Following the murder of 21 people in a WalMart in El Paso this past weekend, a crime inspired in part by the anti-immigration right wing in this country, Trump saw an opportunity to get something done, and we know he likes to get stuff done. The idea was to finally get universal background checks passed in Congress by “marrying” that to immigration reform measures. In Trump’s mind this is a bargain, right. Democrats want gun control, Republicans want immigration “reform.” Trump’s “let’s make a deal” approach, predictably, offended many people. But let’s be clear: There is a relationship between gun control (or the lack of it) and immigration. Not the link Trump was making, but a link nevertheless.
The connection is simple: U.S. made guns are fueling the drug wars in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and these are the places people are currently fleeing in large numbers. For example, consider this from The Economist:
A study of weapons found at crime scenes suggests that 70 percent of gun crimes in Mexico involve American-bought weapons. The share of homicides in Mexico involving a firearm grew from 16 percent in 1997 to 66 percent in 2017. That suggests around half of Mexico’s 33,000 murder victims last year were killed by a gun manufactured in the United States, which had 14,542 gun homicides in 2017. An American-made gun is more likely to be used in a murder in Mexico than at home.
In the summer of 2009, a sixty-three-year-old professional bass fisherman from Florida named Hugh Crumpler III was arrested for selling guns illegally. For years, he’d been buying weapons, legally, at gun shows, and then reselling them to individuals from Latin America who wanted to smuggle the guns back to their home countries. Crumpler was what’s known as a “straw buyer.” “I developed a group of customers,” he said later, in an interview with Univision. “And it dawned on me one day that they were all Hondurans; and that they all seemed to want the same type of guns; and they all seemed to want more and more.” By the time he was caught, Crumpler had resold roughly a thousand guns, including Glocks and AR-15 assault rifles. He eventually agreed to coöperate with American authorities in exchange for a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, some of the guns Crumpler sold were used in crimes in Honduras, Puerto Rico, and Colombia, including in at least one homicide.
The Center for American Progress released a detailed study on the connection between lax gun laws in the United States and crime outside our borders:
From 2014 to 2016, across 15 countries in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, 50,133 guns that originated in the United States were recovered as part of criminal investigations. Put another way, during this span, U.S.-sourced guns were used to commit crimes in nearby countries approximately once every 31 minutes.
Certainly, many of these U.S.-sourced crime guns were legally exported and were not diverted for criminal use until they crossed the border. The United States is a major manufacturer and a leading exporter of firearms, legally exporting an average of 298,000 guns each year. However, many of the same gaps and weaknesses in U.S. gun laws that contribute to illegal gun trafficking domestically likewise contribute to the illegal trafficking of guns from the United States to nearby nations.
The Center for American Progress identified several policy recommendations as part of this study, they include:
Instituting universal background checks for gun purchases.
Making gun trafficking and straw purchasing federal crimes.
Requiring the reporting of multiple sales of long guns.
Increasing access to international gun trafficking data.
Rejecting efforts that weaken firearm export oversight.
In Haiti, the connection is even clearer. Almost 100 percent of guns collected at crime scenes are from the United States. This despite the fact that a small arms embargo was put in place nearly thirty years ago, following the first coup d’etat that deposed Aristide in 1991. It is probably the most meaningless embargo ever created – what is required is a special export license, and with the right connections, one can be had. Even without a license, weapons get shipped.
For example, earlier this year a gun shop owner based in Orlando was arrested for illegally shipping arms to Haiti. From the Miami Herald,
The owner of Global Dynasty Corps., LLC in Orlando, Junior Joseph is currently on trial in Fort Lauderdale, where government prosecutors say he and Jimy, whose own trial is scheduled to start next week, concealed 159 semi-automatic single-and double-barreled 12-gauge shotguns, five AR15-type rifles and two 9mm Glock 17 pistols inside the truck and illegally exported them to Haiti. Also hidden in the vehicle were tactical vests, police boots and 30,000 bullets including shells for the shotguns.
None of this is new. Following the second coup d’etat against Aristide in 2004, thousands of weapons were sent to Haiti – a transfer approved by then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John Bolton. At least 2,000 people died in fighting, mostly concentrated in neighborhoods in Port au Prince in 2004 and 2005. The weapons were from the United States. Maxine Waters called for an investigation into the arms transfers – or at least some answers from Bolton. She didn’t get either. Bolton is not in prison, of course, he is back in the White House trying to start a war with Iran.
More recently, violence is again on the rise in Haiti. The context for the recent arrests for gun running becoming clearer. The most gruesome example, a massacre that occurred in La Saline in November of 2018. As reported in the Miami Herald,
During that period, Nov. 13-17, men, women and even children as young as 4 were shot to death, their bodies then fed to dogs and pigs. Women were raped and set on fire, as was a police officer, Juwon Durosier. The culprits: bandits tied to gang conflicts over control of a sprawling outdoor market where protection rackets are the norm, but also guns-for-hire by powerful politicians and well-heeled businessmen seeking to control votes in the run-up to upcoming legislative and mayoral elections.
So yes, there is a connection between gun control and immigration. The United States’ unique obsession with guns, a country with more guns than people, ripples out to impact the lives of others in neighboring countries where these guns get trafficked. Of course, the gangs that are part of this network of trafficking are themselves from the United States, a point too often lost in the immigration discussion as well. MS-13 started in Los Angeles, not San Salvador. And, the government officials in Haiti, Guatemala and Honduras fueling violence, are there by the grace of U.S. policymakers as well (and occasionally drug dealers). Simply put, the U.S. is the leading exporter of the tools of violence in the world.
Between 1910 and 1920, thousands of Mexican nationals and U.S. citizens living in Texas were killed by vigilantes, local law enforcement, and Texas Rangers.
