Daily Dispatch 7/22/2019

Trump is not going after criminals

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Daily Dispatch

July 22, 2019


When Trump announced that his administration would begin deporting “millions” of immigrants earlier this month, he defended this as an action targeting criminals:

“We’re really looking for criminals as much as we can. Trying to find the criminal population, which has been coming into this country the last 10 years,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to depart Washington. He touted his administration’s removal of members of the violent gang MS-13, claiming he’d deported them “by the thousands.”

In doing so, Trump was elevating a theme he has focused on since the early days of his campaign. His administration would focus on the “bad hombres,” the “rapists and murderers” coming through Mexico to threaten U.S. American lives and livelihoods. His administration established a hotline for people to report if they had been victims of a crime involving a “nexus with immigration.” The hotline received mostly prank calls during its first year of operation and has been controversial from the start:

Douglas Rivlin, a spokesman for the immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice, said the hotline was set up because Trump “wanted to be able to say he was addressing the fictitious immigrant crime-wave he has conjured from his anti-immigrant fever dreams.”

The rhetorical focus on criminality is intended to both garner fear and legitimate expanded enforcement operations as his administration has set record highs in the number of people detained – though he still lags behind Obama’s administration in actual deportations. It also plays into the policy at the border where administration officials repeatedly claim asylum seekers are mostly just gaming the system.

In reality Trump’s administration has deemphasized criminal activity as the basis for removal proceedings in immigrant courts more than any administration. In the current fiscal year, DHS has only sought removal based on a criminal act in 2.8 percent of all immigration court filings. That is an extraordinary drop from the 25 percent of cases in 1999, or even the 16 percent of cases in 2009. In some courts, the numbers hover around 0.1 percent – or one in a thousand cases. In Houston, the second busiest immigration court in the country, the number of criminal removal cases was the lowest, five out of 15,063 cases heard, or 0.033 percent.

The decline in the rate is not simply a function of more arrests – the actual number of filings is also way down:

Despite the rising number of ICE interior arrests and individuals who are detained, fewer and fewer immigrants in the Immigration Court’s growing workload are being cited as deportable based upon criminal activity. During the first nine months of FY 2019 only 7,458 cases have been lodged by DHS citing criminal activity as a basis for seeking the removal order. If this same pace continues for the remaining three months of the year, the total is still unlikely to reach 10,000. A decade or more ago immigrants with criminal records or alleged criminal activity involved 30,000 to 40,000 court filings each year.

There is a tremendous amount of variability in the courts. Though, as explained by TRAC, even courts that are based in detention facilities, are at record lows of criminal removal proceedings: 

Not surprisingly given standards for mandatory detention, Immigration Courts hearing cases at ICE detention facilities often have higher proportions of individuals where DHS cites alleged criminal activity as a basis for seeking removal. But even here immigrants make up a small minority of the court’s docket. For example in Tacoma, Washington which handles cases at the Northwest Detention Center only one in ten cases (10.3) this year cite criminal activity as a basis for seeking the immigrant’s removal. At Miami-Krome, the proportion rises to one out of eight (12.1%). Higher proportions, however, are observed at two Immigration Courts – York and Napanoch – which hear cases at prisons involving immigrants who have been convicted of crimes for which they are serving prison terms.

The focus on immigrant criminality as a means to justify expanded enforcement operations is not new with this administration. Obama also shifted his focus to criminal removals, and despite the relatively low numbers during his administration of criminal removal proceedings, he is perceived as having focused his deportation machine on people with criminal records. But Trump has elevated this rhetoric to a fever pitch despite numerous studies that show immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than native born citizens in the U.S. – this includes unauthorized immigrants. The tragedy here is that those who support this administration’s crackdown on immigrants believe the rhetoric of criminality, even though that is not even the real focus for removal proceedings. This administration is seeking to detain and remove anybody they can, breaking up families in the process and destroying thousands of lives.  As with much else they do, the justification is a lie.

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Daily Dispatch 7/19/2019

Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children

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Daily Dispatch

July 19, 2019


Yesterday, 70 Catholic leaders locked arms in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, in an effort to put pressure on Congress and the presidential administration to end the immoral and inhumane practice of detaining immigrant children. The action took place in the Russell Building Rotunda. Though open to everyone, the protest was the first in a series intended to mobilize Catholics in particular to stand up for the rights of immigrants. From the press release of organizers:

The Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children brought together more than 200 Catholic sisters, priests, brothers and lay Catholic advocates representing nearly 20 national organizations who sang, prayed, and chanted as they demanded an end to the immoral and inhumane practice of detaining immigrant children. This action is the beginning of a campaign in which Catholic leaders are increasing their willingness to take significant risks as an act of faithful resistance. Photos here. Video of civil disobedience here.

