Daily Dispatch 3/3/2020: Super Tuesday: Where the Dems at?

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Daily Dispatch

March 3, 2020

Today is the day. Based on analysis derived from the dramatic structure of a novel, we feel confident in saying that the news media’s efforts to write the story of the 2020 primary race is approaching the “climax” in which the protoganist’s fate will turn. Super Tuesday has arrived to settle once and for all the fight for the soul of the party between moderates and progressives, Biden/Bloomberg and Sanders/Warren. The “rising action” of the early primaries has narrowed the field. With a victory in South Carolina, Biden, the one time front runner who tanked early, is again a player. Will the Democratic Socialist be vanquished, the party saved by Uncle Joe? Or, will Bloomberg’s half a billion dollars of ads buy victory? Can Warren regain momentum or will she simply play the Sanders spoiler by splitting the progressive vote? Tune in at 7:00 p.m., (6:00 central) to find out!

Adding to the dramatic texture of the moment is the spectre of Russian/Chinese/Iranian/North Korean bots roaming cyberspace to attack the niche marketing induced social media bubbles we all live in with counter-narratives. And just when you thought the dramatic tension could get no higher, that symbol of autocratic, totalitarian toughness, the Election Czar, has been mobilized to save our democracy against mercenary MyFaceBookTweetsTikTokYouTubers. Nevermind that the newest Czar said there’s not much he can do. Good guys. Bad bots. And a global pandemic arriving just in time to remind us all that our healthcare system really, really sucks unless you’re rich. I’m breathless. Who writes this stuff?

What does all of this mean for people trapped in our immigrant enforcement and deportation machines? This is hard to tell. As we noted the Democrats sort of stopped talking about immigration, though each of the candidates is on the record concerning their intentions. You can follow the links below for more details. A cursory summary: 

All of the candidates minimally promise a reset to the status quo ante-Trump (Bloomberg implies this, though far from clear). This means ending the assault on asylum, ending efforts to suspend Temporary Protected Status, ending the “travel ban” and pushing back the clock on Trump’s various rules to limit authorized immigration. Biden does not go much further, though in his support for reinstating the Obama era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (and promise to fight for permanent legislative solution) he is more ambitious than Obama, by including family members – not just the “Dreamers” themselves. Biden has also expressed some remorse for his previous boss’s record on deportations, though he is not so specific about what he would do differently. His one innovation is a place based visa program. Boomberg’s plan on immigration is basically, “I agree with Biden – on immigration.” Seriously.  

Sanders and Warren are on board with all of this (except the place based visa – not that they disagree, but it is not on their specific agendas). Where they start to depart from Biden in particular, is on the question of decriminalizing improper entry – specifically they support overturning the law that makes crossing the border between ports of entry a federal crime. Julian Castro championed this in his immigration plan, and certainly changed the tenor of the conversation early on by pressing other candidates on this question. Biden refused to go along. Sanders and Warren did.

Warren and Sanders agree on a lot of other things as well, but differ in places on details and emphasis.  As the only two remaining candidates with detailed, comprehensive plans, we can start with the titles. Warren’s plan is “A Fair and Welcoming Immigration System,” and Sanders’ is “A Welcoming and Safe America for All.” Both are welcoming, which we think is good. Sander’s “Safe” and “For All” phrases highlight his effort to balance immigrant rights and labor rights. Which is to say, if employer exploitation of unauthorized labor is the source of lowered pay in some sectors of the economy (farmwork, construction, domestic labor, and meat processing come to mind), the answer is not to arrest the unauthorized workers, but to make sure their exploitation is made illegal. Specifically Sanders promises to:

  • Work with Congress to pass the Protecting Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act, which would expand the U-visa to protect undocumented immigrants who report labor and workplace violations.
  • Through executive authority, provide an opportunity for deferred action to undocumented immigrants who report labor violations.
  • Restructure work visas to make them portable and do not trap immigrant workers at a single workplace, are self-petitioning to protect workers from unscrupulous “recruiters,” allow spouses to work, raise the prevailing wage, and include a pathway to citizenship for those seasonal workers who wish to pursue it.
  • Withhold federal contracts for employers found exploiting guest workers.
  • End workplace raids and shift the focus of enforcement from workers to employers who mistreat their workforce.
  • Strengthen labor protections for farmworkers, domestic workers, gig economy workers and other historically under-regulated industries that rely heavily on immigrant and undocumented workforces.

Warren’s plan is emphasizing immigration reform specifically, and offers some detailed institutional reforms (each item is certainly not unique to her, but as a total package, probably the most comprehensive in this way). On the immigration court system, for example, she says she will work to,

Establish professional, independent Article I immigration courts. DOJ both oversees the immigration court system and enjoys massive authority to manipulate those courts to implement the president’s immigration policy agenda. Immigration court rulings can even be overturned by the Attorney General — a fundamental conflict of interest exploited by Jeff Sessions. I’ll work to create a credible, independent system by passing legislation establishing Article I judicial review for immigration cases modeled on our federal courts. I’ll deploy smart efficiency measures, beginning by restoring judges’ ability to prioritize and manage their own dockets. And my administration will recruit highly qualified immigration judges with a diverse set of legal experiences so that everyone receives appropriate justice.

Both Sanders and Warren argue for restructuring the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration programs – separating enforcement from citizenship and naturalization services. Sanders is perhaps more clear on designating different authorities – including placing immigration enforcement under the Department of Justice and customs under Treasury.

You can read up on the details here:

Sanders: A Welcoming and Safe America for All

Warren: A Fair and Welcoming Immigration System

Biden: The  Biden Plan for Securing our Values as a Nation of Immigrants

Bloomberg: Bloomberg’s plan

Of course for these ideas to matter, they have to be talked about. And at the moment, they are not. Whatever happens today, if the field is narrowed further, perhaps differences will become clearer as well, and thus debate on the hard issues will emerge.  A clear message on immigration is not the only hurdle Democrats face. But it is a key issue. They need to figure it out as a party and start pushing the conversation.

Sane immigration policy typically falls victim to electoral politics, as somehow being kind to people and supporting human rights makes for bad politics by someone’s metrics. We know where Trump is going. Where are the Democrats going to end up?