The dead included women and men, the aged and the young, long-time residents and recent arrivals. They were killed by strangers, by neighbors, by vigilantes and at the hands of local law enforcement officers and the Texas Rangers. Some were summarily executed after being taken captive, or shot under the flimsy pretext of trying to escape. Some were left in the open to rot, others desecrated by being burnt, decapitated, or tortured by means such as having beer bottles rammed into their mouths. Extralegal executions became so common that a San Antonio reporter observed that “finding of dead bodies of Mexicans, suspected for various reasons of being connected with the troubles, has reached a point where it creates little or no interest. It is only when a raid is reported or an American is killed that the ire of the people is aroused.”
The context for this violence is complicated, but clearly connected to instability at the border during the Mexican Revolution, as people migrated into the southwestern United States, and in some cases, engaged in border raids to get supplies. The response by Texas forces and the U.S. military was a predecessor to counterinsurgency campaigns seen in the mid-20th century and later, where the entire population was put under suspicion, becoming the targets of widespread violence. All of which was enabled by decades long conflict between Mexicans and Anglos in Texas border area.
The “Plan” de San Diego
People crossing the border during the years of the revolution had different affiliations to factions in Mexico. In one case, the arrest of a Mexican national in McAllen, Texas would set off a “river of blood”
In early 1915, at the height of the Mexican Revolution, a Mexican national named Basilio Ramos was arrested in McAllen. A onetime beer distributor in the Duval County town of San Diego, Ramos was a follower of deposed Mexican president Victoriano Huerta. Officers found in his possession the Plan de San Diego; simply put, it was a revolutionary manifesto calling for no less than the liberation of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Colorado. The territory had been, in Ramos’ high-blown rhetoric of the times, taken over in a “most perfidious manner by North American imperialists.”
Ramos also furnished the starting date of the invasion: February 20 at 2 a.m. There was a catch, though. Ramos’ Supreme Revolutionary Congress had yet to appoint a military commander or to raise an armed force. That aside, the plan also called for a race war; it stipulated the death of all Anglo males over sixteen as well as “traitors to the race,” meaning “disloyal” Texas Mexicans. But loyal Mexican Americans, blacks, Japanese, and Indians would be welcome to join the ranks.
Nothing much came of the plan. There was no invasion or revolt. Ramos was charged with conspiracy to levy war, and his bond set at $5000; in short order bail was reduced to $100, and he skipped to Matamoros, never to affect the course of history again.
Though the “Plan de San Diego” itself never came to much, the rumors surrounding its content, and the ongoing conflict in the Rio Grande Valley, led to a spike in violence.
The racial strife that followed in the lower Rio Grande Valley, however, was a far more serious and lasting matter. In the ensuing twelve months, three hundred “suspected Mexicans,” the majority of them American citizens, were “summarily executed by hanging or shooting on the Texas side of the river as a result of the feelings aroused by the Plan de San Diego,” according to a U.S. Army report.
Soon, retaliatory raids were organized to strike back against the indiscriminate treatment of Mexicans.
They were organized by two Mexican Americans, one a rancher, the other a grocer, who were seething at the way Rangers treated all Mexicans, American or not, with equal contempt. Following the first raid, the leaders anonymously issued the first rhetorical blast, demanding a halt to the “criminal acts and insults of the miserable Rangers who guard the banks of the Rio Bravo.”
As people fled north to escape the violence, labor shortages in south Texas became a problem for ranchers and farmers. After a year of “Plan San Diego” violence, presidents Woodrow Wilson and Venustiano Carranza signed an agreement to bring in more workers from Mexico, while extending aid to the government in Mexico to stem other migration.
The violence did not end here, however. In 1918 a massacre in the small village of Porvenir, when Texas Rangers and local law enforcement oversaw the murder of 15 men and boys, set off a chain of events that brought a national spotlight to the violence in Texas – and for a time – some respite from the violence. In Porvenir,
“Men were dragged from their beds, and, without having been given time to dress, were led away in their night clothes to the edge of the settlement, where they were shot to death by the posse,” reads an El Paso Morning Times article published on Feb. 8, 1918, almost two weeks after the massacre. “The bodies of the men were found the next day where they had fallen, riddled with bullets.”
They were killed after a group of Texas Rangers, U.S. Army cavalry soldiers and local ranchers descended on their village, Porvenir, seeking revenge for a deadly attack at a nearby ranch a month earlier — although there was no evidence tying the villagers to it.
The massacre may have been simply swept under the rug were it not for the efforts of state representative José T. “J.T.” Canales from Brownsville. Canales was the only Latino in the state legislature at the time and used his position to launch an investigation into the actions of the Texas Rangers at Porvenir, as well as other abuses. Submitting documents to Governor Hobby, Canales wrote:
The object of this appeal is to call your attention to this unprovoked and wholesale murder by Texas Rangers in conjunction with ranchmen – Rangers who instead of maintaining peace are committing murder by the wholesale and to request Your Excellency to have these rangers removed at once and others (who are peaceable and law abiding) placed over all this district. No matter what white-washed report may have been made to you or to the Adjutant General, the facts herein are true and can be proven. (emphasis in original)
None of the people involved in the massacre were ever charged. However, as a result of the investigation, which brought to light Texas Ranger involvement in widespread violence, the Ranger force was restructured and its forces cut in half.
Change and Continuity
By 1920, violence subsided – somewhat. Some of the people who had fled back across the border, however, had left behind land they had been working – eventually lost to them. This was a preview of what was to come. In 1929, the Hoover administration launched a massive campaign to “repatriate” Mexicans – most, however, were U.S. citizens. The project impacted hundreds of thousands – some estimates as high as 2 million – people forced off their land and out of the country. 1929 is also the year the U.S. Government made crossing the border between ports of entry a federal crime (USC 1325), specifically targeting Mexican immigrants.