Earlier on the Capitol Lawn, Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; Fr. Joe Nangle, former Co-Director of Franciscan Mission Service, and Sr. Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, RGS, were among the leaders who addressed the gathering before moving in to the Senate building. Excerpts from their remarks can be found here: 

Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious: 

“Catholic sisters have a long history with immigrant communities. We have seen the pain, suffering, fear, and trauma firsthand. In recent months, as the humanitarian crisis has escalated, we have joined the tens of thousands who are outraged at the horrific situation at our southern border. Over 1000 Catholic sisters have spent time ministering to those in need and have donated almost $1 million to help support the care of those seeking safety, freedom, security and a better life for their families. We are here today because of our faith. The Gospel commands, and the values of our homeland demand, that we act.”

Fr. Joe Nangle, former Co-Director of Franciscan Mission Service:

“Our country was born in the darkness of what we now call original sin. And we now, some 200 plus years later, had thought that we had begun to overcome these sins. However, in these days, Donald Trump is dragging us back to those evil times, with a combination of irrational fears, hatred of people not like him, and sheer cruelty. What is almost as evil, is so-called Christians support and applaud and enable this descent into a new dark age in America. We are speaking about the evidence for this and these actions today. We are particularly citing the dishumanity taking place, even as we speak, at our southern borders. This is why we call on our millions of fellow Catholic sisters and brothers, particularly our bishops, to join in the struggle for the soul of America.”

Sr. Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, RGS 

“I stand in solidarity with all who seek to better their lives. Psalm 1:27 tells us that children are always a blessing. They are filled with joy and laughter. They are fragile from the very beginning. We have to protect them. The Catholic community has decried the treatment of children on our southern border, not only as a violation of human dignity and rights, but also contrary to religious teachings and the sacred call to care for people who are most at risk, especially children.”

Other participants issued the following statements:

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network:

“We are here today because of these 8 children who died either in custody or trying to seek asylum. They are children of God. They are your brothers and sisters, your neighbor.”

Eli McCarthy, PhD, Director of Justice and Peace at Conference of Major Superiors of Men: 

“Today’s action was focused on increasing the visibility of Catholics willing to take more risks to significantly improve treatment of children and end child detention. We see the urgent inhumanity and injustice. We are challenged by our faith to enter more deeply into solidarity, inspire others to take on more risks, to increasingly non-cooperate with injustice, and to live the Eucharist — being one body, ready to be broken for others. This is only the first phase of a 3-part campaign to end child detention and thus create more political space to challenge family detention and beyond.”

Lawrence E. Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and a coordinator of the Catholic Day of Action:

“While I dreaded the loss of liberty that I risked with my act of civil disobedience, it is nothing compared to the experiences of our sisters and brothers on the border who live in fear and cruel, inhumane conditions. I was particularly moved this morning by the photographs of the innocent children who died in custody or on their journey to safety. I raise them up in prayer and say ‘no more.'”

Several bishops have sent statements of support for this gathering and civil disobedience action. For full details, click here.

List of Endorsing Organizations

The protest was also covered by ABC News.

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What political crisis means in Gros Morne, Haiti

Entrance to Jean Marie Vincent Forest, Gros Morne

Over the last year there has been a recurring cycle of protest sparked by ongoing anger at the current government. The underlying causes are complex, touching on a number of themes, but central to the frustration is the increasing cost of living that is driving people into more and more desperate conditions. Alongside of the daily struggle, corruption has emerged as a specific target of frustration as it manifests the insular world of Haiti’s wealthy class which continues to dominate political institutions. The PetroCaribe scandal, where dozens of politicians and well connected friends were found to have syphoned off billions in subsidized oil revenue for projects never completed, or, in some cases, never started has become a focal point for demonstrations demanding the resignation of president Jovenal Moise.  

Below, Geri Lanham, who works with our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center in Gros Morne, discusses what the crisis has meant in Gros Morne and some of the hopeful ways the community has responded.

Gros Morne is known for being a calm place where people go about their daily business of trying to support their families without much fuss. This daily endeavor is not without hardship, and is made more difficult by the lack of transportation and electric infrastructure, but it is generally carried out in a manner of purposeful action where each person strives to manage his or her affairs to the extent that he or she is able. This all happens within the local network of the eight communal sections of Gros Morne, which are connected via local markets and businesses which try to keep up a trade to more or less enable those people who are engaged within the network to strive to make ends meet. Hunger still very much exists in the zone, but thanks to local efforts to support and expand agrarian activities and family connections abroad, there are genuine attempts to lessen this daily struggle to provide basic needs. Life is difficult here, without a doubt, but the people of Gros Morne are incredibly resilient in the face of hardship. 