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Daily Dispatch 3/2/2020: The EU and US are playing the same deadly game

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Daily Dispatch

March 2, 2020

No-man’s land between Turkey and Greece. Photograph: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/The Guardian

In Turkey, tens of thousands of refugees are huddled at the border following an announcement from Turkey’s president Erdoğan that the border with Greece would be opened. In Mexico, tens of thousands of refugees wait for entrance into the United States, some clashing with border security Friday evening following a Federal Court decision terminating Trump’s “Remain in Mexico.” With over 70.8 million people displaced by violence in the world today – 25.9 million of whom have crossed a border searching for safety – such scenes are increasing aside a rightward drift in nationalist policies in response to global migration. Trump’s rise to power by scapegoating immigrants is part of this global trend. 

At the Turkey/EU border

In 2015, European leaders were forced to confront a refugee crisis as hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere sought safe passage into the European Union. Germany agreed to take in nearly 530,000 refugees, but most of the rest of the EU pushed back. One result was an agreement with Turkey in 2016: For a promise of 6 billion euros in aid, Turkey would stop the migration of refugees into Europe. Coupled with agreements to stem the flow of refugees on the north African coast of the Mediterranean, including the funding of Libya’s coast guard and expansion of detention facilities with some of the worst conditions imaginable, the EU dealt with this crisis much as Trump has sought to manage the Central American refugee crisis: The EU off-shored the problem to neighbors.

Turkey, already home to many of the 5.6. Million refugees from the war in Syria, closed its border with Greece to migrants, and in the years since its refugee population just from Syria has grown to 3.6 million people. 

Then in October 2019, Turkey invaded Syria. To be clear, Turkey already had a presence in Syria, supporting Syrian opposition forces north of Idlib to create a buffer against Kurdish areas to the east. In October, Turkish troops entered Syria, from this zone, and from the north, in an effort to push the Kurds back from Turkey’s border and create what Erdoğan called a “safe zone.” At least part of the justification was the planned repatriation of Syrian refugees into this area. What the incursion has achieved thus far, however, is simply more refugees as hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee the fighting between Turkey’s army and the militia’s they support, and Russian-backed Syrian forces. Over the past months the focus of this fighting has been in Idlib, where 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in bombing last week.

In the wake of these deaths, Erdoğan, already angry with NATO allies for not doing enough in his mind to help in Syria, and also arguing that the EU has failed to live up to its agreement for economic support in exchange for halting refugee movements, announced that Turkey would no longer prevent people from crossing through to Greece. In response, over the last two days at least 13,000 people have gathered at the border, with more on the way, seeking passage into Europe.

The Guardian, describes the movement of people to the main crossing in Pazarkule:

Thousands huddled around smouldering pine wood fires, covering their faces from white smoke blowing from the Greek side and buoyed by a chilly wind.

They had torn down the the metal fence on the Turkish side of the border and stood facing a line of Greek police in riot gear. They represented countries torn apart by civil war or unrest: Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, but also from as far as Eritrea and Bangladesh.

Many have been in Turkey for years waiting to cross to Europe, while others were newer arrivals.

Three young Syrian men were in the crowd. “I can’t go back to Syria because I will be drafted to the army,” said one of the men, from Aleppo.

By noon much of the crowd had broken through the Turkish side of the fence on the border and pushed into the no-man’s land between the two nations, where they set up camp, while others stood facing the Greek police. Young men began hurling stones, leading the police to respond by firing stun grenades and tear gas canisters that spiralled into the air before falling among families and children.

CNN Reports that Greece is not allowing people in:

Greece has stood firm, not opening its side of the border and beefing up its presence along it.

Migrant youths often clash with Greek border guards, who fire tear gas when they attempt to storm the border. Others huddle around fires with their children trying to stay warm.

Some refugees attempt to cross the river into Greece. Turkey claims that more than tens of thousands have already crossed into Greece, which is encouraging more people to move towards the border. But Greece says that very few people are making it through.

Some groups whom CNN spoke to say Greek personnel forced them back to Turkey, smashed their phones, ripped up their IDs, and beat them.

The Greek authorities deny this behavior, although this is something that refugees trying to cross into the country have long accused them of.

Greece’s border security is being supplemented with the EU’s collective security/border force called Frontex (which honestly sounds like the silly name of a police force from a Sci-Fi film). The deployment of Frontex units alongside Greek police forces makes it clear that the initial framework of response here is keeping as many people out as possible. Will the EU change course? Greece, which in the last election seemed to be emerging from a period of deep polarization driven in part by the earlier migrant crisis which landed on top of an economic recession, will be reluctant to carry much of this burden alone. Erdoğan is clearly banking on the EU stepping up with deeper commitment of funding, and/or support in Syria. He is using refugees as pawns in his regional power play. He’s been empowered in this role by the EU, which has failed to take responsibility for its membership’s own role for the conflicts people are now fleeing. Europe wants its wars without consequences. 

The United States is playing the same game…

The U.S./Mexico Border

It seems that we write about the Remain in Mexico policy a few times each month as new reports emerge about the conditions people are living in, the violence they face, and the farcical “due process” they are given in temporary tent courts on the border. The policy itself is part of a much bigger puzzle, and that is the Trump administration’s effort to extend the U.S. border to Central America, using Mexico as a buffer. Like the EU’s offshoring of refugee and asylum processing to Libya and Turkey, the United States has similarly offshored its obligations to Mexico and Guatemala.

In short, the Remain in Mexico policy, formally called the Migration Protection Protocols, requires people to wait in Mexico for their immigration court hearing. The policy, like much else, was rooted in the Obama administration-era introduction of metering at the border – a practice of generating lists of people seeking entrance to the United States, who were then admitted for processing in small groups. Remain in Mexico took this small scale program and blew it up into the current policy requiring Central American asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, en masse, until their immigration court date. As a result, in the one year the program has been in place, 57,000+ people have been forced into under-resourced shelters or makeshift refugee camps on the Mexico side of the border.

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court reinstated a lower court injunction with a 2-1 ruling, stating the Remain in Mexico policy “is invalid in its entirety due to its inconsistency with” federal law, and “should be enjoined in its entirety.”

News of the decision quickly went viral, and the predictable result was a surge in people approaching the border seeking entrance. From Reuters,

Word of the news spread on social media and a Reuters witness saw migrants on the Mexican side of the border heading towards the bridge while some U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were putting on riot gear.

“I’ve been waiting in Juarez for ten months,” said one Cuban asylum seeker, who declined to give his name. “I don’t care how long I have to wait here for them to let us through.”

CBP confirmed on its Twitter account that it had closed the Paso Del Norte Bridge to stop a group of migrants from illegally and forcefully entering the United States and that other ports stayed open.

The court had offered no guidance on implementing the injunction, nor any kind of timeline. As a result, the optics of an emergent crisis at the border complete with teargas and riot gear was exactly what Trump needed. The Court’s stayed their ruling within hours.