In recounting this time, Refusing to Forget, a website/collective committed to documenting the history of violence in the 1910s, notes:
Far from being surreptitious, the violence was welcomed, celebrated, and even instigated at the highest levels of society and government. As thousands fled to Mexico and decapitated bodies floated down the Rio Grande, one Texas paper spoke of “a serious surplus population that needs eliminating.” Prominent politicians proposed putting all those of Mexican descent into “concentration camps” – and killing any who refused. For a decade, people would come across skeletons in the south Texas brush, marked with execution-style bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.
Against the backdrop of this history, which is mostly unknown outside of Texas, and little known even here, people are rightly concerned. Border deaths are already very high – over a twenty year period as high as 7,000. Today we let the desert do what Texas Rangers and ranchmen once did, but the result is still death. Our border is a militarized zone – much as it was 100 years ago. The president continues to demean and dehumanize migrants.
I don’t believe we are going back to the level of violence witnessed here 100 years ago – but we are living in a time where violence is spoken of openly as some kind of solution, where vigilantes are active, and official discourse encourages it. It is a frightening time – especially when individual youth, raised in this milieu, pick up an assault weapon and go to a mall to “kill as many Mexicans as possible.”
Stand with El Paso
There will be vigils organized around the country, to stand in solidarity with the people of El Paso against white supremacist violence. Check the website here to get the latest.
As everyone knows by now, on Saturday, a young man entered a Walmart near El Paso and shot dozens of people, killing at least 20 of them. Under questioning, he told police he wanted “to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.” This statement, and a “manifesto” that police believe he also wrote, may lead to a Federal hate crimes prosecution in addition to charges he will face in Texas.
These developments have led many to further denounce Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants, which seems to be fueling a rise in white nationalist hate groups around the country. To be sure, such groups increase in number and then fall off in a cyclic nature, often inversely correlated with economic growth and retraction. But Trump’s campaign and presidency have corresponded to a rapid increase in hate groups and white supremacist violence.
From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s most recent annual report on hate groups released in February this year,
The mainstreaming of harmful and poisonous ideas has spread to Trump’s allies, particularly those at Fox News. Tucker Carlson was the source of Trump’s South African tweet. He gave wildly incorrect information on the issue on his show the night before the president’s tweet, and he also hosted an apartheid apologist on his nightly program in May to discuss the so-called war on white farmers in that country. Carlson has used his program to engage in tirades against diversity, transgender people and, especially, immigrants.
Like white supremacists, Carlson has tied these bogeymen directly to demographic change. In July, Carlson said, “Latin American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country.” Then in November, he said, “It is never true that diversity is your strength.” In another broadcast, he told his viewers, “this is more change than human beings are designed to digest.”
Carlson’s Fox News colleague Laura Ingraham echoed this theme. In August, she said, “The America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. … Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like.” No wonder Carlson is beloved by white supremacists such as Spencer as well as Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer. In May, Anglin called Carlson’s show “Tucker Carlson AKA Daily Stormer TV,” and wrote, “wow, someone important is reading my articles.”
Fox News is Trump’s megaphone as well as the source of many of his ideas. And his on-air allies Carlson and Ingraham, whom Trump watches religiously, have audiences between 2.5 million and 3 million viewers.
Most Americans are now fully aware that Trump is emboldening white supremacists and helping to grow their ranks. An October poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows a majority believe Trump has “encouraged white supremacist groups.”
But he’s done more than that. He has installed people with extremist views into his administration, and their views are affecting policy.
Trump’s administration has, and continues to include, people with strong ties to anti-immigration groups and far-right nationalist organizations. While some of the most well known bigots, like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions are now gone, many lower level staffers with connections to anti-immigrant groups, and, importantly, advisor Stephen Miller, remain.
Reports – as far as I know not independently confirmed, but telling – emerged on Saturday evening of concern that some people were not seeking medical treatment out of fear related to their immigrant status following the shooting. From Slate:
People who need help after the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, may not seek it out because of their immigration status, authorities fear. “This is a concern,” Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of the Homeland Security Department, told CNN. “It’s clear that there’s people that are not unifying with their family and that there are people they’re worried are injured that did not go to hospitals likely because of their immigration status.”
Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard denounced the shooting as “an act of barbarism,” and said,
“The president has instructed me to ensure that Mexico’s indignation translates into … efficient, prompt, expeditious and forceful legal actions for Mexico to take a role and demand that conditions are established that protect … Mexicans in the United States,” Ebrard said in a video posted on Twitter.
Ebrard later announced that he would be in El Paso to meet with the victims and offer support from the Mexican government.
Of the 20 people killed, 6 were Mexican nationals; of the 26 injured, 9 were.
The Quixote Center joined the coalition that organized the Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children on July 18th. Below is the latest update from the campaign with action items included for the coming August Congressional recess.
Thank you for your support of the Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children on July 18.
Hundreds of Catholics came together in prayer and action that day, to say “Stop the Inhumanity, End Child Detention” of migrants. We flooded the White House with calls. And 71 Catholic sisters, priests, brothers and lay people in Washington, D.C. were arrested in prayerful, nonviolent civil disobedience, to tell our elected officials our message:
Catholics say: Stop the Inhumanity!
We deeply mourn the loss of the children who have died in U.S. custody on our southern border and we do not accept the inhumane and immoral treatment of immigrant children by our government.
Impact on Migrant Children: includes convergence of actions by Jewish allies, United We Dream, etc.
The Homestead, FL Child detention/influx facility has released about 1000 children mostly to families/sponsors, with 700 remaining; and we have reports that Homestead might be empty by the end of Aug.!
The Carizzo Springs, TX child detention center is nearly empty and we are told will be closed within the week.
The planned detention center at Fort Stills, OK has been suspended.
*We will be putting together an online map to list and find local actions.
*We are planning our next national direct actions in NY/Newark in late Aug./early Sept. and in El Paso in early Oct.
Join us in gathering with Catholics across the country in continuous acts of prayer and taking more courageous risks to form an unrelenting demand to “Stop the Inhumanity” and “End Migrant Child Detention.” Each of us can stretch beyond our own comfort to align ourselves with the suffering of those detained. Each week, we can choose to be the ones who speak, act and make visible the Gospel imperative “Love Your Neighbor.”Think of how each week you and your community can increasingly take more risks.