The recent recurring episodes of insecurity in the country have negatively impacted Gros Morne and the capacity and network that people here have worked hard to create in order to support their families. When the roads to the south toward Port-au-Prince are barricaded with roadblocks due to political frustrations, this means that the merchants of Gros Morne cannot resupply. Prices rise when everyday goods like eggs and flour become scarce, and when the roads open again, these prices do not fall back to the level where they were originally. The real difficulty is when local salaries for professionals who work in education and healthcare do not rise in response to these increased prices, and so the purchasing power of this professional class decreases. The merchants then lose some of their regular clients who can no longer afford to buy at the same level at which they had before the scarcity, and their network shrinks. 

When gas is not resupplied regularly to the four gas stations in town, transportation costs rise. This impacts virtually everyone in town who use the moto taxis to get where they need to go on a daily basis. Profit margins fall for small merchants who need to transport items farther out into the countryside, as well as for moto drivers, who realize that they cannot raise their taxi prices more than what people are willing to reasonably pay even when gas purchased on the black market is more expensive. People who were able to “make it” previously now find themselves in a difficult situation of needing some other activity or connection to fill the gap caused by the price increases which are the result of these roadblocks. 

With the transportation disrupted, people in Gros Morne felt the impact of these national strikes. This led to the desire from some in town to join in the protest activities to show their own frustrations and commiserate with their country people who are all very frustrated by the current situation of the unsustainable high cost of living. This disgruntled feeling manifested itself in a day of general protests in Gros Morne, which involved a group of people marching down the main roads, erecting rock barricades along the national highway that passes through town, and generally voicing their discontent with the status quo. Then the next day, all was back to business as usual, as people went about the daily struggle to provide for their families, which is only becoming more difficult. 

One positive ongoing change to emerge from these national protests and the disruptions that they have caused is a local desire for people to become more self sufficient in their food sources. The local agronomy team in Gros Morne, along with various community organizations, is striving to teach people techniques for increasing their garden yields and introducing them to new crops in order to fortify the local capacity to supply the nutritional needs of the population. Local women’s groups are supporting one another in efforts to create small front yard gardens of vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and okra, while community organizations are creating communal gardens to plant crops like corn, okra and sweet potatoes. Local farmers are receiving formation to plant a new variety of yams and are using land preparation techniques like double dug gardens to respond to the lack of rainfall in the zone. As families begin to identify the assets such as land, which they already have, they are then able to use what they learn from agronomy formations to put the land into use in an attempt to respond to the hardships facing their families. Coordination between leaders out in the communal sections means that different zones are planting different crops, so that they do not drive prices down when they bring their harvest to the central market in the town of Gros Morne. These small efforts are beginning to show results as everyone strives to go about living by finding creative ways to deal with the new normal. 

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Daily Dispatch 7/18/2019

No one is welcome

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Daily Dispatch

July 18, 2019



U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the agency tasked with governing authorized immigration, processing applications for citizenship, work visas, and green cards, and also managing some aspects of the asylum application process. USCIS has seen record delays in processing visas, causing much frustration among business leaders and immigrants waiting for renewals of documentation necessary to work in the United States. Processing of naturalization is also delayed

“Over the past few years, we have seen significant increases in processing delays and case backlogs at USCIS. The backlog of citizenship applications nearly doubled from 367,000 in late 2015 to about 740,000 in September 2018. In my district, most applicants for citizenship now must wait at least a year for their application to be processed, and sometimes even 2 years,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

The delays were subject of a Congressional hearing this week. In the context of such delays, the acting head of USCIS, Ken Cuccinelli, is asking his staff to consider volunteering their time with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The email to staffers, sent Wednesday by USCIS deputy Mark Koumans and obtained by BuzzFeed News, asked employees to volunteer for administrative work in ICE field offices across the country, including processing files that are part of a program forcing immigrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico as their cases are adjudicated, and supporting public document requests.

“Current conditions are placing extreme stress on our colleagues at Immigration and Customs Enforcement … USCIS has agreed to seek USCIS volunteers to provide ICE with support,” Koumans said in his message. “I appreciate your willingness to consider helping our colleagues fulfill the DHS mission.”