In response, the appeals court put its ruling on hold to allow the administration to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue.

“It’s time for everyone to start going home, no one is going to cross tonight,” said Enrique Valenzuela, head of the population council of the Chihuahua state government…

So, Remain in Mexico remains the policy until the Supreme Court decides how to proceed with the injunction, and then the merits of the policy itself.

From Pazarkule to Ciudad Juarez, the message to migrants seeking refuge is that they are not wanted. They are treated as pawns in the political games of two continental super powers, both of whom continue to pursue their foreign policies as though war without consequence is possible. It is a deadly game.

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Daily Dispatch 2/28/2020: DOJ’s “new” denaturalization office

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Daily Dispatch

February 28, 2020

This man wants to review your file…but not really.

The Justice Department has launched a new office to review denaturalization cases. So yes, even if you have become a citizen, the Justice Department may review your case and seek to strip that citizenship from you if you did anything wrong. Sounds scary right? It’s supposed to sound scary. But the reality is very few people have anything to fear from this process – at least for now.

The first thing to remember is that the United States has reserved the right to denaturalize citizens for a long time. Typically this will be because someone lied about when they arrived or about a marriage, or other qualifying information. That said, it is extremely rare.

The current initiative has roots in the Obama administration. In 2008 Customs and Border Protection reported on 206 individuals who had received deportation orders but had obtained citizenship using a false identity. The people in question had come from “countries of interest” related to counter-terrorism efforts. This discovery led to the creation of Operation Janus in 2009 to begin coordinating the Department of Homeland Security’s review of records.

In 2016 the Office of the Inspector General reported on the project. The OIG had found that USCIS had granted U.S. citizenship to 1,029 people who had been ordered deported under a different identity by 2014. They also found that most of these individuals (858) were able to get away with this because of a backlog in digitizing fingerprint records. In total, the OIG found that 148,000 fingerprint records for people ordered deported had not been digitized. Obviously, very few of these people had tried to become citizens anyway. Launching a comprehensive review would be costly.

By 2016 fingerprints records had been digitized, and the OIG was expressing concern that very few cases had been investigated. From the report:

Under the INA, a Federal court may revoke naturalization (denaturalize) through a civil or criminal proceeding if the citizenship was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation. However, few of these individuals have been investigated and subsequently denaturalized. As it identified these 1,029 individuals, OPS referred the cases to ICE for investigation. As of March 2015, ICE had closed 90 investigations of these individuals and had 32 open investigations. The Offices of the United States Attorneys (USAO) accepted 2 cases for criminal prosecution, which could lead to denaturalization; the USAO declined 26 cases. ICE transferred two additional cases with fingerprint records linked to terrorism to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. ICE was scrutinizing another two cases for civil denaturalization.

In the end the Obama administration ended up denaturalizing an average of 16 people a year, just over twice as many as the annual average from 1991 to 2008 (7). Move forward to the Trump administration. 

In July of 2018, Trump announced that the Department of Homeland Security would be launching a Denaturalization Taskforce to continue and expand a review of records related to these cases. On the surface, this would mean a few thousand more cases reviewed, with a subset transferred to the Justice Department for further review and possible denaturalization – only a Federal Court can strip citizenship.

So, this week’s announcement that the Justice Department was creating a new office to review these cases is simply the continuation of a process that began 12 years ago: Reviewing cases referred by DHS for possible court action. 

The Trump administration has certanly overseen an expansion in the number of denaturalization cases, but it is still a limited effort. Since 2008 the Justice Department has overseen prosecution of 228 cases for denaturalization; 94 of those were filed in the last three years (though investigations for many likely started before Trump was in office). 

To keep the scale somewhat in perspective, from the creation of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2003 to the original report of 1,029 possibly fraudulent identity claims in 2014, USCIS had granted citizenship to 7,799,636 people. So, the original pool of Operation Janus files constituted 0.00013 of all naturalizations.

It is possible, of course, that the Trump will try to use this process to strip people of citizenship for simply making a mistake on their citizenship application, as opposed to someone having lied about their identity to cover up involvement human rights violations, or previous deportation order. But for the time being the Supreme Court has blocked denaturalization cases that sought an overly broad interpretation of “material lie.” In Maslenjak v. United States (2017):

The justices, both at oral argument and in the decision (written by Justice Elena Kagan), were extremely concerned that the government was trying to over-broadly define what counted as a material lie.

Kagan spelled out that the heart of denaturalization ought to be that it’s rescinding citizenship that never should have been granted to begin with — that it’s simply rectifying a mistake caused by a fraud. Otherwise, she points out, the standards for denaturalization will get decoupled from those of naturalization — leaving a lot of people in a very vulnerable position.

When it comes to lying, this means that not all lies open someone up to denaturalization, because not all lies disqualify them from naturalization.

For now, it seems that “huge” announcements are the point. The “new” Justice Department office is not really all that new in terms of practice, and the scope of activity, though increased from recent years, is still small. Such processes can certainly be abused, and under this administration that risk is greater than usual. So, for those of us concerned about these efforts we must remain vigilant, but we should also not contribute to a fear of mass “denaturalizations” by exaggerating the scope of this effort. Otherwise we are doing Trump’s work for him.

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Daily Dispatch 2/27/2020: Trump vs Sanctuary Cities…again.

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Daily Dispatch

February 27, 2020

A federal court ruled yesterday that the Federal government is able to restrict funding to cities and states that do not cooperate with immigration enforcement policies of the federal government – particularly the sharing of information about people in state custody. The ruling will certainly be held up as a victory by the administration – though the final decision will ultimately rest with the Supreme Court: Three other lower courts have ruled on the same question already. Those courts said the Federal government could not restrict funding in this way.

The Federal government’s demand for information from state and local law enforcement about people in custody is not new. The Obama administration, for example, also sought to compel states to share information. So, while Trump’s team has been far more vocal in its criticism of “sanctuary” cities, in substance, the issue at stake is an old one. It is also worth noting that the amount of money at stake to states is minimal. The ruling was whether the federal government could demand cooperation as precondition for assistance under a national law enforcement grant program that offers about $250 million to state and local departments around the country. The amount at stake for New York and Massachussetes, for example, was less than 0.1% of their law enforcement budgets.