We Start with Prayer
Here are three ways we invite Catholics to pray together:
Monday Prayer: Every Monday, join us in a day of personal prayer, fasting and almsgiving on behalf of the children detained at the U.S. border. We encourage you to use our prayer card and pictures of the children who have died in U.S. custody and the images of migrants and refugees provided by the Justice for Immigrants Campaign’s “Migration Monday” project. (https://justiceforimmigrants.org/migrationmonday/)
Parish Prayer: Plan to gather your local parish after weekend Masses to pray for five or ten minutes for the intention of the immigrant children. Share with your pastor our letter of invitation and use our suggested prayer. This gathering might be coordinated through the parish staff, pastor or lay leaders, or it might begin with a few friends gathering following eucharistic liturgy to pray together in remembrance and hope.
Community Prayer Vigil: In whatever way is possible, perhaps on the same day each week, invite Catholics from across your city or town to gather in prayer and public witness, using our prayer service, the images of the children whose lives have been lost while detained, and “Catholics say: Stop the Inhumanity” signs.
Each week (usually Wednesday afternoon), you will receive suggested materials for prayer and action. Please encourage your family and friends to join us as we build toward larger actions in the coming weeks and months.
This coming week, we invite you to take two advocacy actions at the local level:
Find and commit to attending a Town Hall meeting. Elected representatives are home for August recess and hosting town hall meetings to hear the concerns of the people they represent – that’s you! Enter your zip code in this website (https://townhallproject.com/) to find a town hall meeting near you. When you go, carry/wear large pictures of the children who have died in U.S. custody and deliver our message.
Carry pictures of the children who have died in U.S. custody and deliver our message to “end migrant child detention.” Give your representative a copy of the statement on the appalling conditions of child detention made by Catholic Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on MigrationJustice for Immigrants Statements
Thank you for your support, prayers, and action!
Graham’s Bill to Kill Asylum Passes out of Committee
Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee debated Senator Graham’s The Secure and Protect Act (S1494) – a proposal that would seriously undermine the asylum process, particularly impact children. We sent out information, with an action alert to contact members on the committee yesterday. The bill was passed out of committee on a party line vote. We will follow up with more detail as the bill moves to the floor in the senate following the August recess.
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to debate and mark up Senator Graham’s The Secure and Protect Act (S1494) – a proposal that would seriously undermine the asylum process, particularly impact children.
The Quixote Center joined with dozens of other organizations in signing a letter to committee members stating opposition to this legislation. A summary below from RAICES:
Senator Graham’s anti-asylum bill would
Extend time immigrant children spend in detention (nullifying the Flores settlement)
Give the Department of Homeland Security “unreviewable discretion to determine the conditions of these facilities”
Limit asylum claims to only those entering via ports of entry, which violates both domestic and international law
Require unaccompanied children to apply for asylum within one year
Prohibit states from requiring that family detention centers be certified by the state
Create “refugee processing centers” in other countries which will further limit asylum claims as these claims will then be subject to refugee caps based on the President’s set number, which has been historically low under the Trump Administration
The end goal of this legislation is to completely strip humanitarian protections for immigrants and asylum-seeking newcomers to the United States and to reduce the number of asylum claims allowed. It’s, in essence, a way to subvert our duty to provide a legal process for those fleeing extreme and alarming violence in their home countries to seek refuge in the United States.
If your Senator is on the Judiciary Committee, please let them know ASAP, that you do not support this bill (S 1494). To connect by phone, U.S. Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121.
The Senate Judiciary Committee
Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chair
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael S. Lee (R-UT)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Ben Sasse (R-NE)
Joshua D. Hawley (R-MO)
Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Joni Ernst (R-IA)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
John Kennedy (R-LA)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Ranking member
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Christopher A. Coons (D-DE)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Kamala Harris (D-CA)
RAICES has set up a platform from which you can Tweet members of the committee here.
Note: The regular Daily Dispatch has been delayed this week due to staff planning sessions and some vacation time. We will be back full force next week!!
“Invest in Eliminating Hepatitis” was the theme for World
Hepatitis Day that took place on Sunday, July 28th. Governments,
health institutions, nonprofits and community organizations across the world
came together to raise awareness to this important public issue. Those impacted
by the disease shared their personal stories and health officials discussed
strategies to combat the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and other essential stakeholders
are hoping to urge national and regional policymakers to increase their
political and financial commitments to the study of Hepatitis, improving access
to Hepatitis-related services among populations, highlight WHO’s updated cost
estimates for Hepatitis elimination as part of achieving health-related sustainable
development goals, and encourage individuals to seek out and utilize services
related to Hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment.
There are five types of viral Hepatitis ranging from
Hepatitis A-E which affect different communities across the globe, and people
are taking action to eliminate the virus. The World Health Organization Western
Pacific Region (including 26 countries) was previously known for having the
world’s highest prevalence of chronic Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B causes an
upwards of 900,000 deaths around the world due to liver cirrhosis, cancer and
other complications. The countries set an ambitious goal
to reduce the prevalence of Hepatitis B for children to below 1 percent. In 2017,
they successfully met this goal.
The United States is hoping for similar success in reducing
the number of people infected with viral Hepatitis. The U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services developed the National
Viral Hepatitis Action Plan 2017-2020 in hopes of combating viral Hepatitis
in the United States. The Action Plan emphasizes a collaborative effort from
essential stakeholders within the public and private sectors. The U.S.
Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development,
Justice, and Veteran Affairs in addition to nonfederal stakeholders all took
part in the effort.
Viral Hepatitis impacts many people around the world and with the launch of Urban Health Baltimore, I’m hoping to greatly impact the community of Baltimore. Together, let’s invest in eliminating Hepatitis.