A USCIS staff member told Buzzfeed, “I am sure [ICE] needs people to help process paperwork and keep track of people. Of course, if they stopped detaining them, separating families, and sending people back to Mexico, you wouldn’t need help.” 

The full story on this request is on Buzzfeed.

In the context of hearings about USCIS delays, Marketa Lindt, an immigration lawyer and the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, under cut the idea that there has been a surge in USCIS case loads, leading to delays. She penned an op-ed in The Hill preceding her testimony.

One might think these delays are caused by a surge in immigration to the country. And, in attempting to defend its record of increasing processing times, USCIS attributes its case backlog in significant part to what it characterizes as high application rates and limited resources. However, the data shows that to the contrary, in fiscal 2018 the agency’s application receipt rates significantly declined, its budget grew, and yet its case processing times still increased by 19 percent.

In fact, the evidence shows that it is the agency’s own inefficient policies and procedures that are the key drivers of these delays. For example, USCIS reversed many years of prior practice by instituting a new policy requiring its officers to re-adjudicate extensions of previously processed petitions, even where no facts had changed in the filing. 

We have seen spikes in unnecessary Requests for Evidence — often seeking unnecessary or previously provided information — that freeze case processing and waste USCIS officers’ time and resources. Under a new and unprecedented policy, every employment-based green card applicant now needs to appear for an in-person interview at a local USCIS office, even where USCIS officers themselves deem those interviews unwarranted. And the list goes on. 

So, just to be clear, the Trump administration does not support “legal” immigration. They just can’t do much about it except make it harder – which they are doing. Trump won’t celebrate this the way he does his border crackdown. But the evidence is clear. For example, denial rates for H-IB visas have increased from 6 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in the current quarter – with no change in law!

And, it is worth noting for the millionth time that seeking asylum in the United States is legal – Trump trying to make this impossible at the border is not legal. Seeking refugee status is legal – reducing the refugee cap the way Trump has is within his authority, but highly immoral – and certainly violates the spirit of international agreements the United States has signed onto.

Trump has so distorted the framing of immigration in this country that many people can no longer tell the difference between what is legal, what is not, or see through the specious justifications put forth for this administration’s actions. In Trump’s “America” basically no one is welcome (except maybe Norwegians). Start there and the rest becomes much clearer.

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Daily Dispatch 7/17/2019

White House blows up the asylum process

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InAlienable
Daily Dispatch

July 17, 2019


Image:CNN

Yesterday, a new Department of Homeland Security rule went into effect that denies the right to seek asylum to anyone who travels through a third country before reaching the border. The only exceptions are for those trafficked into the United States or those who first sought asylum in another country, but were denied. The administration says that for those already registered at the border, but currently waiting in Mexico to have their credible fear interview, a first step in seeking asylum, the new rule would not apply. For everyone else, asylum would no longer be an option.

As the rule goes into effect, there is confusion about what this means. Apparently there was little direction given to border agents about how to implement the rule, and so a day in, little has actually changed. The rule was immediately challenged in court.  From NBC News:

The ACLU was joined by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit was filed on behalf of immigrant rights groups — the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab and the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles.

“This is the latest — and deeply dangerous — effort by the Trump administration to inflict maximal cruelty on vulnerable people fleeing desperate conditions for safety here,” Baher Azmy, the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in the statement.

The lawsuit is asking for a declaration “that the interim final rule is unlawful and invalid,” as well as a preliminary and permanent injunction stopping its implementation and enforcement.

Trump’s administration has been working to get an agreement with Mexico as a “safe third country.” Such a designation would require asylum seekers to first request protection in Mexico before attempting to get asylum in the U.S. Mexico’s current administration has made clear they cannot move forward on such an agreement without approval from the legislature, something that may not happen. The administration was also pressing Guatemala’s government to enter into a safe third party agreement – despite the fact that Guatemala is the country many people are fleeing. That effort fell apart over the weekend. From the New Yorker:

On Sunday afternoon, the Guatemalan government issued a statement cancelling a highly anticipated meeting, scheduled for Monday, in Washington, between Jimmy Morales, the President of Guatemala, and Donald Trump. The subject of the meeting was a deal between the two countries that would allow the U.S. government to begin sending asylum seekers to Guatemala under the terms of a so-called safe-third-country agreement. The idea was to outsource part of the American asylum system to Guatemala, despite the fact that many of the Central-American asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. border are Guatemalans fleeing poverty, hunger, and violence in their home country. “Opposition to the deal was widespread in Guatemala,” Lucrecia Hernández Mack, a newly elected member of the Guatemalan congress, told me. “Morales was acting alone.” Over the weekend, the country’s Constitutional Court was considering three separate petitions filed in an attempt to block the deal; on Sunday night, a few hours after Morales cancelled his plans for Washington, citing the pending legal case, the judges issued their ruling: Morales was forbidden from negotiating the deal on his own, without consulting the Guatemalan congress. According to a member of the Trump Administration, “if the injunctions didn’t happen in Guatemala, then the deal would have been signed on Monday.”

