing paths to obtaining legal status are highly restrictive and complicated. There’s no way to “get in line” for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, according to the American Immigration Council.
The husband came to the U.S. 14 years ago. He left his hometown in Guatemala because there was no work there, he said.
Actress Diane Guerrero from Orange is the New Black (OITNB) opened up on The Van Jones Show about how her parents were deported back to Columbia when she was a child and the trauma it caused her. An immigration reform activist herself, she’s challenging the administration and those of us who have our ears to the ground, with what will we do with the children who are traumatized by these massive raids and the children who might get left behind once their parents are deported.
Meanwhile…being included in a plot arc on OITNB offered increased visibility and reach for the National Immigrant Detention Hotline, a project managed by Freedom for Immigrants. Yet the power of a pro bono detention hotline was apparently threatening for some. Just a few weeks after season 7 was released, it is reported that the hotline extension has been shut down by the powers-that-be. Freedom for Immigrants is urging prompt action:
Once again, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attacked our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. This time by terminating our national hotline pro bono extension, which we’ve operated for six years.
The termination of the National Immigration Detention Hotline occurred within two weeks of the premiere of Season 7 of the popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black (OITNB), which featured Freedom for Immigrants’ hotline by name. Freedom for Immigrants’ hotline was featured as a storyline throughout multiple episodes of this season, and the organization’s connection to OITNB garnered dozens of media articles. For example, InStyle Magazine published an op-ed written by Freedom for Immigrants staff, BuzzFeed published an op-ed by OITNB executive producer Carolina Paiz about her visit to a detention facility with Freedom for Immigrants, Los Angeles Magazine published a profile piece on Freedom for Immigrants. Dozens of other new outlets, including People Magazine, Salon.com, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The Hill, NBC New York, published stories mentioning Freedom for Immigrants.
Ironically, Gloria (Selenis Leyva) tells Maritza (Diane Guerrero) in Season 7, “You gotta be careful though. Apparently as soon as Big Brother figures out you’re using the hotline, they shut it down.” Being featured in OITNB brought massive attention to the organization’s work regarding abusive and neglectful conditions in immigration detention centers. And for this, we are being punished by our government.
The suspension of Freedom for Immigrants’ hotline extension is impermissible retaliation to the organization’s First Amendment-protected expression. The hotline’s termination also creates the clear appearance ICE is attempting to silence critics and limit the public’s awareness of alleged abusive conditions in immigration detention.
The Quixote Center has endorsed an organizational sign-on letter directed to USCIS officials, copying executives at Talton Communications, a Homeland Security contractor that profits by charging detained persons to make calls to connect to the outside world, and that is also supposed to make pro bono legal defense calls available to detainees, calling for the reinstatement of the hotline, allowing for continued accountability of the government and its contractors that profit from immigrant detention.
And, shining a spotlight on the elitist roots of the modern anti-immigration movement, today The New York Times profiles Cordelia Scaife May, and the story of how this wealthy woman’s views on population control and the environment led to her anti-immigration beliefs and how one of her legacies, the Colcom Foundation, continues to fund the anti-immigration movement and many of the most extreme policies to close off the United States to migrants. The Independent reports:
Fourteen years after May’s death, her money remains the lifeblood of the anti-immigration movement, through her Colcom Foundation.
It has poured $180 million (£148 million) into a network of groups that spent decades agitating for policies now pursued by current US president Donald Trump: militarising the border, capping legal immigration, prioritising skills over family ties for entry and reducing access to public benefits for migrants.
“She would have fit in very fine in the current White House,” said George Zeidenstein, whose mainstream population-control group Ms. May supported before she shifted to anti-immigration advocacy.
The political crisis in Haiti continues to unfold. President Moïse remains in office despite a year of demonstrations demanding his resignation. Haiti has had four prime ministers during that time. Jack Guy Lafontant was forced to resign following massive protests last July that launched the country into the current period of instability. His replacement, Jean Henry Céant, was forced out after a no-confidence vote in Parliament following another round of national protests in February of this year. Céant’s replacement as acting prime minister, Jean Michel Lapin, was put forward in April. However, Moïse nominated another official, Fritz William Michel, as prime minister on July 22, because Lapin was unconfirmable. Michel must still present his government and policy platform to Parliament before he can govern. As a result,
In reality, Haiti has two prime ministers. There is Michel, who is technically prime minister under the country’s amended 1987 constitution. And there is Jean-Michel Lapin, who officially announced his resignation after Moïse chose Michel on July 22, but remains in charge. Neither one, however, can enter into any legal accords.