Democrats and Immigration Part 1: Decriminalizing Improper Entry
Since Trump officially announced his re-election bid there have been a series of high profile initiatives from his administration that have thrown immigration front and center into policy debates in the presidential campaign.
As a result, in recent weeks most of the candidates seeking the nomination for president with the Democratic Party have been forced to hone some kind of detailed message on immigration policy. All of the candidates by and large support extending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), affecting the people designated “DREAMers” who arrived in the United States as minors, making this the signature issue for the Democrats on immigration. However, as candidates have begun releasing plans, some at least are going beyond support for DACA and boilerplate condemnation of Trump, to present reform ideas that could actually have a systemic impact.
Over the next few weeks, we will be reviewing the candidates’ positions on a variety of immigration-related policy issues. This week, we take a look at the little known law that makes improper entry a federal crime – and the discussion about repealing it that surfaced in the Democratic presidential debates.
Decriminalizing “improper entry”
In 1929 Congress made improper entry into the United States a Federal misdemeanor. Improper entry is defined as entering outside of regular ports of entry, eluding inspection by border agents, or using fraudulent documents to gain admittance. Improper re-entry is a felony. The context for the law’s passage was an effort to control migration from Mexico, balancing the demands of Southwestern business interests reliant on migrant labor with those of nativist politicians who were in the midst of a crackdown on immigration from non-European countries:
The idea was to force Mexican immigrants into an authorized and monitored stream that could be turned on and turned off at will at ports of entry. Any immigrant who entered the United States outside the bounds of this stream would be a criminal subject to fines, imprisonment and ultimately deportation. But it was a crime designed to impact Mexican immigrants, in particular.
Over the next ten years, 44,000 migrants were prosecuted under the law. Three new border prisons were constructed to incarcerate them. By World War II, increased demand for labor and frustration within the federal court system of dealing with misdemeanor crimes, led to a relaxation of enforcement. Between 1940 and 2005 very few people were prosecuted for improper entry, limited primarily to people with violent criminal records or repeated re-entry violations.
In 2005 the Bush administration began aggressively and indiscriminately enforcing the law again, as part of its post-9/11 border security push. From Grassroots Leadership:
In 2005, the Del Rio sector of the Border Patrol, an agency within the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, faced a peculiar issue. With civil detention facilities at capacity and voluntary return to Mexico available only to Mexican citizens, non-Mexican migrants were given a notice to appear in front of an immigration judge and released in the United States.” In 2004, Border Patrol apprehended approximately 10,000 non-Mexican migrants in the Del Rio sector; just one year later, the figure spiked to 15,000. The solution to this enforcement issue, Border Patrol decided, was to circumvent the civil immigration system by turning non-Mexican migrants over for criminal prosecution, a practice until then relegated almost exclusively to cases of violent criminal history or numerous re-entries. Upon considering the proposition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas responded with one caveat: in order to avoid an equal protection violation, the courts would have to criminally prosecute all migrants within a designated area, not just those from countries other than Mexico.
With the signature of Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Cherto, it was decided to do just that. Starting in December of 2005, “Operation Streamline” required all undocumented border-crossers in the Eagle Pass area of the Del Rio Border Patrol sector to be funneled into the criminal justice system and charged with unlawful entry or re-entry (8 U.S.C. § 1325 or 1326). Those charged with improper entry usually face a sentence of up to 180 days, and a judge may impose a sentence of over ten years dependent upon criminal history. Re-entry offenders also face tough sentences, including a felony charge that places up to a ten-year bar on legal immigration.
Operation Streamline was extended into other border sectors and has become a central component of the framework for border security. The results of circumventing the civil immigration enforcement system and redirecting people for criminal prosecution are well known, even if the underlying law is not: Family separation, clogged court dockets, and the expanded presence of private prison contractors in immigrant enforcement.
In the last year, the Trump administration exploited this system to press its most well known and abusive deterrent strategy – separating families at the border. This was not a new phenomenon. Family separation was a well documented effect of redirecting adults in a family group for federal prosecution and incarceration (and family separation occurs in other facets of enforcement and border policy as well). The failure to develop an adequate infrastructure to ensure family reunification, track separated children, and maintain communication between parents and children was also well documented under the Obama administration. Nothing was done.
Despite the systemic weaknesses, Trump used the infrastructure available to him to establish a policy of purposefully separating family groups, all the time claiming he had no choice because “it was the law.” The real purpose, also not hidden in administration discourse, was to deter families from migrating to the United States. After much outcry over the practice, Trump issued an executive order to end the policy of family separation (after a federal judge gave him little choice); only it has not ended. The underlying legal infrastructure remains in place and separating children from adults redirected for federal prosecution will remain a result of enforcement. Beyond family separation, criminal enforcement impacts tens of thousands of immigrants every year, leading to prolonged periods of incarceration and prosecutions that can later be used to justify criminal removal proceedings.
Decriminalizing improper entry would alleviate time taken up in the Federal Courts, where nearly one-half of all cases currently heard are for violations of improper entry or improper re-entry. Immigration is mostly dealt with as a civil offense already; however, repealing USC 1325 in and of itself would not change many other problematic features of our immigration system. People could still be deported, face incarceration in “civil detention,” struggle with changes in asylum rules, and so on.