Trump’s new asylum rule seems to be a response to the failure to secure these agreements with Mexico and Guatemala. Unable to outsource asylum processing, he simply ended it. The impact of this will ripple out to Mexico and into Central America as people will be increasingly denied entry into the United States. If arrested inside the United States, many may be sent back into Mexico, something that has already occurred to 15,000 or more Central American asylum seekers.

It is hard to imagine this rule standing up to a court review. It violates existing U.S. law as well as international legal obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees – which the United States did not sign onto until 1967 revisions extending protection to asylum seekers. From the Texas Tribune:

Tom Jawetz, the vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said that’s only part of the reason the rule “violates the statutory scheme laid out by Congress and is illegal, plain and simple.”

“Congress has explicitly provided only two circumstances in which time spent in a third country could justify barring a person from receiving asylum: if the United States has entered into a ‘safe third country’ agreement with that country or if the person firmly resettled in that country,” he said in a written statement. “The United States does not have a safe third country agreement with Mexico and its neighboring countries — and none of those countries credibly could be called ‘safe.’ Second, merely passing through another country cannot and does not constitute firm resettlement in that country.”

With this latest move, Trump is side stepping the U.S. congress, and, in effect, the legislative process in Mexico and Guatemala. He’s done this without any period of public comment on the proposed rule, and, as is par for the course, with no advanced directives to the people meant to enforce the rule, creating confusion about how this is to actually roll out. It is the kind of bullying approach to politics we’ve come to expect from this administration – never seek compromise, just blow up the system and see what happens once the courts and advocates seek to repair it. He gets his “win” for taking action with his base and others pick up the pieces. Along the way, tens of thousands of lives are wrecked. Congress, where are you?

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Lights for Liberty Vigil

In my church we sing a song that goes like this, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.” That’s exactly what me and hundreds of other protestors did in Columbia, Maryland Friday evening for the “Lights for Liberty” prayer vigil. We let our lights shine in support of immigrants in Howard County. We also protested against Trump’s mass deportation raids that were supposed to begin last weekend. The vigil in Columbia was one of many vigils all over the nation.

Man telling his story about being detained by ICE.

The vigil took place at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center and was filled to capacity. Actually, the turnout shocked me. I didn’t expect hundreds of residents to show up on a hot Friday night in support of those seeking refuge in the community. Some of the speakers even expressed their surprise. The center was so full that they had two overflow rooms. I sat in one of them. The vigil began with an interfaith prayer service in which a rabbi, imam and Christian minister prayed for those seeking asylum in the United States. We also heard the story of an undocumented man who was captured by ICE after the car he was a passenger in got into an accident. He explained that when he couldn’t produce identification, the local police turned him over to ICE. He told us that his two daughters kept asking him when he was coming home during his incarceration. Thankfully, with the help of organizations who assist immigrants, he was able to remain with his family in the U.S.    

Overall, the vigil was extremely moving. It encouraged me to see so many people standing for migrant children and families. The sense of unity in the place was also inspirational. My hope is that people’s passion to help immigrants lasts and transforms into real change in this country. The organizers offered ways we could help including purchasing groceries or running errands for those afraid to leave their homes. This is a start; however, real systemic change needs to take place.

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Daily Dispatch 7/16/2019

Resources, resources, resources….

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Daily Dispatch

July 16, 2019


Trump’s threatened raids did not materialize this weekend – not yet at least. However, in response to these threats, advocates and activists around the country have prepared for a new wave of raids. Thousands of people have taken to the streets – including in hundreds of “Lights of Liberty” vigils this past Friday, independent actions at detention centers, and this week, planned civil disobedience in the Capitol rotunda.

What this means is that there is a lot of activity and A LOT of information circulating. Today we are simply sharing some of what we’ve seen and encourage you to share – widely – so that people are ready to take action.

From the Immigrant Defense Project

These last few days there has been increased news coverage around ICE raids practices, specifically around ICE’s use of ruses. IDP has unredacted copies of DHS’ Ruse Memos and Fugitive Operations Manual along with other internal trainings and guidances on raids, which we received from our FOIA, available at: https://www.immigrantdefenseproject.org/raids-foia/  We also created infographics of common ICE ruses, available at: immdefense.org/infographics.