All of that said, there is a dangerous element to this ruling. If allowed to stand upon appeal, it could give the federal government a massive expansion of authority. In essence, as argued by Judge Raggi, it would make immigration policy an exception to long standing Constitutional principles that deny the Federal government the authority to command state behavior. From Vox:

For several decades, the Supreme Court has held that the 10th Amendment implicitly prohibits the federal government from commanding a state to take an action the state does not want to take. As the Court explained in Murphy v. NCAA (2018), the Constitution only gives the federal government a laundry list of specific powers, and “conspicuously absent from the list of powers given to Congress is the power to issue direct orders to the governments of the States.”

This rule, that the federal government may not give orders directly to the states or to state employees, is known as the “anti-commandeering” doctrine. As a practical matter, it is not an especially rigid limit on federal power. If the federal government wants to enforce a particular policy, it is free to spend its own money or send its own officials to enforce that policy. As discussed above, the federal government may also offer to pay states for their assistance.

But if a state adamantly refuses to help the federal government achieve a particular goal, federal officials cannot make the state do something it does not want to do. The federal government cannot, for example, order state officials to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Nor can it require states to allow federal law enforcement into state-run facilities.

Raggi has argued that because states have no “reserved power” related to immigration policy, this must be an exception to the anti-commandeering doctrine. As explained in Vox,

Recall that the 10th Amendment provides that certain powers are “reserved to the states.” Raggi argues that “a commandeering challenge to a federal statute depends on there being pertinent authority ‘reserved to the States.’” But, “in the immigration context … it is the federal government that holds ‘broad,’ and ‘preeminent’ power.”

Raggi suggests that, because the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the nation’s immigration policy, it also must have the power to command states to enforce that policy.

What could this mean

One of the most significant constraints on President Trump’s power to crack down on immigrants is the fact that he has only so many resources at his disposal. In 2016, the federal government employed about 132,000 full-time law enforcement officers, and fewer than half of these officers work in immigration or border enforcement. By contrast, there are nearly 700,000 sworn law enforcement officers working throughout the United States. If the anti-commandeering doctrine isn’t an obstacle, the federal government could potentially order every single one of these officers to target immigrants.

Of course, conservatives on the court are historically loathe to weaken the anti-commandeering doctrine, and so it is likely that at least one of the five conservative justices would bail if/when this makes it to the Supreme Court. However, as we have seen in case after case on immigration policy, the Supreme Court has been quite deferential to the Trump administration. So, who knows.

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Daily Dispatch 2/26/2020: The end of asylum?

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Daily Dispatch

February 26, 2020

Image: Joyce Ajlouny/AFSC See full article here

Some people who arrive at the U.S./Mexico border are being put on planes to Guatemala. Some are told they will be screened for asylum in the United States while in Guatemala – this is a lie. They are sent back to either seek asylum in Guatemala or return to their home country.  Since November 683 asylum seekers from Honduras and El Slavador have been flown to Guatemala – only 14 have actually applied for asylum there. The rest have either returned home, or travelled back into Mexico. A sense of what this is like, from the AP:

After he was involved in a fender bender with a gang member, the Honduran delivery driver was in trouble: The accident wasn’t his fault, but he couldn’t pay the damages, and the other driver threatened to kill him.

Fearing for his life, the thin, curly-haired 25-year-old fled to the United States-Mexico border and requested asylum. After nine days in custody, he was put on a plane in McAllen, Texas, and sent to Guatemala. American authorities explained that he would wait there for an “initial screening,” the first step in the U.S. asylum process, and eventually return to stand before a U.S. judge, he said.

But it wasn’t true. The U.S. government sent him here to apply for Guatemalan asylum under a new Trump administration policy that puts migrants into this Central American country’s bare bones asylum system with few resources and fewer options.

Last year the United States signed Asylum Cooperation Agreements with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Under these agreements, the United States will send people from the region who are seeking asylum in the United States back to Central America. The agreement with Guatemala is the first one to be implemented. In November the U.S. launched a pilot program for people picked up in the El Paso sector of the border. The program is now set to cover the entire U.S/Mexico border. 

Thus far only Guatemala has received asylum seekers. El Salvador and Honduras are still making preparations and are not yet prepared to receive people. As one might imagine, few people seek asylum in these countries, and so their asylum offices are under resourced, and not prepared to receive hundreds, and possibly thousands, of asylum seekers. Guatemala is not really prepared either:

When asylum-seekers land in Guatemala, they are processed by officials and asked if they want to stay in Guatemala or return to their home countries. They are given 72 hours to decide, and the government’s support ends at the airport gates.

They usually go to a local migrant shelter to shower and consider their options. If they are interested in seeking asylum in Guatemala, they are channeled toward nonprofit groups that offer legal counseling.

Those who decide to go forward must request an appointment with Guatemalan asylum services, but it can take more than a year for a final decision. During that time, asylum-seekers are on their own.

Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International, this month interviewed some 20 people who had been sent to Guatemala.

About half of the people she spoke with had not known they were going to Guatemala when they were put on the plane in the U.S. Some thought they were being transferred to detention centers elsewhere in the United States. Only one of those she spoke with had decided to seek asylum in Guatemala, Schacher said.

These Asylum Cooperation Agreements are a distortion of “safe third country agreements,” which are bilateral commitments for countries to share the burden of hosting refugees. The conditions for such agreements are set forth in Immigration and Naturalization Act: 

they must be with countries where an immigrant’s “life or freedom would not be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” and where they would have “access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum or equivalent temporary protection.”

The only country the United States has such an agreement with is Canada.

Last year, as part of on ongoing campaign to essentially block asylum claims at the U.S./Mexico border, the Trump administration launched a series of actions. The first was returning asylum seekers back to border towns in Mexico to await court dates in temporary courts set up at the border. This “remain in Mexico” policy has led to 57,000 people returned to Mexico to await court dates in often very dangerous circumstances. In June the Trump administration threatened tariff increases against all products from Mexico unless the Obrador administration expanded its own immigration enforcement efforts to keep people from crossing Mexico to seek asylum at the U.S. border. After some weeks, Mexico agreed to greatly expand border patrols on its southern border, and has in recent months expanded its own detention of immigrants and denied transit visas to migrants from Africa and the Caribbean. In July the administration decided that no person who arrives at the southern border could seek asylum unless they had first applied for asylum in a country they had crossed through and been denied. This “transit” ban seems a complete violation of very clear legal standards that allow anyone present in the United States, regardless of how they arrived, to apply for asylum. And yet the courts have allowed this to be implemented, even as it is being challenged.

After all of this, and following the refusal of Mexico’s legislature to sign a third country agreement with the United States, the administration began negotiations with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to implement the Asylum Cooperation Agreements. The rule was issued last fall:

A rule published November 18 establishes a new screening process to determine whether the US or Guatemala will process migrants’ claims for protection. It applies both to immigrants who show up at US ports of entry on the southern border and those who try to enter the country without authorization between the ports.