On the other hand, repealing the law would remove the indiscriminate and unnecessary criminal layer of enforcement that leads to tens of thousands of people being incarcerated in federal prisons each year – often to then be handed over to civil authorities for further detention and adjudication. By itself, repealing the law would not end all family separation, but it would remove one of the chief legal justifications for the practice. Finally, axing USC 1325 could also have a longer-term impact on how immigration is viewed. Ana Campoy writes in Quartz:
Over time, though, repealing 1325 could have an impact on the U.S.’s broader immigration policy. Beyond the courts, the law helped build an image of undocumented immigrants as criminals. Removing that legal label could have an effect on public opinion. That might eventually give lawmakers some political room to fix the U.S.’s broken immigration system, including the bottlenecks in the asylum process behind the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Where the Democratic candidates stand
Julian Castro has made repealing USC 1325 a centerpiece of his immigration policy platform. In detailing his plan in a Medium post, Castro says,
The worst of the government’s actions stem from a little-known, but significant policy that is central to today’s inhumane and flawed immigration system: Section 1325. This antiquated law dates back to the era when my grandmother presented herself at Texas’ Eagle Pass border crossing, remanded as an orphan to her nearest relatives in San Antonio. In that decade — the 1920s — the U.S. government moved to cut off a wave of Mexican immigrants like her. These laws got a new life in 2005, when the Bush administration decided to charge those that crossed the border with criminal violations, rather than civil ones. This shift to criminalize immigration is at the core of many of this administration’s most egregious immigration policies — from family separation to indiscriminate ICE raids to targeting asylum seekers. It also underlies some of this administration’s most damaging rhetoric that vilifies immigrants and families
To be clear, Castro is still advocating for enforcement of civil penalties. If someone is found to have crossed the border improperly they would still face deportation as a possibility unless they had specific grounds to stay, such as a valid asylum claim. As discussed inVox,
Being in the U.S. without papers would still be a civil offense — the federal equivalent of a traffic ticket — and deportation would still be the penalty. That’s what Castro points out distinguishes his plan from “open borders”; he’s not actually suggesting that everyone who comes into the U.S. be allowed to stay.
But he is saying that none of them should be charged with a crime, immediately deported, or detained for more time than strictly necessary for crossing the border.
Elizabeth Warren has come out in support of repealing USC 1325 as well. She writes:
This additional criminal provision is totally unnecessary for border security, and for a century, it was rarely enforced. But since the early 2000s, it has been used to build and sustain a massive immigration detention complex. In 2016, over half of all federal criminal prosecutions were for immigration violations — more than prosecutions for terrorism, organized crime, hate crimes, or financial fraud. This obsessive focus ties up federal prosecutors and overwhelms federal courts. It’s costly and unnecessary. And under Trump, it has become increasingly abusive. We should repeal this criminal prohibition to prevent future abuse. As president, I will immediately issue guidance to end criminal prosecutions for simple administrative immigration violations; end Operation Streamline, which subjects migrants to mass prosecutions; and refocus our limited resources on actual criminals and real threats to the United States.
Warren’s emphasis on executive actions is important to highlight, as repealing the law would require congressional action and that will likely not happen anytime soon.
Corey Booker issued a detailed plan for “virtually ending” immigrant detention that emphasizes executive actions that could be taken quickly. He supports eliminating USC 1325, but in his plan of Executive actions he simply states a priority would be, “Reversing President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy and directing U.S. attorneys to deprioritize improper entry prosecutions across the U.S., unless an individual poses a public safety risk.”
Bernie Sanders has not taken a specific line on USC 1325, but recently pushed back strongly against the idea that he supports an “open border.” Sanders has been skeptical of liberalizing immigration because of the potential impact on wages and possibly undercutting support for other policies he promotes – universal health care and college access, for example. The analysis underlying these positions is not strong, but is a common hesitation among social democrats. Sanders has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s inhumane enforcement policies, and has indicated he would seek to cut out private contractors from child detention. His record otherwise suggests he would not make repealing USC 1325 a priority, though he has not spoken out against it.
Joe Biden has not taken a position on USC 1325 in the context of this election, but he is unlikely to support its repeal. Biden’s immigration plan does not specifically address many of the systemic features of enforcement; rather he criticizes Trump’s approach and emphasizes improved relations with Latin America as a means to address the roots of migration. As part of the Obama administration, Biden did oversee the expansion of Operation Streamline, which relied on enforcement of USC 1325, and he has not stepped back from that support.
Beto O’Rourke is the only candidate to explicitly state he does not support repeal of USC 1325. He did so in the context of the first Democratic debate, when Julián Castro pressed him to take a position on this matter. O’Rourke does have many creative ideas on immigration reform, some of which we will take up in future posts. But in response to this particular issue, he said,“I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to follow our laws when they come into this country.” O’Rourke’s specific objection had to do with enforcement against traffickers. However, as Castro pointed out, repealing USC 1325 would not make trafficking legal.
As noted above, repeal of USC 1325 alone would still leave in place many other problematic features of our immigration system. Indeed, the candidates that support its repeal place the act within a broader context of reform – so no one is arguing that this is a fix by itself. That said, it could be a very important catalyst for transformation of our immigration system, one that would move us away from criminalization and toward a system built on respect for human dignity.
It is a hopeful sign that the proposal to repeal USC 1325 is now entering mainstream discussion. The more that candidates articulate how unnecessary, wasteful and inhumane this added layer of criminal prosecution is for immigration enforcement, the more, we hope, people will begin to recognize the need for its repeal.
The Trump administration is expanding the use of expedited removal procedures to cover the entire country. We discussed a Senate plan to fast track asylum proceedings yesterday. The expansion of expedited removal is a different initiative that would allow officials to deport someone who cannot prove s/he has been in the country for at least two years immediately – literally within hours of being detained. From NPR:
Currently, undocumented immigrants who cross into the U.S. by land can be deported without an immigration hearing if they are arrested within 100 miles of the border during the first 14 days after their arrival. Those who arrive by sea can be deported without legal proceedings if they are unable to prove they have been living in the U.S. for two years or more.
But under the latest proposal, all geographical limitations would be lifted and rapid removal proceedings would be applied to all undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for less than two years.
The expansion of expedited removal will be challenged in court.
“We plan on challenging the change … speedily,” Anand Balakrishnan, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project told NPR.
Balakrishnan called the policy shift “extremely sweeping,” and said it authorizes any Customs and Border Protection officer to determine whether a person has been in the U.S. the requisite amount of time to trigger legal proceedings.