ICE Raids Toolkit: Defend Against ICE Raids and Community Arrests, the product of IDP’s and CCR’s collective work against ICE arrests under Bush and Obama, serves as the first comprehensive guide and organizing resource to fight back against the Trump administration’s efforts to criminalize communities and deport millions of people. (Updated in July 2019)

From CLINIC

Rapid Response Toolkit 

The toolkit provides a plan of action for you and your community to support and guide people during and after a raid. You also can build your own inclusive rapid response team by using the included how-to guide and model notebook.

Local Raids Response Hotlines and Contact Information 

This resource provides information on hotlines and rapid response networks in all of the cities that are likely to be targeted for large enforcement actions, as well as other localities. 

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: A guide to interacting with law enforcement

CLINIC’s KYR resources cover interactions with law enforcement in public, home and work settings, an emergency planning checklist, and what to do if a loved one calls you from an immigration detention center. This resource is available in nine languages, including Amharic, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English, Farsi, Haitian Creole, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Emergency Planning for Immigrant Families: A 50-State Resource
 
Use this resource to identify experts who are able to provide the proper assistance to families who need to make alternative childcare arrangements; for example, naming a temporary guardian.

Shooting at Northwest Detention Center

On Saturday, a protester was shot and killed by Tacoma police. Willem Van Spronsen was attempting to set vehicles on fire at the detention center when he was engaged by police and killed. Below is a statement from La Resistencia about the shooting – which, importantly clarifies some misunderstanding in media reporting about the incident. Also, without defending Spronsen’s tactics, the statement reminds us that Detention Centers are inherently sites of violence. 

La Resistencia Statement on Shooting Death of Northwest Detention Center Protester

July 13, 2019

Contact: Maru Mora Villalpando, maru@latinoadvocacy.org 206 251 6658

Tacoma, WA– Early this morning, a person who appears to have been engaged in protest against the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma was shot and killed by members of the Tacoma Police Department. Today marks yet another death linked to the detention center, and another death at the hands of the police. Based on available information, including the police scanner recording, Willem Van Spronsen, the protester killed, appears to have been targeting not the detention center itself, as has been widely reported in the media, but the parking lot across the street from the detention center which houses the NWDC’s transportation infrastructure. This infrastructure includes a fleet of buses that transports immigrants to be caged at the detention center, and that transports immigrants from the detention center to the Yakima Airport, from which they are deported. 

Mr. Van Spronsen was apparently trying to set the deportation buses on fire when he was shot and killed. His actions sadly reflect the level of desperation people across this country feel about the government’s outrageous violence against immigrants, which includes the use of detention centers to cage migrants both currently living in the U.S. and those seeking asylum. This death results from the federal government’s unresponsiveness to the anger and despair people feel at the horrors unfolding both at the border and in the interior, and from the inability of officers to de-escalate rather than shooting to kill.  

But for the City of Tacoma allowing the GEO Group’s facility to be built and expanded in Tacoma, this death, and the death and suffering of those inside the detention center would have been avoided. The NWDC has become a liability not just for the tens of thousands who have been caged there, but for the city of Tacoma itself. It’s past time for the city of Tacoma to cancel GEO’s business license. It’s clear that this “business” is a deadly one, that has only brought pain and suffering to our region.

La Resistencia calls on the City of Tacoma to hold immediate public hearings addressing the Tacoma Police’s actions today that resulted in the loss of life at the Detention Center and why the City continues to allow GEO to operate with a city business license. 

#####

La Resistencia (formerly NWDC Resistance) is a grassroots collective led by undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens based in Tacoma, Washington. It is an unincorporated association founded to confront human rights violations at the Northwest Detention Center and dedicated to ending the detention and deportation of immigrants. 

www.nwdcresistance.org 

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Daily Dispatch 7/15/2019

Mass raids announced for weekend didn’t happen…yet

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Daily Dispatch

July 15, 2019


Much anticipated raids threatened by the Trump administration did not begin this weekend. The administration had been threatening to launch a large scale operation targeting 2,000 or more people in families that have been issued final removal orders. By targeting families, the operation was intended to send a message to deter people from coming to the United States to seek asylum. The raids will still likely happen at some point, possibly even this week. The latest tweet threats had indicated the raids would start Sunday and run through Thursday.