The rule claims that asylum seekers will only be sent back to countries where they have “access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum or equivalent temporary protection.” The administration has certified that Guatemala’s legal framework meets that standard, a former administration official told Vox, but has not evaluated whether Guatemala has the capacity to accept asylum seekers based on, for example, infrastructure or personnel needs.

The reality is that none of these countries have this capacity. Guatemala is fully dependent on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for assistance in this process. If they are managing at all now it is only because so few people decide to seek asylum in Guatemala. Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and is actually the country with the highest level of forced migration – out of its borders – in Central America. It is hard to imagine those Guatemalan asylum seekers being processed in El Salvador, for example, where “immigrant advocate Cesar Ríos, director of the Salvadoran Migrant Institute, described the government unit that handles asylum cases as ‘one person with a desk.’”

What has evolved over the last year is a form of regional “cooperation” imposed on Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador by the Trump administration in order to keep people away from the U.S. border. It has absolutely nothing to do, obviously, with caring for the refugees that the policies of these countries have created. And yet, if the number of people seeking asylum at the border falls, Trump will declare a victory. A victory bought with the blood of refugees. 

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Daily Dispatch 2/25/2020: New public charge rules goes into effect

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Daily Dispatch

February 25, 2020

The Trump administration’s efforts to redefine the statutory meaning of “public charge” as it relates to immigration went into effect yesterday, as the Supreme Court lifted an injunction against implementation last week despite ongoing court challenges. Public charge is a phrase that has been in immigration law since the late 19th century, initially introduced to block the entrance of anyone likely to be institutionalized. In the language of the 1882 Immigration and Naturalization Act, this included any “convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.”  Though the phrase has stuck in the law, its actual meaning has been contentious, generating more confusion and fear than clarity. Trump’s new revised standards continue this trend. But first we have to go back a few years to understand what Trump is up to (we did this in more detail back in August when the rule was announced here).

The Clinton era welfare “reform” law of 1996 created a hierarchy of “qualified” and “non-qualified” immigrants and then defined which public assistance “qualified” immigrants could access. The short answer is almost none during their first five years in the U.S., but there are exceptions and certain classes of “qualified” immigrants, such as refugees, who do not have to wait the full five-year period for most assistance. 

Though these welfare reform measures stood apart from any “public charge” rule, there was widespread fear that accessing public assistance could lead to someone being denied legal permanent residency because they had become a “public charge.” The National Immigrant Law Center explains:

In deciding whether an immigrant is likely to become a public charge, immigration or consular officials review the “totality of the circumstances,” including an immigrant’s health, age, income, education and skills, employment, family circumstances, and, most importantly, the affidavits of support.

The misapplication of this public charge ground of inadmissibility immediately after the welfare law passed contributed significantly to a chilling effect on immigrants’ access to services. The law on public charge did not change in 1996, and people’s use of programs such as Medicaid or SNAP had never weighed heavily in determining whether they were inadmissible under the public charge ground.

Confusion and fear about these rules, however, became widespread. Immigrants’ rights advocates, health care providers, and state and local governments organized to persuade federal agencies to clarify the limits of the rules. In 1999, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS, whose functions were later assumed by the Department of Homeland Security) issued helpful guidance and a proposed regulation on the public charge doctrine. The guidance clarifies that receipt of health care and other noncash benefits will not jeopardize the immigration status of recipients or their family members by putting them at risk of being considered a public charge. [emphasis added].

The highlighted section above is what has been changed by Trump – accessing benefits, or likely to access benefits, has become a basis for disqualification. However, the benefits disallowed are basically the same as the 1996 law for “qualified” immigrants. Which means, most of the people who would be subject to this new test today would not qualify for these benefits to begin with.

So, the “public charge” rule is not really about reducing immigrant access to “welfare” – most are already denied or severely limited in their access! It is about the appearance of this impact, while taking other measures (English proficiency, income thresholds and so on) to exclude people. From the National Immigrant Law Center’s press release yesterday, 

The new public charge test reviews numerous factors in determining whether an applicant is likely to use an expanded list of public benefits at any time in the future. Few people who are subject to the public charge test qualify for the programs covered by the regulations, but the regulations’ criteria — including new thresholds for income, age, health conditions, and English language proficiency to be weighed in the test — will dramatically reduce the diversity of immigrants to the U.S. As illustrated in a new NILC report  released today, fear and confusion over the regulations have already harmed the health and well-being of immigrant families — overwhelmingly families of color — all over the country.

NILC’s new report, based on “interviews with 24 service providers — including benefits enrollers, health care professionals, and attorneys — in 11 states, demonstrates that fear of the public charge rule’s potential consequences has dissuaded people from seeking health, nutrition, and other safety-net programs even before its implementation. Service providers’ accounts yielded the following findings:

People not subject to the new DHS rule’s public charge test are going without services

In many cases, “chilled” populations are not themselves targets of the rule, demonstrating the widespread, spillover harm fear about public charge creates for immigrant communities and members of immigrant families, including those who are already lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens, as well as for survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, or other serious crimes who are applying for U or T status.

The health and well-being of immigrants and their families are at stake

Providers identified troubling implications for their clients’ and patients’ health and well-being that they associated with fear of being deemed a public charge and other restrictions targeting immigrant communities.

People are making choices, sometimes unnecessary or counterproductive ones, based on fear rather than on an accurate understanding of the rule

Individuals’ concerns about public charge intertwine with other fears of restrictive immigration policies, particularly increased immigration enforcement and the potential for deportation and family separation. Accounts by service providers indicate that many noncitizens don’t want to place at risk any future opportunities they might have to obtain permanent lawful status, especially in a political climate where immigration-related restrictions are multiplying and becoming more unpredictable.

Fear of “public charge” is creating burdens for providers who work with immigrant communities

Service providers are on the front lines of addressing misinformation and answering questions related to public charge and benefits eligibility. They dispense advice to clients and patients, often encouraging continued access to services and benefits for which the latter are eligible — sometimes successfully, but sometimes not. This work creates additional time burdens for human services and health care professionals who are often already overextended in their work, as well as emotional burdens for those who struggle when they see their clients unable to meet their basic needs because of these policy impacts.

You can download and read the full report here.