“The only way out of that is for the person to affirmatively prove that they’ve been here for two years or more. To have that evidence on them at all times,” he said. “It puts the burden on every noncitizen to prove their continuous presence.”
He noted, deportations could happen within hours of a person’s arrest.
“From what we know about the way expedited removals have been administered in the past, it’s been rife with errors,” Balakrishnan said. “U.S. citizens have been ordered deported” and in other cases, people who have lived in the country for more than a decade have also been ejected, he said.
U.S. Citizen Detained for 26 Days
An 18 year-old high school student, Francisco Erwim Galicia, born in Dallas, TX, was detained for over three weeks by Customs and Border Protection and then Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite having proof of his citizenship on him when stopped at an immigation checkpoint.
Galicia, 18, was in a van with his brother Marlon and three other high school friends on June 27. They were on their way to Houston for a recruitment event when they were stopped at a border patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas — about 50 miles from home and within the corridor of the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector.
Officials wanted to know their legal status. Their answers varied.
Two of them were immediately cleared but Galicia’s 17-year-old brother and another boy, were in the country illegally. They were detained.
When officials questioned Galicia, he told them he was born in Dallas. He also produced a Texas ID, a social security card and a copy of a wallet-sized birth certificate.
It was not enough. The boys were held overnight and then transferred to the CBP. Galicia’s younger brother, though a minor, signed a deportation order to get out of detention with no contact with his mother. He is now in Mexico living with his grandmother. The conditions in the facility were so bad that Galicia almost agreed to sign an order just to get out.
Over the next few weeks, Galicia said he was kept filthy, hungry and in a constant state of anxiety. He was placed in a crowded room with about 60 other men and one open toilet. He was denied access to a shower for more than three weeks and he said he was fed one sandwich three times a day. His lawyer estimates he lost about 20 pounds.
Galicia’s mother was able to secure assistance from an attorney, who was able to obtain his release by providing original birth certificates and other documentation. Had she not been able to secure an attorney, her son would have likely been deported. In Galicia’s case, there was confusion about a tourist visa he had been issued after the family had moved back to Mexico for a time. It is hard to believe, however, that it would take 26 days to confirm his birth record.
Do we really want to trust agencies that take 26 days to confirm the birth certificate of a U.S. citizen- and then only under pressure from an attorney, which most people detained do not have – to oversee a fair process of expedited removal?
Take Action to secure release of Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez
We are asking folks to join in a call to action to help secure the release of an activist and longtime Chicago resident, Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez. Some background below. You can sign a petition here.
On May 21, 2019, beloved OCAD staff Miguel Lopez received a call alerting him that his youngest brother, Jesus Alberto Lopez Gutierrez (A-204588492), a long time resident of Chicago, was turned into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after being detained by a local Iowa police officer on his way home from a camping trip.
Jesus Alberto came to the United States when he was nine years old and has lived in Chicago since 2005. He graduated from Solorio Academy High School in June 2014 and began working to support his family that same year. During the fall in 2012, Jesus Alberto applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and, in February 2013, his application was approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Before his detention, Jesus Alberto was in the process of renewing his DACA, but he is unable to move forward with his application unless ICE releases him from detention.
The Trump administration issued new rules on asylum last week, disqualifying people from applying for asylum if they had passed through a third country before arriving at the U.S. border, unless they had first sought relief in that other country and been denied. For people seeking asylum from Central America, that means they would have to first seek asylum in either Guatemala or Mexico, depending on where they are arriving from. The administration’s efforts to get either Mexico or Guatemala to agree to “safe third country” status has failed. Absent such a designation, under current U.S. law, people can seek asylum at the U.S./Mexico border. Trump’s new rules were thus an end around this provision and the legislative process.
The new rules were immediately challenged in two court cases, each seeking a temporary injunction – effectively suspending the law while longer court challenges are underway. In one case the judge ruled against the plaintiffs. In a second ruling, the same day, a different court in California ruled against the government and issued the injunction. From NPR:
Hours after a federal judge on the East Coast refused to block a Trump administration rule requiring most asylum-seekers to ask for protection in another country before they try to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, a judge on the West Coast put a stop to the new policy.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction against the controversial rule unveiled by the White House and applied on a “pilot” basis last week.
Tigar wrote that the “new Rule is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws.”
The administration seeks to fast track asylum claims
Not satisfied with blocking asylum claims for people at the southern border (see above), denying people who enter the U.S. between ports of entry the right to apply for asylum (a policy also blocked by the courts), detaining people while they await asylum hearings – in routinely documented (but not changed) inhumane conditions, and/or sending people back to Mexico to wait in refugee camps and shelters for their number to be called, the administration, with support from members of the Senate, is now seeking to fast track asylum procedures in the name of efficiency, but ultimately meaning a denial of due process. As described in The Hill:
A group of nine senators — six Republicans and three Democrats — is proposing a new pilot program to better manage the influx of families seeking asylum at the southwest border.
“Operation Safe Return,” as the group calls it, would be the first bipartisan step to address the situation at the border, the senators said in a letter Thursday to Trump administration officials. Their plan would streamline the process by which migrant families who have legitimate claims for asylum are processed at the border, and swiftly weed out those who do not.
The plan could be implemented without new legislation, using existing authorities, the senators said. (ed -I love it when congress takes themselves out of decision making process)
Specifically the plan would roll out this way:
Within three days of entry, Border Patrol agents would conduct a “detailed, fair, and accurate” interview with migrant families, with proper access to translation services where applicable. Those who do not express fear would be placed in expedited removal proceedings.
Border Patrol would then inform people in its custody who express a fear of persecution what lies ahead within the next 48-hour period, and provide a list of pro bono attorneys they could consult.
In four days, the family would be taken together to an ICE family detention facility and screened for medical conditions within 12 hours of arrival. Pediatricians or nurses would be available to screen and attend to children.