It is unusual for the administration to announce such actions in advance. While it makes little operational sense, the fear that has spread in the weeks since Trump first threatened to deport “millions” is real enough. On Sunday, in immigrant communities around the country, people stayed home, hoping to avoid any encounters with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Part of the fear is born from experience with ICE raids – where agents pick up anybody they can, not simply the individuals for whom they have warrants (if they have warrants). 

A final point worth mentioning, is that ICE did not exactly take the weekend off. Agents routinely round up people on a daily basis, currently removing 7-8,000 people a month. The talk of when the raids will begin, then, is somewhat misplaced, as they have been going on for a long time. This particular operation is larger than most – and I suspect Trump relishes the media attention and fear they are generating. But ICE is out in our communities every day looking for people to arrest and deport.

However, Trump did just try gut our asylum laws

While the media inquires about what happened to the raids, Trump’s administration actually did do something on asylum – that if allowed to stand would make it almost impossible for the vast majority of people seeking asylum at the southern border to apply. From CBS News:

According to a new rule published in the Federal Register, asylum seekers who pass through another country first will be ineligible for asylum at the U.S. southern border. The rule, expected to go into effect on Tuesday, also applies to children who have crossed the border alone. The new rule will affect asylum seekers coming through Mexico from countries like Guatemala and El Salvador.

There are some exceptions: If someone has been trafficked, if the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern how refugees are managed (though most Western countries have signed them) or if an asylum-seeker sought protection in a country but was denied, then a migrant could still apply for U.S. asylum.

The new rule will certainly face legal challenges – but is the most draconian effort to kill asylum claims I can remember. In effect, only people from Mexico would be allowed to seek asylum at the southern border (the rate of approval for asylum requests from Mexico is very low). This would impact tens of thousands of people from Central America, but also people from all over the world who travel long distances to get to the U.S. southern border to seek asylum – including people from Haiti, Cameroon, Cuba and many other countries.

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World Hepatitis Day – July 28th

Our 2019 activist in residence, Sakiera Malone, updates us on her summer project at the Quixote Center raising awareness about the Hepatitis C virus.

I first learned about Hepatitis, more specifically the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), from a client at a nonprofit organization that I had previously worked with in Baltimore City. Hepatitis C is a virus that overtime, attacks the liver causing severe damage and in some case death. This client didn’t look or act sick, however, she relayed how cautious she was about her illness, ensuring that anything as a small as a paper cut was properly taken care of due to the transmission of the virus through blood.

Worldwide, there are approximately 71 million people living with HCV. In the United States, there are over 3 million people living with chronic HCV and many of them are unaware that they have the virus. According to the U.S. Department for Health and Human services, there are approximately 17,000 new cases in the United States every year, however the number can be significantly higher. There are two different forms of HCV including acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis C. Acute HCV occurs within the first several months of being infected with the virus and can either be short-term or develop into chronic HCV. Between 75 to 85 percent of those with acute Hepatitis C will develop chronic HCV. Chronic HCV can cause lifelong damage to the liver if left untreated.

There are several different ways that someone can contract HCV. Currently, the main cause of transmission from person-to-person is through injection drug use. According to a study conducted by the Center on Disease Control and Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration (SAMHSA). From 2004 to 2014, an increase of HCV was seen among Americans 18-39 years old. Among that demographic, there was a 400 percent increase of acute hepatitis C; 817 percent increase in admissions for injection of prescription opioids and 600 percent increase in admissions for heroin injection.

Those who develop chronic HCV face severe damage to their liver including fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Liver fibrosis is the early stage of liver damage and occurs when a large amount of scar tissue forms on the liver when the liver attempts to repair and replace damage cells. When liver damage form fibrosis continues overtime, the damage can become permanent and the damage can affect the liver’s internal function. Cirrhosis is the later stage of liver fibrosis. Chronic HCV is the most common cause of liver damage in the United States.

According to HepVu, an interactive online resource created by Emory University’s Coalition for Applied Modeling for Prevention (CAMP) with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2016, the rate of Hepatitis C is 890 per l00,000 people in the state of Maryland. Between 2015 and 2016, 19 of the 24 Maryland jurisdictions experienced an increase in reported HCV cases. In 2017, there were 7,922 new reported cases of chronic HCV in the state of Maryland.

My project, “Linking Urban Health Disparities in Baltimore City Neighborhoods,” aims to investigate the impacts of the Hepatitis C on Baltimore City neighborhoods, specifically unveiling which communities are impacted at the higher rate. Based off of my research, I have met and developed a list of community organizations and religious institutions offering human and health services in those neighborhoods. These community organizations and religious institutions will be invited to an information session(s) in August 2019 where they will be provided with originally customized local data and outreach and training material reflecting the populations most affected in Baltimore City. Linking Urban Health Disparities in Baltimore City Neighborhoods will officially launch on Sunday, July 28th, World Hepatitis Day.