The opposition, united in calling for Moïse’s resignation, is otherwise divided over tactics and what comes next should Moïse step down. Those who have mobilized to create a new society confront not just the current government, but those who simply want to replace the current cohort in controlling the existing apparatus of the state. At the official level, the House of Deputies has gathered three times in the last week to vote on an opposition motion to hold impeachment proceedings against Moïse. As of Wednesday this week, the vote has not yet happened – postponed indefinitely over security concerns. While President Moïse remains unpopular in the streets, he has sufficient support in the House of Deputies to most likely avoid the supermajority required for an impeachment vote – if the proceedings ever get that far.
Meanwhile, the “international community” seems content to hold out for new elections, currently scheduled for October for parliament and local offices. As always, the hope for international actors is to both control the outcome and provide a veil of legitimacy over institutions under strain. The contradiction embedded in that model continues to escape the would-be doyens of international order, chief among them the United States foreign policy team, the same crew that facilitated Moïse’s tenure in office to begin with. It is the Catch-22 of the moment. Elections are probably necessary and will solve nothing unless deeper structural reforms are instituted; so there is an actual choice when people go to the polls in October. The U.S. government, not big on actual choices (especially when they lead to reform), will direct the process as best it can through funding conditions, and hope for the best. What could go wrong?
Of course, until there is a government to form the electoral commission and pass the electoral laws needed to proceed, there will be no election.
The standard of living in Haiti continues to fall as prices go up, investment stalls, and everyone seems to be in a holding pattern to see what happens next. Among the chief concerns is food insecurity. In announcing a nine million euro emergency aid package, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations noted,
In recent months, the humanitarian situation in Haiti has deteriorated dramatically and the country is facing serious food shortages. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of people in crisis situations or facing food emergencies doubled to 2.6 million, i.e. 25% of the population. Furthermore, the prevalence of acute malnutrition among children under the age of five remains high, and above World Health Organization (WHO) emergency levels in several locations, including the Nord-Ouest department. (emphasis added)
The nine million euro package will provide food security for 130,000 people.
The International Monetary Fund staff came to an agreement with officials in Haiti this past March for a $229 million loan, at a concessional rate (0% interest, repaid over a three year period). While this represents an infusion of money that might otherwise be welcome, this is the IMF and so, yeah, strings. Among the strings are budget reductions mandated in order to ensure “debt sustainability.” The IMF does not just hand out money in a lump sum, instead issuing “tranches” periodically, and only after staff review conditionalities put in place in the policy realm to ensure “progress” is being made. Currently the lack of an actual government is complicating final negotiations for the aid bill – which will be, at best, a mixed blessing. Remember that it was IMF pressure to end fuel subsidies last year that sent an already angry community out into the streets and brought down Lafontant’s government.
The combination of political instability and a collapsing economy has led many Haitians to look elsewhere for places to settle. Over the last year, there has been an increase in people seized at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard and naval patrols from other Caribbean states. There has also been an uptick in people from Haiti at the U.S./Mexico border. For some, arrival is complicated by the fact that they are arriving via Brazil or Chile where many Haitians resettled in the ten years since the earthquake and in some cases started families. The governments of Brazil and Chile have become increasingly anti-immigration amidst their own economic woes. Haitians have been a particular target of new laws to limit resettlement, especially in Chile.
In the United States, the list of efforts to limit migration for Haitians and to make it more difficult for them to stay in the United States continues to grow.
As a result of the Trump administration’s not renewing Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in 2018, 40,000+ Haitians were facing removal proceedings this summer, starting in July (as well as the question for many about what to do with their U.S. born children). However, the effort to cancel TPS for Haiti (and other countries) has been tied up in court, and federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration in two separate cases involving Haiti. Both cases are still under appeal, but the result is that TPS remains available for Haitians for the time being – through at least December of this year and likely well into next year. It is not, however, secure long-term.
Last year the Trump administration decided to end Haiti’s participation in the federal H-2A and H-2B guest worker program. The program had benefited some Haitian farmers and laborers seeking to come to the United States as temporary, seasonal workers.