Within nine days of entry, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers would conduct a credible fear interview — in-person, wherever possible. Within a day, the results would be relayed to the relevant federal agencies. Within two weeks, family units who have passed the interview would be allowed to continue to seek asylum through the existing process. The ones who fail, and have been affirmed in that decision by an immigration judge, would be removed to their home countries.
The plan seems like a detailed, efficient use of resources. The problems, however, are enormous. Border Patrol agents are given too much discretion as the first line of screeners for the process. Translation services, other than Spanish, and even then will not be provided on a timely basis – they don’t do this now at least. Medical screening at an ICE facility is already supposed to happen, and every indication is that they do this very poorly – not to mention fail to provide adequate medical care for those who need it while in detention. And two weeks, even with an attorney, if one can be found (there is no right to an attorney in immigration courts), is not enough time to compile a case for asylum. Expedited removal is already an issue – indeed, FOIA requests to get information on how a variation of the program is currently employed have been a struggle. So, oversight is non existent. The goal here is yet another deterrent strategy, to fast track the removal of people fleeing violence and desperate economic situations, while pretending there is a fair process behind the decision. Ironically, the Orwellian name makes this clear, Operation Safe RETURN. Anybody else getting tired yet?
Four men, originally from India, who have been in detention for over a year are in the 16th day of a hunger strike, demanding their release. The men are held at the El Paso Processing Center. Another five men from India launched a hunger strike at the Otero Processing Center, which is now in its 8th day. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are seeking a court order to have the men forcefully fed. Some background:
Four asylum seekers from India who began a hunger strike on July 9 at the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC), are now at the El Paso Service Processing Center (EPSPC) and were told that today the facility will be seeking court orders for involuntary IV and force feeding. These asylum seekers have been held for over a year in a facility that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General recognizes is problematic due to punitive use of solitary, verbally hostile staff, poor medical services, and lack of sanitation. These men had their hearing in a part of the country that is effectively an asylum free zone, they faced an immigration judge that is known as one of the worst of the region, one that even facility staff claim “everyone is afraid of.”
Verbally berated with ethnic slurs, denied any possibility for release, and not allowed sufficient time to prepare evidence for their cases, these men faced unreasonable obstacles throughout the process. After languishing a year or more in detention with no end in sight, these men were left with no other options to call attention to their prolonged detention and unfair immigration proceedings, and to obtain their freedom.
Four other asylum seekers from India, and one other man from India facing deportation, have begun another hunger strike at OCPC. Now refusing food for seven days, the four asylum seekers began their hunger strike on Tuesday July 16 to raise awareness about their struggle and to insist on their freedom. These men are victims of the same problems: several have been held for over a year, have been berated by staff who used foul language and demeaning ethnic slurs, and they had to pursue their cases in an “asylum free zone” in front of some of the most skeptical immigration judges in the country. No longer willing to remain in what the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights identifies as “torture like” conditions and with no other option to secure their freedom, these men began a hunger strike to seek their freedom.
While ICE frequently asserts in public statements that it “does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers” there are reports that two ICE officers threatened the hunger striking asylum seekers. ICE officers told the men that if they don’t eat “they will go to jail for five years” and that in jail they will be held with criminals, beaten, and raped repeatedly. ICE officers also told the men that they were recording their phone calls and that if they spoke about the hunger strike to family members or outside groups, ICE would arrest those family members and allies in the public and put them in jail. The men were told that if they did not eat they would be subjected to involuntary force feeding.
CREDO has launched a petition supporting their release. You can sign that here.
National Lawyers Guild Release Report on Border
The National Lawyers Guild released a report on human rights violations at the border yesterday. The report is based on interviews conducted as part of an NLG International Committee delegation that visited the border area in March. You can read and/or download the full report here. From the executive summary of key findings:
President Trump applies a racist perspective to U.S. immigration policy and has ramped up barriers to migration to create a humanitarian crisis at the border;
The barriers to asylum, including the so-called “metering” system and the “Remain in Mexico” policy, misleadingly named, “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), are illegal and exposes asylum-seekers to life-threatening conditions;
The governments of the United States and Mexico are neglecting their respective obligations under domestic and international law to respect the human rights of asylum-seekers;
Anti-immigrant sentiment in Mexico has resulted in harassment and violence towards migrants in Tijuana by Mexican authorities and residents;
Vulnerable populations, such as unaccompanied children and LGBTQ+ individuals, are especially at risk, and are not being afforded the rights to which they are entitled under international law; and
The U.S. and Mexican governments have criminalized migrants and those who are aiding them or documenting their plight, using illegal surveillance and other tactics.
The Center for American Progress issues immigration platform
The Center for American Progress released a platform for immigration reform set against a historical overview of immigration policy. The report attempts to find a middle ground between two dominant constructs that, it is argued, are insufficient: The U.S. as a nation of immigrants, and the U.S. as a nation of laws. Setting their proposals against this backdrop, CAP argues for a more humane immigration system that incorporates limited, though in their few, necessary enforcement measures. You can read the full report here. An excerpt from the introduction follows:
This report sets out a framework for immigration policymaking that brings together the two visions of America, with the goal of building a fair, humane, and well-functioning immigration system in which the rule of law is restored. Additionally, it makes the case for why immigration proponents can and should reclaim the rule of law narrative frame from immigration restrictionists who frequently misappropriate the term to drive law and order policies that demonize immigrant communities and communities of color and only worsen the dysfunctionality and cruelty of the current system.
The report begins by laying out what the rule of law is, how it has been distorted by opponents of immigration, and the degree to which the current immigration system makes a mockery of American history and ideals—of an America that is both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. The report then outlines the emergence over a period of years of the extralegal immigration system that exists today. Next, it illustrates that under this broken system, immigration policy has fluctuated between two poles: on the one hand, relying increasingly upon administrative discretion alone to save the system from itself, and on the other, relying on maximum enforcement of “the laws on the books without apology,” as former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan said.