So, yet again Trump’s team is effectively utilizing a rhetorical bait and switch to convince supporters they are fixing a problem that never existed, while generating fear and confusion within immigrant communities in the process. All to do the one thing they are actually committed to doing: reduce avenues for authorized immigration

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Daily Dispatch 2/24/2020: Abolish Immigrant Jails

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Daily Dispatch

February 24, 2020

Photograph by John Greim / LightRocket / Getty

I know that what I am asking is impossible. But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand….James Baldwin

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández opens his book, Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants with this quote from James Baldwin. Professor García Hernández spoke in Houston yesterday at Brazos bookstore, and in his presentation echoed the core demand of his book: End the incarceration of immigrants. The quote from James Baldwin framed the discussion that followed. Ending the imprisonment of immigrants may seem nearly impossible, but we must nevertheless make the demand, recognizing that if it happens, it will take time. 

García Hernández makes the case that the incarceration of immigrants is not justified by claims for security and protection. That, in fact, the evolution of immigrant prisons over the last 40 years have been driven by the strategic use of nationalist, race-baiting politics coupled with the profit generating subcontracting of enforcement operations. The two features – ideology and resources – intersect in a social structuring of incarceration. The practices that have evolved fly in the face of due process, and contradict existing legal protection.

Finally, we know that a country without immigrant jails is very possible. The United States had no immigrant prisons for nearly 25 years. Between the closing of Ellis Island, and other detention sites by President Eisenhower in 1954 and the decision to begin incarcerating Haitian and Cuban asylum seekers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, incarceration was not a tactic employed by immigration authorities.

While there is not a blueprint for ending immigrant incarceration in the book, there is a discussion about the need to get engaged, and to not be afraid to make the demand to abolish jails. Too many advocates focus exclusively on improving the conditions of incarceration without a parallel demand of ending the practice. As with the prison abolition movement, this means seeking every means possible to reduce incarceration, and thus the resources made available for it, while also eroding the ideological justifications.

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández has been touring the country discussing the book. You can view tour dates here, and make a point of getting out to see him if you are able.

Another Death in ICE Custody 

Another person has died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.  David Hernandez Colula was from Mexico, and had been in the United States for at least 5 years. He was picked up by ICE on December 6, 2019 following release from St. Joseph County jail in Michigan two days earlier. He had been previously detained by ICE in 2014 and then released on bond. The apparent cause of death is self-inflicted strangulation. He died on Thursday, February 20. He was being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown. 

David Hernandez Colula is the seventh person to die in ICE custody since the new fiscal year began on October 1, 2019, and the fourth to take his own life. The other six men to die since October 1 are:

Nebane Abienwi, from Cameroon, October 1, 2019. Otay Mesa Detention facility (CoreCivic). 

Roylan Hernandez-Diaz, from Cuba, October 15, 2019, Richwood Correctional Facility (Lasalle Corrections).

Anthony Oluseye Akinyemi from Nigeria, December 21, 2019. Worcester County Jail.

Samuelino Pitchout Mavinga from France, December 29, 2019. Otero County Processing Center (Management Training Corporation).

Ben James Owen from Britain, January 26, 2020. Baker County Detention Center (Baker County Sheriff’s Office).

A 63 year-old man from Cuba (Name not released), January 27, 2020, Larkin Medical Center, Miami, FL.

When César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández signed my book, he simply wrote: Dreaming of Freedom.

It is a dream we must dream together.

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Haiti’s international crisis

The large scale demonstrations and roadblocks that had shut Haiti down for several months last fall are over — for now. Parliament is no longer in session. Absent elections, there are not enough members for a quorum.  As a result, President Moïse is ruling by decree. He shows no signs of resigning, and continues to hold out a process of dialogue with opposition political leaders as a way out of the crisis. Negotiations have taken place, but continue to be stalled on the question of Moïse’s tenure in office. From the Miami Herald:

During two rounds of negotiations in mid-December 2019 and late January with moderate members of the opposition, Moïse representatives and members of his political PHTK party, [United Nations Representative] La Lime said a consensus emerged on the contours of a political agreement based on four elements: the criteria for forming a government; the contents of a reform agenda; a constitutional reform process; and the establishment of an electoral calendar.

“Despite progress regarding the nature of the reforms to be undertaken, including that of the Constitution, political actors have yet to settle on a formula that would lead to the designation by President Moïse of a consensual Prime Minister and the formation of a new government,” she said. “The lack of agreement on this matter, as well as on the remaining length of President Moïse’s term, threatens to needlessly prolong a situation that has already lasted too long.”

The United States and other members of the international community continue the mantra that somehow new elections for Parliament will solve the impasse. Elections may be necessary for any number of reasons in the short-term, but will not, in and of themselves, solve anything in the long run. Indeed, there is no way to get to elections without a substantive compromise on reform first.

Kelly Craft, the United States representative to the United Nations said, with no sense of historical irony (i.e., absent reference to U.S.-backed coups against democratically-elected governments in Haiti and elsewhere): “The Haitian people must have a voice in selecting its leaders. And further, while constitutional reforms are necessary and welcomed, they must not become a pretext to delay elections.” Craft demonstrates once again, that when in doubt, the strategic deployment of platitudes can always stand in for a U.S. policy. 

Meanwhile, the political stalemate has created a crisis in daily governance in Haiti unlike anything most people can remember. Kidnappings are on the rise, while police protest the lack of pay by burning carnival bleachers. Food insecurity is spiking – nearly one-third of the country faces hunger on a daily basis and is need of immediate assistance, according to the UN’s World Food Program. 

Despite the magnitude of a crisis that is not just imminent, but basically has already arrived, the World Food Program has only been able to raise $15 million of the $72 million it says it needs to address hunger. Meanwhile, government revenue has fallen 25% since 2018 as the economy has contracted. Inflation, tied in part to the collapse in the exchange rate, continues to sap what meager earnings most people can assemble. There is quite literally a lack of cash in the economy, making it difficult to get paid and purchase goods, especially in more rural communities. The cost of borrowing has sky-rocketed. Bond rates are up to 22% from 10% a year ago, meaning that even if the country can find investors, the increase to long-term debt would be unsustainable. The International Monetary Fund recently completed its Article IV Review of Haiti, and while offering plenty of advice on the need for political reform and restructuring of the energy sector, it offers little else.

Explicitly and implicitly, news accounts and policy makers blame all of this on bad governing by Haiti’s leaders. To be sure, Haiti’s leadership, especially since 2011, has not been very responsive to the needs of its people, and has facilitated, and probably profited directly, from corruption. The same could be said of Donald Trump.