Please visit UrbanHealthBaltimore.org on the officially launch date to learn more.

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Daily Dispatch 7/11/2019

Congress hears testimony on border detention conditions

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Daily Dispatch

July 11, 2019


Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee heard testimony about the conditions in detention facilities at the border, including testimony from Yazmin Juárez, whose daughter died after 20 days in detention at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Dilley, TX, operated by CoreCivic, a private prison contractor. Some background:

Yazmin Juárez is a young mother of a baby girl who died after falling gravely ill and being neglected by medical staff while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) custody. Mariee Juarez entered Dilley a healthy, 19-month old baby girl and 20 days later was discharged a gravely ill child with a life-threatening respiratory infection.

Within a week of entering Dilley, Mariee was running a 104-degree fever while suffering from a cough, congestion, diarrhea and vomiting. Yazmin sought medical treatment for Mariee many times as her condition worsened, only to be told to give Mariee ibuprofen, antibiotics, and Vicks Vaporub

The medical staff who discharged her weeks later noted none of these conditions and cleared her for travel without observing Mariee, conducting any kind of examination or taking her vital signs. After being released, Mariee spent six weeks at New Jersey and Philadelphia hospitals where doctors and specialists tried, to no avail, to save Mariee as her lungs collapsed from a respiratory infection.

Yazmin’s testimony detailed treatment at Dilley, as well as three days at a border patrol facility, in the “ice-box.” The full hearing can be viewed below. Yazim’s testimony takes place from minutes 29 to 54 with translation, questions follow. A transcript of her full testimony can be read here. A portion below:

My Mariee had always been a happy, healthy baby. She made the journey from Guatemala without any problems. When we crossed the border and made our claim for asylum, she was the normal, giggly baby she’d always been. We were immediately held in CBP custody for three or four days in a facility known as “la hielera” because it is freezing cold at all times. We were locked in a cage with about 20 other people, including children, and forced to sleep on a concrete floor.

Four days later, we were sent to the ICE detention center in Dilley, Texas. A nurse examined Mariee when we arrived and found her perfectly healthy. At Dilley, we were packed into a room with five other mothers with children, a total of 12 people in our room. I noticed immediately how many sick kids there were – and no effort was made to separate the sick from the healthy. One of the other little boys in our room who was about Mariee’s age had a constant cough, runny nose and was sleepy all the time. His mom tried to bring him to the clinic, but they kept being sent back without getting care. I found out then that the clinic was only open during certain times, so if you were still in line when it was supposed to close, they sent you away without being seen and told you to come back another day.

Within a week at Dilley, it started to happen to Mariee. She got sick – first it was coughing and sneezing. I brought her to the clinic, where I waited in line with many other people in a large room like a gymnasium to get medical care for her. We were able to get in and see a physician’s assistant, who examined Mariee and said she had a respiratory infection. She gave her Tylenol, honey for her cough and told me to follow up in six months.

But the next day, Mariee was worse. She was running a fever over 104 degrees and began having diarrhea and vomiting as well. She wouldn’t eat, and I remember her head felt so hot.

I was terrified so I brought her back to the clinic and waited in line again. This time a different physician assistant told me she had an ear infection and gave her antibiotics, but I know my baby and I knew it was something more serious. I begged them to conduct more exams, but they sent us back to our room and said to come back if Mariee got worse.

A second panel of experts, including human rights advocates followed. Among them, Clara Long from Human Rights Watch submitted testimony, the full transcript of which can be read here. Long was part of a team that inspected border facilities in June. She notes:

Our in-depth interviews with children revealed that the US Border Patrol is holding many children, including some who are much too young to take care of themselves, in jail-like border facilities for weeks at a time without contact with family members, or regular access to showers, clean clothes, toothbrushes, or proper beds. Many were sick. Many, including children as young as 2 or 3, were separated from adult caretakers without any provisions for their care besides that provided by unrelated older children also being held in detention. These conditions are consistent with those Human Rights Watch documented in our February 2018 report, “In the Freezer.” In contrast with the conditions as of February 2018, the harms of CBP detention for children are now compounding over weeks instead of days.

Ronald Vitiello, former head of Customs and Border Protection, and current acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also testified as part of the second panel. His testimony emphasized deterrence as a strategy to discourage people from coming.

On Friday, there will be a full committee hearing on conditions at the border.

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