In the past few weeks, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service agency announced formal suspension of the Haitian Family Reunification Program, a special program that allowed Haiti family members awaiting visas – and otherwise fully qualified – to be allowed into the United States on a parole basis to wait out final determination here. The program had resettled just over 8,300 Haitians since 2014 – though USCIS had not issued any new invitations to Haitians to participate in the program since Trump took office.
Here at the Quixote Center, we continue to work with our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center near Gros Morne, Haiti on reforestation and sustainable agriculture. The forest celebrates its 20th Anniversary on August 28 this year.
August 28 is the day in 1994 that Jean Marie Vincent, Montfortain priest, and strong advocate for Haiti’s peasantry, was murdered. Father Vincent argued against a charity model of working with the poor. His vision was an empowered community, in control of its own destiny.
At the Formation Center, this vision still guides the work. The program is run by our partners in Gros Morne, in relation with the Peasant Movement of Gros Morne and other local organizations. In this way, the program is responsive to the immediate needs of the community, as determined by the community itself.
Over 20 years we have planted 2 million trees. But the real story is in the hundreds of workshops, thousands of family gardens, and the mobilization of 34 parish communities that form the Caritas network in the parish.
In the context of the current political crisis, the importance of this work becomes ever more clear. Food security and independence is a necessary component of any sustainable future for Haiti. As Geri Lanham recently wrote, the project in Gros Morne has demonstrated its value to the community over the last year.
A joint investigation by the Associated Press and the PBS program Frontline documents patterns of abuse of children placed in foster care after being separated from family members at the border. AP published a story about the investigation today, including details from lawsuits that could total close to $200 million – with many more potentially coming.
Children who cross the border alone, or who become “unaccompanied” as the result of family separation, are generally placed through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The children end up in community shelters,with foster families, or detained in larger camps until they can be placed with a family member or a community sponsor.
Patterns of abuse against immigrant children have been well documented. From being given psychotropic drugs, or denied adequate medical care, to being sexually assaulted, often at the hands of other children in custody, children suffer enormously in this system. These conditions have existed for years. Indeed, the potentially precedent setting case for some of the lawsuits pending was a $125,000 settlement concerning treatment of a child and mother from Honduras threatened with separation during Obama’s presidency. However, under the current administration, the scale of abuse, given the increase in incarceration generally, and the policy of separating children from family members in large numbers, leaves the government open to potentially billions in lawsuits.
In an interesting blog post yesterday, the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Shawn Fremstad looks at the “arcane ‘public charge’ immigration rule which is currently in the headlines because of a complicated and frightening expansion of the rule by the Trump administration.” He notes:
Under the longstanding law and policy that existed before the new regulations, US citizens who marry foreign nationals had to show that their spouse was not likely to be institutionalized or end up wholly dependent on income-tested cash assistance (like SSI or TANF) in the future. Under the new rule, they will not be able to obtain visas, known as green cards, for their spouses if a front-line immigration official decides that their spouse is “likely at any time in the future” to receive even small amounts of Medicaid, SNAP, and certain other benefits.
Fremstad pulls out data on Medicaid access as an example of how many people could potentially fall under a public charge designation under the new rule (nearly 1 in 6) – and makes clear that they do not meet the profile of a “public charge” by any measure. As access to such programs is widespread, the impact on immigrant spouses and partners is enormous, if they fall under a public charge designation and are denied permanent residency.
Related: Protecting Immigrant Families has an excellent fact sheet available on the changing public charge rule. You can view here, and share it.
From the Washington Post:
The protesters were sitting on the pavement to block staff from parking at a Rhode Island prison that works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement when a black pickup truck swerved toward them. The protesters shouted as the driver laid on the horn, and the truck briefly stopped.
And then, the driver hit the gas.
In a viral video captured by bystanders, the protesters screamed and jumped out of the way. Several were struck, according to organizers of the Wednesday night demonstration at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I. Some were treated at a hospital, though none were severely injured.
“It was terrifying because we didn’t know what exactly his intention was,” Amy Anthony, a spokesperson for Never Again Action, a Jewish activist group that planned the protest, told The Washington Post. “It certainly appeared he was trying to hit us.”
The driver of the truck worked at the ICE facility. Rhode Island’s attorney general will be investigating events.