So it may be that the real issues with leadership in Haiti are related to a structural collapse in the capacity of the government to do much of anything, good or bad. That is a process that has been facilitated over 30 years by international actors, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as the governments of the United States, Canada and France. Local allies have done well for themselves, to be sure. But what makes Haiti’s leaders stand out is the backdrop of poverty, not the fact of corruption, which is a universal feature of liberal democracy in a capitalist world system. 

Consider this historical footnote in a Reuters article on the hunger crisis:

It wasn’t always like this. Haiti was largely food self-sufficient until the 1980s, when at the encouragement of the United States the country started loosening restrictions on crop imports and lowered tariffs, then imported surplus U.S. crops, a decision that put Haitian farmers out of business and contributed to investment tailing off.

“Encouragement” is an interesting term. What happened was more like blackmail. The people of Haiti have been the victims of an international Ponzi scheme, as financial institutions like the World Bank issued loans to the Duvaliers, and then demanded repayment even after Baby Doc split with a bunch of the money. Indeed, a significant amount of Haiti’s current debt is tied to those old loans to Duvalier, as well as more recent loans to other unelected governments in 2004-2006. As international institutions have drained Haiti, this has forced Haiti’s governments to request new loans (dependency by design), and with these loans, conditions have set in: Haiti must lower tariffs, float exchange rates, cut subsidies for fuel, cut social services, cut education budgets, cut health budgets, and so on. After thirty years of this, Haiti has cut everything there is to cut.

The lowest tariffs in the Caribbean have translated into the dismantling of local agriculture and dependency on imported food. Cutting social services has left 80% of Haiti’s school children in private schools, and even those in public schools are forced to pay fees that keep many out. Haiti has almost no functioning public health system, and what limited access exists is dependent on support from the non-profit sector in the form of joint programs to survive. So, yes, against this backdrop, people pocketing a few billion dollars in PetroCaribe funds is infuriating. I just wish we were collectively as infuriated with the policies that generated this context. 

History lessons are not much help to the people in the streets going hungry today — and they know the history better than us anyway. But as Haiti’s fate gets debated across mahogany desks and computer terminals in other capitals of the world, we must not forget that the international community shares responsibility for the debacle the people are facing. Any request for further intervention that ignores this history should be tossed. International actors have a role; they can write off Haiti’s international debt, for example. They could offer better terms of trade. Some (U.S., France, Canada) should certainly pay reparations for decades of theft of Haiti’s natural resources. There are ways to help.

But power doesn’t work that way. Discipline is the international language of the day.  

Unfortunately people can’t eat that either.

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Daily Dispatch 2/21/2020: Frame Wars

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Daily Dispatch

February 21, 2020

In the current conflict between ICE and local and state governments over enforcement of immigration laws, there is a parallel war over how the issue gets framed. For ICE and the Trump administration more generally, it goes something like this: Sanctuary cities are undermining enforcement by releasing “criminal aliens” into communities rather than handing them over to ICE. This forces ICE agents to then track and arrest people in field operations that are costly and potentially more dangerous. ICE is under resourced (ha!!) and thus has called upon Border Patrol for assistance – including the use of special force, BORTAC Units, now being deployed in cities around the country. It is all the fault of the cities and the states where democrats are in power, because democrats care more about supporting “criminal aliens” than citizens for some immutable reason that seems to require no further explanation on Fox News or Infowars.

There are multiple issues with this framework. First, people released from custody have already completed their sentences for whatever criminal offense they were charged with, or have been released on bail. They have in essence “done their time.” Every day these same localities release many times more U.S. citizens who have similarly done their time. Are immigrants more dangerous? Nope. No evidence to suggest they are. Indeed, as we have noted over and over again, the most common charges leading to criminal removals by ICE are traffic violations. Obviously, some people convicted of violent crimes get released as well – after their sentence is served! But this is far from the norm. Indeed, multiple studies have shown that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than U.S. born citizens.

Secondly, localities may be banned by local or state ordinances from holding people for ICE based on a “detainer,” which is an administrative hold. This is because, for example in Massachusetts, holding people without a proper judicial warrant violates state constitutions (probably violates the federal constitution, but this has not been tested). So these localities are not trying to make ICE’s job hard – they are following state law. 

In Boston, where BORTACs have been deployed as “force multipliers,” ICE started releasing the names and criminal histories of some people when an ICE detainer has been denied. As noted in a local news story about these activities, “not all of the criminal histories mention actual criminal convictions.” Remember that on the west coast ICE was denied the authority to utilize its database for the issuance of detainers because 6% of detainers were mistakenly issued against citizens or authorized immigrants with no removal order in place. Using the same information in an effort to publicly shame local law enforcement for releasing people they are required to release is maybe just one more reason why local officials are not thrilled about working with ICE. In a statement issued about this new tactic, Acting Boston Field Office Director Todd M. Lyons of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) said, “The politicization of law enforcement at any level whether it be federal, state, or local does not make anyone safer.” Yeah….

Is ICE then forced to track and arrest people in field operations? Not exactly. Since 1996 immigrants who have been charged with any one, from a long list of crimes are eligible for removal, whether they are permanent residents or not. Most of these crimes are not violent offenses. There is an effort to get these 1996 laws overturned at the moment. For the time being, however, the law stands and its enforcement is subject to the priorities of the agencies in question, and the president. Which is to say, they are not consistently enforced. Instead, priorities become politicized, with large scale actions waxing and waning along with election cycles. This dynamic is not new to Trump by any means, but he has certainly done more than any other president to ratchet up conflict over immigration for political purposes. In the current environment conflict is what Trump wants; conflict that he can blame on sanctuary policies.

Two weeks ago, ICE agents in New York City shot Erick Diaz Cruz in the face while attempting to make an arrest. As one might expect, ICE’s version of events was not very consistent with witnesses: According to ICE, agents were just innocently doing their jobs (made more dangerous by New York City sanctuary policies) and were attacked. Witnesses note that ICE agents basically tackled Gaspar Avendaño-Hernandez, unannounced, while he was going back into his house, and when Diaz Cruz stepped up to help him, an agent immediately fired a gun, hitting Diaz Cruz in the hand and then face. ICE blamed the whole thing on New York City police refusing to hold Avendaño-Hernandez upon his release from jail. The danger here is that ICE is clearly militarizing its forces, and thus their enforcement actions could very well make communities far more dangerous. And if this happens, they will almost certainly blame localities – they already are – not their own over the top tactics. Worth noting that Diaz Cruz is now suing ICE for shooting him in the face: “This was not just an attack against me, but also an attack against the entire Latino community in the United States,” Diaz Cruz said in a statement. “Our community must come together to protest ICE’s violence.”

When states restrict where ICE can arrest people – such as showing up at courthouses, schools or churches, this is a desire to keep the communities safer! These places, especially schools and churches, have been generally off limits for many years by ICE’s own operating procedures. This changed in the wake of directives from John Kelly, when he was director of Homeland Security in early 2017.  Escalating arrests in these areas is again a political move – it instills fear, which, in turn, makes these communities less safe. If people fear being detained by ICE, they may not show up for court as witnesses, and will avoid the police all together. Indeed, sanctuary policies are designed to make communities safer in the face of expanded federal enforcement.

This week ICE ignored a California law that requires that a judicial warrant be presented before ICE can detain someone at a courthouse or other state facilities. On Wednesday ICE agents detained two people, removing them from a courthouse in San Francisco. One man was standing in a hallway awaiting a hearing when ICE agents arrested him. ICE argued “California’s law doesn’t supersede federal law and ‘will not govern the conduct of federal officers acting pursuant to duly-enacted laws passed by Congress that provide the authority to make administrative arrests of removable aliens inside the United States.’” This assertion will almost certainly end up in court. Again, the entire frame here is wrong. If the person in question is a danger, get a judicial warrant. If they are not a danger sufficient to get a judicial warrant, especially given all of ICE’s other problems with keeping track of data and people, there is no reason for states and localities to just hand over residents to the federal government, or allow them to be swept up for the sake of Trump trying to appear tough with “liberal” California. In response, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi said, “It’s now going to put total fear in the community…People aren’t going to come to court. Victims will refuse to show up. Witnesses will refuse to show up … cases will have to get dismissed.”

The one consistent theme in these enforcement actions is the effort to generate controversy, generate fear, and grab headlines. Protecting communities is not what Trump is trying to do. His administration is undermining protection and safeguards at the community level everyday under a grossly exaggerated narrative of criminality and immigration. 

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Daily Dispatch 2/20/2020: Campaign Updates

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Daily Dispatch

February 20, 2020

Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a US Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas. (Reuters/Eric Gay)

It is that time again – below we offer a couple updates on campaigns we have been tracking and/or are involved in directly.

NILC, others win suit against CBP

Customs and Border Protection has been ordered by a court to treat people in their custody decently in the Tucson sector. The fact that I am writing this sentence tells you everything you need to know about the quality of immigration detention in the United States.

A lawsuit was brought against CBP in 2015 (underline that date!) due to poor conditions in border detention facilities. CBP is supposed to hold people for 72 hours or less – but even in 2015 were holding people longer, forcing them to sleep on the floor under mylar blankets, the room temperature purposefully kept very cold to heighten discomfort. The rooms are referred to as helieras, or ice boxes by the people who have been detained in them.

Now CBP has to provide blankets and a bed. 

U.S. District Judge David C. Bury ordered CBP to provide a bed, blanket, shower, potable food and water, and medical assessment for every migrant held more than 48 hours. The ruling would also make permanent a preliminary injunction Bury issued in 2016 that requires CBP to provide clean mats and thin blankets to migrants held for longer than 12 hours and to allow access to body wipes.

So, we live in a country where a court must order beds and blankets for people held more than 48 hours, and body wipes if held over 12 hours. Be clear, we’ve lived in that country since long before Trump became president. But now we know. From The Hill:

Alvaro Huerta, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center [one of the organizations that brought the suit], said the judge’s ruling Wednesday creates a precedent that extends constitutional minimums to migrants in CBP custody.

“After several years we have seen that CBP has shown that they won’t change the way they treat people in confinement until a court orders it,” Huerta said in a press call. “This is an important case not only for the thousands of people who go through CBP processing everyday, we’re going to see their treatment from what it is now, but I think it’s incredibly important because it sets constitutional minimums for the way people in detention should be treated…  We hope and expect this will have ramifications beyond the Tucson Sector.”

You can read the full press release from the National Immigration Law Center about the case here.

Hunger Strike Update. From Freedom for Immigrants

Below is the latest on the hunger strike we’ve been tracking and encouraging people to speak out about. From Rebekah Entralgo:

We wanted to provide an update on the five South Asian asylum seekers on a prolonged hunger strike at the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana. As I wrote in a previous email, one man has been released from ICE custody and another was deported to India on day 83 of his hunger strike. He was deported without being medically stabilized. 

We recently learned that two of the remaining men in ICE custody were transferred out of LaSalle. One, whose deportation we fear is as eminent as next Monday, has been transferred to a facility in Texas. Another, who was subjected to force-feeding at LaSalle, was going to be transferred, however the pilot deemed him too weak to fly. He has not yet officially been reentered into the system at LaSalle, so it is unclear what ICE plans to do with him. If ICE chooses to place him on a flight in his weakened state, there is a very real risk that he could die. 

In response to the recent developments we filed two complaints with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL):

1) a multi-individual complaint addressing the inappropriate and retaliatory use of solitary confinement against all of the five men on hunger strike. After over 100 days, the three men remaining in ICE custody continue to be segregated from the general population and are now each placed in solitary confinement with no access to other individuals or the outdoors

2) an individual complaint that addresses the medical neglect, obstruction of independent medical evaluation, and withholding of information to legal counsel of the man who was deported on day 83 of his hunger strike. 

Read more about the complaints here.

This is why we are once again asking for your help. We need to keep up the pressure on ICE.

Here are some people to contact: NOLA field office director: John.hartnett@ice.dhs.org (318) 992-1594. Bryan Cox head of NOLA ICE public affairs 504 329 2588 Bryan.d.cox@ice.dhs.gov. Caridad Cephas Deputy ICE field director (504) 599-7889 

“Hi, I’m a [student, mom, civilian, doctor, lawyer, reporter, etc] in [state] calling in reference to the treatment of hunger strikers in the facility you work at and/or supervise. If hunger strikers die in the Lasalle Facility due to medical incompetence or as a result of deportation during the term of your employment, it is on your hands.  ICE should never deport critically malnourished, weakened hunger strikers who face persecution in their country of origin.”

Confronting Trump in Mexico

The Franciscan Network on Migration provides shelter for migrants crossing through Mexico, we are now their fiscal sponsor. You can donate here

We continue to ask people to speak out against the remain in Mexico, and to take action to get this policy defunded.  Veronica Escobar (TX-D) has introduced legislation to end the remain in Mexico and work to extend protections to asylum seekers more generally. The Asylum Seeker Protection Act (H.R. 2662) has 63 co-sponsors. Check to see if your member of Congress is one of them here. If not, call and ask them to co-sponsor the bill!

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